A Life-Sized Dollhouse
July 2, 2012
Photos: Heather Benning
Dollhouses are loved for their ability to simulate real domestic spaces at a smaller scale, but what if they could be inhabited not only by dolls but by humans? Canadian sculptor Heather Benning explores this possibility with “Dollhouse,” a work created by taking a ruined farmhouse and replacing one façade with plexiglass.
Benning originally happened upon the farmhouse while driving through the Saskatchewan countryside in 2005, and decided to take it on as a long-term project. Since the house had sustained extensive water damage after its abandonment in the late 1960’s, Benning had to demolish substantial portions of it. She then outfitted the interiors with wallpaper and furniture found at yard sales and donated by community members, creating an ambiance that seems suited to a Wes Anderson movie.
The house in its dilapidated condition
In fact, the project seems to recreate the mechanisms of the camera’s omnipresent gaze, giving an eerie view into a life without people, and inviting spectators to project their own lives into the space. It sets up a situational critique similar to that found in Jacques Tati’s Play Time: a man bewildered by modernity visits his friend’s apartment in a scene entirely filmed from the street – everything inside is visible through the plate glass walls. But no matter the depth of the artist’s intentions, the project is certainly fun to think about, and will inspire the jealousy of giant six-year-olds everywhere.