Dwell is a Verb







Perhaps unsettled by their gruesome demolition task, construction workers reaffirm the human capacity to dwell by commandeering this pagoda.


“Architecture,” Schelling once said, “is frozen music.” But not all buildings rise to this level of refinement. At its most primordial level, architecture is the materialized expression of a more basic human capacity–the capacity to dwell.  Architecture is frozen dwelling.

I like the way Emmanuel Levinas says it: ”We dwell; therefore, we build architecture.” Heidegger says much the same thing: “Only if we are capable of dwelling, only then can we build.”   But this expression of dwelling as building is as problematic as it is expedient. Having built architecture, do we then forget how to dwell?

For instance, we sit; therefore, we build chairs. But having built the chair, do we then neglect the creative depths of our capacity to sit? To name a few forms which have plumbed these depths, consider Buddhist Zazen (“Zen sitting”), Judaic “sitting Shiva,” and the Chinese tradition of “sitting the month.”


Sitting is a form of stillness; as such, it is a convenient mode of dwelling (because it is so portable!).  Meditative sitting, sitting-as-grieving, and sitting for the sake of achieving inner healing–these are just three possibilities gleaned from the depths of human sitting. But what range of other possibilities might open up if human being were roused from our “easy chair” to explore the soulful depths of possibility for sitting? (Sculpture: Werner Stoetzer Sitzender Junge)





To recover the human capacity for dwelling, I direct my “heat gun of the imagination” toward symbolic representations of architectural structures and elements, melting them down to recover the essential and fluid (hence, verb-like) human capacity which makes them possible.  Drawing on my own life experience, especially my work as a craftsman in architectural restoration– see my business website: www.oakbrothers.net — I compose vignettes describing situations of this deeper experience of dwelling.

Dwell is a Verb is a collection (and performance–a solo show) of poetic scenes.  (I call them “imaginal vignettes.”)  These scenes are intended to inspire an awakening of consciousness to the vast range of possibilities for this capacity human being has to dwell.

The timeliness of this project is hinted at by the ominous language invoked to describe our current “housing crisis”: foreclosure, being under water, forced sale, default, predatory lending, short sale, forbearance, abandonment…. So extreme is this language, one wonders if it isn’t over-wrought, as if housing were merely the lightning rod for a deeper crisis, a crisis of dwelling. (Think, for instance, global warming.)

Here are two samples from a recent performance:



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