In the spring of 2002 Oakville residents collaborated with Susan Dobson, a local artist known for her documentation of a town's growth into generic urban sprawl. Seeing the details of the residents' living spaces through their eyes, Dobson worked to photographically "frame" their lives in the form of an image of a key room. The resulting photographs, saturated with colour and detail, were produced in high-resolution digital and print forms to reveal the rich material evidence of a private space.

These images were released via key communication systems in Oakville: a community newspaper, the local library web site and at the main entrance of the central branch of the library. Each week, people could see a four-picture installment of the full collection of sixteen. In an attached form they were invited to guess what kind of people lived within these rooms and in what district the house was located.

Like the lure of peering into a well-lit room at night, many accepted the invitation to look in and guess what kind of people lived there. The townspeople's assumptions about each other were aired publicly through an electronic bulletin board. In the first part of the project stereotypes as well as insights surfaced in the speculation around the mystery subjects' neighbourhoods, lifestyles, households and values.

The second part of the project revealed the inhabitants' identities through their own descriptions of the way in which the room was a reflection of their lives.

Home Truths set out to create an interactive presentation for Dobson's community-based work. A close collaboration between Oakville Galleries, the newspaper and the library was central to intercepting a wide cross-section of the population as newspaper readers, library users, internet surfers and gallery visitors.

Oakville is a community undergoing significant changes in its population. The old measures of civic pride, a shared history and stable institutions are giving way to more dynamic and fluid means for feeling part of a group. The library is on-line, communication is through roving cell phones - mobility and flexibility are the canons of life. To feel and picture oneself as part of a community requires the use of networks. Through encouraging speculation about lives that share the same geographical location but may exist worlds apart Home Truths celebrates our curiosity about each other and the integration of modern technology into our lives.

We encourage feedback on this project.

Teresa Casas
Head of Public Programmes
Oakville Galleries



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