Residual Spaces – Victorian chair and wall, Penny Leong Browne, Oil, ash and pen on graph paper, 11” wide X 8 1/2” high, 2012

Penny Leong Browne

Residual Spaces

Forever reformulating, remixing or reconfiguring in the present, the abject owns neither a past nor an origin, and therefore cannot be forgotten. The Frankenstein of matter — the abject is the monster that haunts our earthly dreams.

Life, intermingling with inanimate matter. Objectness of our human selves.

Monstrous, yet nevertheless a most gracious monstrosity, the abject embraces vulnerability and imperfection.

The abject is incomplete. It is enthralled in the process of its own becoming. Decay in and unto itself—carbon matter deteriorating into ash and returning to carbon again. Indefinite and indefinable.

The abject reveals itself only in surprise. Its condition of appearing is unpredictability. Never to appear the same, the abject is a hallmark of its own originality. The rose blemish on the boy's face is the original mark of a person. A DNA tattoo programmed cellular and inked in blood vessels Animate matter.

Residual Spaces (2011 – ongoing) is an aesthetic and theoretical exploration of the abject in the form of “signatures" revealed as residue, stains, fissures, fading, fragments). In the drawings and paintings, the stains or fissures subvert or interrogate two and three-dimensional architectural domestic space and its objects, that are in themselves, disintegrate in some way, through the “signatures” of fragmentation, obliteration, partial tracings and/or erasure.

Together with the architectural-like drawings, paintings or objects, the abject “signatures” enact vacated domestic spaces both real and imaginary. For the drawings / paintings, methods of collage and tracings from actual interiors are interpolated with spatial-temporal imaginings, while other works delineate negative space and imaginary boundaries in which domestic space enters the realm of the virtual. Stains made from mixing water or oil with ash from wood burned in the artist's own fireplace seep and bleed over some of the pencil renderings. Ash, water, oil paints and used coffee grains are used to create layered and permeating stains in the form of small books. The use of ash relates to the idea of Jacques Derrida's trace as "cinders", referencing the "catastrophe of memory" in which "forgetting itself is forgotten" (1). The drawings, paintings and installations are meant to provoke the feelings of the abject within the “memory” of spaces that we inhabit, be it the lost childhood home, the home of haunting dreams or imaginary futures.

These architectural spaces of “house/home” are also spaces of "emptiness" in which domestic interiors are dissolved into borderless zones, spaces without demarcation, fractured walls in which gaps and interstitial spaces open up the possibility of new living, a bare "free" living without confinement to subjective singular ego identities. As familiar objects like chairs and chandeliers are obliterated through stains, or partial tracings of rooms turn them into phantom spaces, these domestic spaces are partially to fully emptied of signs of human existence.

Within these abject spaces, the house/home become architectural geographies reconfigured as political space for the performance of post-human subjectivities, representing a post-human architecture in which reimaginings, repositionings and even realizations of Deleuze and Guattari’s “sub-individual singularities” may emerge, to cite the original callout for this issue of the CMA Journal. These borderless, decontextualized architectural spaces marred by the abject of stains represent beyond-human ecologies perhaps becoming creative living environments in which Rosi Braidotti’s “new Post-human subjectivities, ethics and politics,” as described, again, in the callout for this issue of the CMA Journal, can play out.

In the drawings Victorian House Plan and Victorian Hallway/Fissures, the representation of architectural space as a plan drawing quite obviously references domestic space, yet it is also a technocratic space that has been dehumanized. Here, the spatial representations of the domestic house are disturbed by fissures and stains that are meant to represent the abject of human memory around our all too human domestic existence. Within these borderless, interjected spaces we are challenged to reimagine our human existence as domesticated beings that however vaguely familiar in these drawings, may also provoke us to reimagine alternative ecologies of human habitation. Eco from the Greek word oîkos, means “house, household”, and here the idea that the “house as home” is the most intimate of human ecologies can be anywhere but here, is a central idea that Residual Spaces continues to explore. The stains that unfurl throughout the architectural drawings of various houses (both real and imagined), the thick stains in Blue Chandelier or Victorian Chair that tend towards obliterating common household objects into abstraction; the fissures that open up the floor and cut through walls in Victorian Hallway; the partial tracings of a domestic space emptied of psychic presence in Living Room; the voided space marked only by a single stain in Corner – all invite us to reimagine our humanness, to provoke alternative imaginings of existences as “bare life," subverting the “anthropological machine” in this case of the architectural domestic space of the house in which in which we human species, so intimately and visciously inhabit with no choice of our own. As domestic architectures in which the abject enters, we may perhaps locate the ambiguous position of Giorgio Agamben’s "Homo sacer" in which to activate a “permanent and invisible space of maximal political power,” to cite the callout for this issue of the CMA Journal here, as well. What better place than to do so from the house as home?


(1) Rapaport, Herman. Later Derrida : Reading the Recent Work / Herman Rapaport. 2003. pg 91-92.

Artist Statement

Much of my practice adopts a methodological approach that employs habituality, repetition and seriality as parameters towards creative production. Through these processes, I investigate how art through an intersection of information and aesthetics may be situated as research and subsequently, how it can offer different ways of knowing. One of my current investigations involves the representation of obsolescence and the abject through antique furniture, salvaged domestic objects and architectural fragments. Some of these objects are from my own personal collection, others I have acquired through secondary thrift markets. Some objects also exist virtually, encountered and studied as digital entities on the Internet. Whether as drawings or paintings, physical assemblages or digital video, how objects occupy space, whether diagrammatic, architectural or imaginary are integral to my inquiry. I consider what emerges, not only as art works but equally, as artefacts of research.


Penny Leong Browne is an artist and writer who lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. In 2010 she graduated from Emily Carr University with a Master of Applied Arts (Media). She has exhibited at the Surrey Art Gallery, Western Front, Charles H. Scott Gallery, the Walter Phillips Gallery (Banff), Richmond Art Gallery and at the Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts and the Ontario Science Centre / Idea Gallery, both in Toronto. Her critical writings and text works have appeared in various journals such as Inderscience, Front Magazine, Capilano Review and Kapsula.