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Domestic disturbances

Review

Belvedere At the Henry Moore Institute, 74 The Headrow, Leeds, until 30 April Dwelling Drawings by Etienne-Martin At Leeds City Art Gallery until 30 April 'Belvedere', with its sense of a vantage point and vistas out, is an odd title for this exhibition by six artists whose dominant theme is the domestic interior. You feel sure The Poetics of Space must be somewhere at hand.

On reflection, though, not Bachelard but Anthony Vidler's forthcoming book, Warped Space, where architecture is psychologically disturbing, would be more apt. For the majority of works in the show are claustrophobic or otherwise unsettling.

If this is home, its comforts are sparse.

In Jan van de Pavert's video, House, the camera prowls erratically around a blank-walled, barely-lit dwelling whose scale and plan remain mysterious. We teeter at the top of a vertiginous set of steps; the camera retreats for a moment and then surges forward. We pass by built-in furniture which doesn't invite repose. One recalls the hapless occupants of Peter Eisenman's House VI, with its slot in the bedroom floor and inverted stair.

Gregor Schneider's House at Night Video is a more prolonged tour of another disquieting property. There is confusion as to vantage point: are we looking at the ceiling or the floor, are we inside or out? Stranded objects suddenly appear - a hair-dryer, a luminous globe; and then the camera twists and is lost in darkness. Strange accretions never quite come into focus. Schneider, says the catalogue, is always remaking his house (a little like Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau), and at times we don't know what we are seeing. But the feeling of confinement, whether in a corridor or a cell-like room, is continual, compounding our disorientation.

There is a different rhythm to Marijke van Warmerdam's film, Empty House: a swift, staccato sequence of stills of a deserted dwelling on Long Island. Net curtains are still in-situ but otherwise all is bare. On the walls, pockmarked in places, are the imprints of vanished pictures. As in van de Pavert's and Schneider's videos, we never grasp the house as a whole; it exists only in these brief, reiterated glimpses where habitation is just a memory.

The most generous area in the exhibition is given to Stephen Craig, and there the tension of these other works is dispelled. Craig looks outside as well as in. He takes his cue from Palladio's Villa Rotonda, from whose central hall one can see out to all four points of the compass.

In the large (and neatly crafted) wooden architectural models which Craig makes, there is one point, perhaps concealed, that also offers these four views. On the accompanying plan hung nearby that point is marked with a cross, in case you can't work it out. And when you do work it out you say - so what? It's an elaborate exercise to no great end.

There is more substance in a small complementary exhibition in the adjacent Leeds City Art Gallery. Etienne-Martin, who died in 1995, made 'dwelling-sculptures', large enough to enter, which all derived from his childhood home in Lyon. On show are a series of his drawings - diagrammatic in nature - in which that house is mapped and remapped, its rooms coded alphabetically and by colour, and related not just to his childhood but to later stages of Etienne-Martin's life.

'We walked around with little yellow lamps. It was wonderful. But when I was little there were places I never set foot,' says the artist in an accompanying leaflet. With its chambre des fleurs and chambre des ceremonies, its skylight and cellars, its overall richness of associations, the house could come straight from Bachelard.

But Etienne-Martin's repeated mapping of it soon seems obsessive. He wants to coax his whole life's history into its floor plans. Another case for Vidler after all.

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