Alison Knowles
The House of Dust 
Alison Knowles is renowned for her work as an artist in a diverse range of media including performance, installation, sound works and publications. She was a founding member of Fluxus—an international, interdisciplinary group of artists, composers, designers and poets active during the 1960s. Her poem, The House of Dust, was conceived in collaboration with James Tenney, a composer-in-residence at Bell Labs in New Jersey, and an expert on the IBM compiling system known as FORTRAN. 

Knowles’ interest in chance and indeterminacy coincided with Tenney’s interest in the manipulation and generation of information, and their collaboration was first shown in Cybernetic Serendipity. It took the form of computer-generated poems compiled in four randomly generated lines—indicating a type of house; a material, a site or situation; a light source; and a category of inhabitants. 

The resulting poems are surprisingly evocative, and full of humour and absurdity. For Knowles, they also offered an opportunity for a compelling meditation on dwelling and architecture. In 1968, she designed and built The House of Dust structure, later installing it at CalArts in Valencia, California, when she moved there to teach in 1969. 

Text To Speech

Alison Knowles and James Tenney, The House of Dust, 1967–71, Courtesy of Alison Knowles and James Fuentes, N.Y.