The Art of the Tree House
June 25, 2012
Theater director, writer, and artist, Benjamin Verdonck’s latest work erects a tree house on the lawn of a senior center in a social housing complex outside Ghent, Belgium. Created for the TRACK art festival, ’Vogelenzangpark 17bis’ closely mimics the form of the adjacent mid-century brick clubhouse, only downscaled into what appears to be a large fully articulated, almost inhabitable dollhouse (or doghouse…), precariously angled only few feet from the ground. Initially, the installation seems weightless or hollow, until one moves closer or even underneath the house whereupon the house’s sheer bulk and weight (as indicated by the very real brick and concrete work) is made evident and seems perilously close to crashing down on top of you.
Verdonck’s work is compelling and provocative without being (too) showy. The image of the tree house, of course, evokes a certain childhood revelry–whether experienced first hand or not–that finds resonance with the recreational play of the elder occupants nearby. Think the heartwarming (and overwhelmingly mawkish) video for Sigur Ros’ ‘Hoppipola’, in which troops of graying adults face off in a “war” of epic proportions, parring with wooden swords and wielding trash-can lids as shields. Yet, there’s more to Verdonck’s house, which stands alone and aloof, wearing an undeniably melancholic expression–unsure of its footing, yet resisting gravity to remain a real presence in the world.