by Laura Hutson
On Thursday at the Frist, St. Louis-based art historian Simon Kelly will speak on Vincent Van Gogh's relationship with Japan. The lecture will surely be packed: People love Van Gogh, whose posthumous success is rivaled only by his mythic status as the quintessential tortured artist.
In London, an installation by artist Saskia Olde Wolbers is exploring this status in a piece called Yes, these Eyes are the Windows. The work offers 87 Hackford Road, a tenement in south London with a small blue plaque on its facade that denotes the dates that Van Gogh lodged here while working for an art dealer in the 1870s. (He lived there for less than a year.) Already a pilgrimage of sorts for art lovers, the home is now opened to visitors in its current state — decaying and near ruin — under the guidance of Olde Wolbers' fictionalized mythology.
From a review of the piece in AnOther Magazine:
Visitors are invited to ring the doorbell and enter the house, which is now in an advanced state of decay. Metal poles prop up sagging floors, the walls are wet with damp, the linoleum curls, and ancient pipes are exposed like veins. Indeed, by the 1970s the house was already on shaky foundations, threatened with demolition by the Greater London Authority, though it was spared once its famous resident was revealed. It is this story that informs the dramatic sound piece that leads you through the rooms and up the creaking staircase to the one Van Gogh once slept in.
From there, the artist weaves a narrative into the visit that's based on the accounts of oral histories, press archives and literary works.
The Guardian was largely unimpressed with the piece:
Olde Wolbers has done almost nothing to the house itself, except fill it with mutterings, voices and sounds. All this is compelling stuff, although the most intriguing thing about Olde Wolbers' project is that we too get a chance to stand in the room where Vincent might have slept, stare through the same grimy windows, leave our fingerprints where he left his.
Look through more photos of the piece after the jump.