Lovers in an Upstairs Room A layered portrait of a soft interior(ity)

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Maria Gil Ulldemolins


The 2020-21 pandemic threw many of us into a forced exploration of our domestic interiors. For some, the limited contact with the exterior world provoked a need for a refuge and escape: the recurrence of the interior eventually gave way to our interiorities. Looking for ways to simultaneously materialise and circumvent a spatial, intimate, and spiritual sense of self, this visual essay borrows the sumptuous patterns and textures of the interior in Kitagawa Utamaro’s 1788 erotic print, Lovers in an Upstairs Room (Figure 01). These, cut-out as inspired by the block-printing process, have been layered with my own absolutely mundane, domestic setting.

At the same time, two fragmentary voices, one ekphrastic and one auto-theoretical, mirror the print and the graphic layering, creating a third text by overlapping. These voices host a multiplicity of others: from the mystical classic The Interior Castle, 1577, by the sickly, cloistered, Spanish nun Teresa of Ávila, which describes an ecstatic topography of the soul; to Canadian poet Lisa Robertson’s 2003 ‘Soft Architecture: A Manifesto,’ which calls for softness as a form of resistance; and for description as a mystical practice: ‘Practice description. Description is mystical.’01

Can the crash of voices, cultures, and imagery add up to one particular description? Can this description of one’s interiority at a very specific time build connections between tangible and immaterial, ordinary and extraordinary? Can there be a secular, soft topography of the self, of one’s interior castle, able to resist the advances of a hostile reality?

Article Details

How to Cite
Gil Ulldemolins, Maria. 2021. “Lovers in an Upstairs Room: A Layered Portrait of a Soft interior(ity)”. Idea Journal 18 (01):49-64.
Author Biography

Maria Gil Ulldemolins, Hasselt University

Artistic research PhD candidate working on an autotheoretical account of collapsing figures inspired by Rogier van der Weyden's swooning Virgins. Co-founder of Passage, a project for hybrid, creative approaches to scholarly writing.


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