concept: Domestophobia

Madrid-New York
Domestophobia is the fear of  home, and of domestic life. The rejection to the home might happen either because one doesn´t feels at the home (for instance when it has been violated or one is missing a home)  or because one feels happy but trapped in the bubble of home.

Fear of the space; the feeling of isolation, containment in the house (Rape-room)
Fear of the threat; to fear that somebody violates the privacy (The Intruder)
Fear of the memories; the anxiety of recurring memories (The Memory Freezer)
Rejection of  objects that remains of home, such as pets, teddy bears… (Teddy Bears)
Fear of home, vagabond, (Homefree/Houseless)

RAPE-ROOM,Installation, A wounded room through which our experience navigates.
Artist: Jana Leo
Gallery: Javier Lopez
Exhibition date: February 2002. Place: ARCO Madrid

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A room is furnished with a bed (55” x 79”) dressed in white linen, two side tables and two lamps. Its walls are covered in wallpaper. The repetitive pattern in the wallpaper is an enlarged photo of a wound in my body.

Rape Room rebuilds the reciprocal process of affection between a space and a person. It recreates emotional states that once existed in the room. The project is an analysis of habitation. If a house is the structure that gives us shelter and protects us from the exterior world, then it is also the place we can experience a silent violence, invisible from the outside, a place where we feel trapped. Our house, our room, our private space, our nest is also an isolation box where we have to face our fears. What happens in our house seems more real, more significant than what happens in public spaces or in other, less personal, spaces.

Things happen in a moment and in a place. Our memories are linked to the what, the when and the where. Spaces became scenarios. Spaces are loaded with our presence and with what has occurred in them. There is a process of appropriation of space by the person and of the person by the space. A blurred line exits between our body and our space. Experiences are personal and so are spaces. We are alone at home; we lie down on the bed or the sofa. In front of us is a wall, the same one we see each day; the same, even if what happens everyday is different, even if we rearrange the furniture in the room. Experiences that impact our lives stay with us and inhabit our rooms.

Several layers of wallpaper and paint overlap on the walls, like the traces of what happens in our memory. Some layers cover others, but transparency is selective. Wallpaper is the paper on which we write our history. Wallpaper is the most external layer on a wall. The paper might be covered with paint, but if its memory is still fresh, we would see even through the white opacity of the paint. The wallpaper in Rape Room, composed of a vaginal shaped wound, could be how a woman feels. This wallpaper might also be what she sees after being raped, while lying down in the bed, when she closes her eyes.

Jana Leo

New York
November 16, 2001


A video installation by Jana Leo
ISCP 2003, New York

The intruder is someone that we know but have never met: a threat.

A block of nine monitors, three by three, run three-minute loops of a person’s daily activities. The loops show him following his usual path, going from the subway, through the street, to his apartment, living, sleeping, watching TV, reading etc… In addition, the image of an intruder with a covered face, a ghostly presence, moves randomly through the inhabitant’s path, breaking the rhythms of action and space. Familiar sounds are suddenly interrupted by the intrusive sound of an alarm each time the intruder appears.

Idea and direction: Jana Leo; Editing: Celina Alvarado
Inhabitant: Angel Borrego Cubero; Intruder: Sony Devabhaktuni
Special thanks to Corbin Frame, Henry Jackson.
My gratitude to: Angel, Celina y Sony.
Recorded in 2002


Space is not a void and time is not lineal. Space is a thick mass, etched with the repetition of life, an accumulation of trajectories, a volume created by the history of bodies and days that have moved through the same space. The present is a heavy net woven by moments, individuals and time. It is protected by the net and, at the same time, is trapped by it: movements are blocked; the future is blocked. The inhabitant and the intruder are both in the space, even when they are absented. More than remembrances, they create a reality. The present is an accumulation of the past.

The intruder is someone that we know but have never met: a threat. He is the radical other, someone so far from us that he has no face, like death. He is something that happens without reason. The intruder alters our space, appears in it unexpectedly and takes us by surprise. The intruder’s strange presence crosses and penetrates space violently. The trace is thick, a rope. His steps destroy the net when moving through the space. The space is “raped,” its quietness, its internal equilibrium and minimalism are gone and it becomes unfamiliar. The inhabitant becomes homeless, timeless, without past.

The man’s everyday life is documented in each monitor, but his action in each monitor is different according to the day. Each action in this movie happens in real time. Time is not compressed but recreated. Nobody can be in a different space and moment at the same time, except in memory.  Life is experienced as it occurs and is viewed in memory. However, this man goes through daily activities in a state of distraction, his actions lack intensity, as if he were watching his life, as a memory, instead of living it.








Valencia Bienal 2006
Jana Leo
Memory of the state of mind captured in a picture
Photograph on ice block (14×21 inches) inside an industrial freezer (16×24 inches); the freezer is embedded in the wall. Date of photograph: January 26, 2001. Date of icebox: October 10, 2006.


Exercise to lose or to recover memory; a double freezing process. Moments of life are frozen in a photograph; the photograph contains one instant and erases others. Memory is similarly composed of certain moments in life. To defreeze life, revert the process and freeze the photograph.

In your own freezer:
1. Take a picture that contains the frozen emotions of a painful moment.
2. Place the picture (on a platter to collect the drips) into the freezer, pour water onto the picture, wait for it to freeze.
3. When the water has frozen, add more water and let freeze.
4. Continue until the image has disappeared.

To make a statement about photography for instance in an art show:
1. Purchase a freezer.
2. Install the freezer at eye level.
3. Substitute the freezer door with a glass door.
4. Build an open-sided box that is just smaller than the inside of the freezer.
5. Print a photograph to fix in the box.
6. Place the picture in the box. Add water to the box.
7. Wait for the picture to be encased in ice.
8. Watch as the image vanishes.

A photograph, to record and to forget

Jean Baudrillard (1) defines rape as “forcing someone to have pleasure.” Even more perverse, rape is “to force someone to be part of you”. There is simply no way to forget the experience of a rape.. The rapist is as alive, if not more so, than the memory of your most memorable lover, the one that you loved the most, the best time you made love.

When I look at this picture, I remember where and when I took it. This picture brings to mind the emotions I felt. It reminds me of what happened the day before the picture was taken and what caused me to look the way I did. This photograph acts as a reference to facts, but it is not a record of facts and does not provide information; there is no way to know what happened by looking at it. This self-portrait is not a documentary photograph. It is neither witness nor proof of the event. Rather, it is a record of the event’s emotional effect, of what I went through: a document of emotions. If emotions construct an image of a person, then a photograph makes those emotions visible. The photograph tries to produce neither effects nor affects but to register a state of mind. As an emotional and ethical recording, it has none of the aesthetics of an artistic photograph. As an affective document, it communicates emotions without being emotional.

The self-portrait was taken with two intentions: to record an emotional state, to eliminate that state from my memory. In other words, the photograph was taken to record and to forget, to register a reality and to release its burden by transferring the memory from my mind to a photographic print. The photograph helps me maintain my sanity by acknowledging that an extremely distressful event occurred, which still causes me distress. As a record, the photograph also imposes the burden of harm onto the assailant, the person who caused my face to look the way it did. In this sense it is an ethical photograph.

An assailant wants his act of atrocity erased. Not only does he want his act erased from his victim’s memory–often the victim is either forced to remain silent by threat of death or killed to ensure silence–but even more, the assailant wants his act erased from his own memory. One reason an assailant takes pictures might be to erase a violent act. To transfer the horror into a picture, even at the risk of being incriminated, offers the illusion of deleting the act from the mind. Memory is transferred from the mind to the camera, and in this process erased. Photographs are objects of oblivion.

The kinds of pictures an assailant takes are not emotional; they are pictures, but pictures that constitute an archive. Archives deal with records; memories deal with remembrances. Archives are about keeping and erasing; memories about remembering and forgetting.  An archive is objective, something outside. Memory is subjective, something inside, “ There is no archive without a place of consignation, without a technique of repetition, and without a certain exteriority. No archive without outside.”(1). An archive can be accessed by choice, but memory has it own life beyond a person’s control.  Memory is not what happened. What happened is facts. Memory is composed of the emotions, obsession and guilt that come when remembering facts. Memory is always random, accidental, and over or under-dimensioned but always real for the one remembering.

The assailant wants to erase the memory of the facts. The victim seeks to forget the emotions but remember the facts. The victim needs a record for the sake of sanity (the wound that establishes the reality of the injury) and to incriminate the tormentor. If memory were about facts the victim would have less trouble, but the feeling of humiliation attached to the trauma and the reliving of the discomfort of the experience prevent it. “My main claim is that it is hard to remember a past humiliation without reliving it…humiliation, I believe, is not just another experience in our life, like say, an embarrassment. It is a formative experience. It forms the way we view ourselves as humiliated person…becomes constitutive of the one sense of who we are” (2). For the victim the task is not to forget but to separate facts from feelings and values, to detach the records from the memory. For the victim the task is to remove the emotion and to value the fact. It is not about forgetting but about losing memory. For the tormentor it is about erasing the facts, even to the paradoxical extreme of producing records and thereby achieving oblivion. At the time of the assault the victim deals with pain and fear; retrospectively, the victim deals with humiliation. In torture or rape the victim’s only weapon is her memory. Memory, however forces the victim to relive the past, thereby turning the weapon against herself. Remembering is the power of the victim but memory is her greatest torture.

When the assailant uses photography, he not only devastates his victim but uses the photos to protect himself from the devastation that he produces. By transferring the images in his mind into pictures, he uses the pictures to establish a distance from the atrocity he committed. The taking of pictures for his own needs is a depredatory action. The vision of horror is never as intense as the experience of horror.  The damage is extended even to survive the victim’s death. The viewer, looking at an image of the crime, will feel the horror but not the humiliation that the victim continues to revive long after the crime.
(1) Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever, a Freudian impression. P.11 Translated by Eric Prenowitz. 1995 The Johns Hopkins University Press. Chicago & London.
(2) p130 ( Margalit, Avishai. The Ethics of Memory. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. London, England. 2002)

Jana Leo



Installation. Eight hundred and eighteen teddy bears sewn together to form a carpet 300 SQF.

Madrid, October 28, 1999
Galeria Javier Lopez

Teddy Bears’ Carpet is there to say that together with a force toward the domestic  there is another force  against the domestic.

It is presented in passageway so that the visitor has to step on teddy bears if he/she want to enter the room. There is nothing in the walls. The teddy bears were put together by two other women and I for three weeks to form the carpet. We stitched the bears together not only to make the carpet but to twisted the arms and the expression of the bears.

Animals inside a house, whether it is a real animal, a pet, or in the form of a teddy bear, or any other representation such as glass figurines, are the depositaries of comfort. They represent tenderness but also keep you prisoner into a mental reality that you created, they prevent you for being free.

For over four years I took photographs of my teddy bears (ositos1), I was living in a bubble with then celebrating my everyday life. With this piece I stop taking this pictures of my teddy bears and I stated the bitter sweetness of being enclosed in interiority, in a self-made zoo. Here I used teddy bears whether The Glass Menagerie[1] by Tennessee Williams (1944) used glass animal figures. This piece is part of a series of works defined as domestic and against.

HOUSE LESS – Proposal for amendment of the word “Homeless”
“Homeless” Home is a spatial and a mind condition used only to qualify space.
By “homeless” we understand a person who doesn’t have a place to live (house/room) The word “homeless” shouldn’t be used to describe the lack of space to live. The fact that the mental and physical conditions of not having a place may overlap in some cases doesn’t imply that the word “ homeless” can be used indiscriminately and specifically to name the lack of house or room: that is “houseless”. One can have a house and still be homeless, with no roots, no place. Instead of homeless, to be precise this word should be houseless, but it is not, because it refers to a mental and metaphorical condition at the same time as a physical one. This lack of precision refers to the impossibility to differentiate between a spatial condition and a state of mind. We are not only where and when we are, what we think, and what we do, but also where and when we are not, what we don’t.

“Homeless” is a “negative word definition”
In English, certain names do not have a specific word for them, they are defined by its absence, made out by following the name with suffix: less that negates the name, like in “homeless”. In Spanish vagabundo is a person that goes from here to there with no clear direction, program or plan. To be a “vagabundo” ( English: “vagabond”) has a negative connotationbut also a positive one: be free from roots obligations and space, travel light, be free. There is sadness on the less. “Homefree” should be included in the dictionary but will not because of moral values applied to words like:  home , house, and domestic.

“To be” defined through “to have”
Furthermore the word “homeless” define a person not from what this person “is” – an existent, a condition a quality, but from this person “has”. One is what one has, and if one doesn’t have then one is not.

In consequence of the three arguments above, the use of the word homeless is incorrect and needs to be amended, options are: house-less or home-free.

Text in Spanish:

ConceptHomeless El viaje sin distancia.pdf