March 24, 2013

Dan Graham Pavilions For Kids

The artist Dan Graham is probably best known for his mirror & glass pavilions, walk-through minimalist-style sculptures where your views and reflections shift with every step. They can be fun enough for the kids on their own, but it turns out Graham has created several pavilions expressly for kids.


The most recent is called Belgian Funhouse, basically pavilion-as-playground, built in 2001 as part of the renovation of a public park, Sint-Jansplein, in Antwerp. It's a big, mirrored semi-circle with hedges on one side, that, in aerial view, looks like a Pac-Man ghost. Something must've happened in Sint-Jansplein, though, because in 2004, it was moved to the Middelheim Museum art park in the Antwerp suburbs. Also, it looks kind of boring.


In 2000, Graham showed a similarly shaped pavilion, which had actual things to do. Children's Day Care, CD-ROM, Cartoon and Computer Screen Library was one of six kid-related works exhibited at Marian Goodman Gallery in NYC. Among them: Girl's Make-Up Room (1977-2000), which, please. And Skateboard Pavilion (1989), which, OK.


Skateboard Pavilion's pool-shaped skate bowl stood under a partially mirrored, pyramidal roof, and graffiti was welcome. Or would have been. the pavilion seems not to have been builti in Stuttgard, the city for which it was conceived.

Also interesting-looking, and more ambitious, and ultimately unrealized, was Children's Pavilion, a collaboration with the photographer Jeff Wall which extended from 1988 until like 1994. Children's Pavilion was a domed play chamber built into a grassy mound that had kids as both its audience and its subject. Wall's porthole-like pictures of kids ringed the space, and giant lens/window/mirrors let kids see themselves as giants against the sky, but they also allowed grown-ups to look in on the kids playing. [In addition to the image above, Graham's 2007 interview for art journal Esse has some sketches and a more expansive explanation of the concept.]

Wall and Graham conceived Children's Pavilion for Parc de la Villette in Paris, but then adapted it as they shopped it around to Lyon, Marseille, New York, Rotterdam, and Blois. Indoor mockups were exhibited along the way, but it was never realized. It's kind of hilarious how the Dutch version of building Children's Pavilion in Rotterdam is a drawn out, political soap opera, while the English language account is basically, "Eh, people had some questions."


And so it is that Graham's most successful kid pavilion was the first, the Chambre d'Amis, made for a 1986 exhibition in Ghent. As Graham discussed at length in a 1994 BOMB interview, Chambre d'Amis came about as a response to the site constraints of an exhibition that was held in the houses and gardens of volunteer residents around Ghent; Graham's full-size pavilions wouldn't fit in the people's backyard, and there was a playground across the street, so he built a scaled-down, kid-size pavilion.


I don't quite know what happened to it, though; it may be in a museum collection somewhere. If I hear more, I'll let you know.

Dan Graham | Children's Day Care..., April 2000 [mariangoodman]
Dan Graham interviewed by Mike Metz, BOMB, Winter 1994 [bombsite]
Dan Graham, Minimalism against minimalism, Esse 61 interview []
Geen ruimte voor een kinderpaviljoen Dan Graham en Jeff Wall in Rotterdam []


One hopes he built in air conditioning.

Crazy, but cool!

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