The House that Masons Built

2010, Art
art, Feminism, House Exhibition
About This Project

Date: May 8–21, 2010

Location: 53 Prince Charles Drive

Project Members: Melissa Koziebrocki

The house, whose number is 53 Prince Charles Drive, was built between 1950 and 1953, in the then burgeoning suburb of North York. At that time, the families who moved to this area saw the car as the pinnacle of transportation and luxury, defining modern expansionism. The area represented safety, comfort, and community. The design of the house also exemplified this car-oriented lifestyle. Like its contemporary Levittown, the first suburb in North America, the streets are winding. It is mapped out in a circular format (like a raindrops falling into a puddle) by concentric cull-de-sacs.
More specifically, Prince Charles Drive mirrors the opposing street. The two roads circle around a central park. The design of the area conveys overwhelming feelings of surveillance, reminiscent of Jeremy Bentham’s description of a circular prison called a Panopticon. This prison structure strictly relied on the appearance of surveillance, rather than the actual surveillance of its prisoners. Panopticon functions as a way to ensure people in the house/street/suburb feel safe or at home; it creates the sense of community, whether as a true or false one. A similar effect arises, given the open picture windows and circular landscape of the neighborhood. The upcoming exhibition will take into consideration how the Panopticon, within the suburban setting, implicates the way we view the present state of the house, as young emerging contemporary artists who have a varying overall relationship to the house.
Like many houses (and families), this particular house is steeped in history and personal narratives. In 1960, the Mason family moved into the house. The family included David Fineberg, his daughter, Carolyn, and her Aunts: Mildred, Sadie, and Ruth Mason. The group moved from the downtown location of 200 Palmerston Avenue into 53 Prince Charles Drive after Nettie (his wife, her mother, and their sister) died from breast cancer. From then on the house was owned by the unmarried Mason sisters. Each of the rooms within the house was occupied by each of these individuals. As a result, each room is a container for their fleeting memories.
After years of standing still in time, the house is now occupied by a new generation of inhabitants. Bringing a new language and understanding into the house, this new generation, who grew up in their aftermath, can only recount memories via broken second-hand stories, child-like accounts, vague ephemeral memories of their own, the previous owner’s remaining possessions, and visual documentation. It will be through the artists’ projections and interpretations of these re-told memories that will create these images of second-hand romance and nostalgia.