The lion’s head at the edge of pond has been on my mind. Weather worn, the soft stone is loosing its definition as it slowly melts into the pond below and I can’t help but admire this stubborn resistance against the changes around it. I also can’t help making a connection with the sculpture of Dionysus on the front side of the house, where a leopard skin hangs nonchalantly draped over his shoulder. The leopards’ head coming to rest in the small of Dionysus’s back. Looking upwards, the leopards’ look of patient boredom is aimed through the house back towards the pond. What do these two symbolic big cats have to say to each other, and more importantly what do they have to say about us? Are they still symbols of power and subjection or has their stubborn resistance recast them?
For some reason when I was considering how to work with the fence around this pond over summer I decided to go to Artis zoo. I though seeing these animals for real might give some answers. Answers as to why their presence seems increasingly relevant to me. As to why they seem to suddenly be subverting a dominant logic of aesthetic harmony. Logic embedded deep within the Frankendael and re-enacted through its place in the contemporary leisure economy. Yet the big cat encloses offered no clues, in fact it was not until I’d seen the whole zoo and was disappointedly meandering towards the exit when I stumbled across a new piece to the puzzle. A line, almost a chain, of herons sat perched atop the fence at the edge of the aquatic bird enclosure. Clearly their opportunistic attitude brought them there. Some might see them as a pest, an unwanted and uncontrolled element only here to snatch the fish from the birds belonging to the enclosure. But their persistence, staying put almost to the point of intimidating passers by, made them seem more like they were actually part of the enclosure. Were they the real fence, the real boundary? Do they define an edge between what is being acted out within the fiction of the zoo and what is being enacted in the drama of reality?
One thing was sure, I wanted to bring these birds into dialogue with the Frankendaels’ big cats.