The Big Brother House is watching you

Andrew Milligan, Edward Hollis

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    The transitory celebrities who compete in Big Brother occupy the arena of their competition agog and open mouthed, for while Big Brother is, apparently, about the contestants, the real star of the reality show is the House in which it takes place. The Big Brother House is a place of mirrors concealing hidden eyes, disembodied voices and multiple voyeurs. Rather than granted refuge in this house, its occupants are exposed in a crazy cottage where Orwell meets vaudeville; and prison cells or luxuriant dens appear overnight installed by mischievous pixies. The BB House is the antithesis of Bachelard’s vertically ordered Oneiric Axis of nightmarish cellar, formal, domestic ‘middle kingdom’, and the dream space of the attic. The Big Brother house is horizontally layered but fabricated, (to build and to lie). The Big Brother House is a model in extremis of what contemporary domestic interior has become. Like a Foucaulvian heterotopia it is an hermetic, apparently complete model of occupancy. Indeed there is no exterior to this house, which is both closed-off and opened-up through live digital streaming, RSS feeds, and text updates. As such the BB House reveals surrealist tendencies: the mirrors are evocative of Magritte; the windows are for the voyeur not external vista; the BB occupants and the TV viewers are passive idle loafers. In this respect, the Big Brother House reflects the spectacular model homes that have adorned expos from the Great to the Ideal Home exhibitions, from Peter and Alison Smithson’s House of the Future (1956) to Archigram’s 1990 Automated House (1967). Like these other models, the BB House is not a ‘real’ home, but is as abstracted as a white card maquette. But the Big Brother House possesses something that these other simulations lack: occupants who are at the same time real and imagined: The Big Brother House is not a fantasy, but an experiment, as empirically valid as any the most Orwellian of rational modernists could desire. Because the design of the house (and the show itself) is iterative and repeated, learning with each iteration from the experiences of the last, it is a continuing experiment in the negotiation between occupancy and constructed space of the most radical kind. This paper explores the emergence and the development of the many Big Brother Houses of the last decade, and the ways in which they have been occupied, in order to discuss issues that affect more general perceptions of the contemporary interior.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationOccupation: Negotiations with Constructed Space
    EditorsTerry Meade
    PublisherUniversity of Brighton
    ISBN (Print)9781905593736
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    EventOccupation Conference - Brighton, United Kingdom
    Duration: 2 Jul 20094 Jul 2009


    ConferenceOccupation Conference
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    OtherOccupation: Negotiations with Constructed Space
    Internet address


    • Occupancy
    • Transience
    • Control
    • Virtuality
    • Representation
    • Interiority


    Dive into the research topics of 'The Big Brother House is watching you'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this