“Yes, these eyes are windows, and this body of mine is the house”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
87 Hackford Road in south London is rather a special address – for a few short months between 1873 and 1874 it was the home of famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. A blue plaque marks out the building, which is currently home to an installation by Saskia Olde Wolbers, ‘Yes, these Eyes are the Windows‘.
Saved from demolition when a postman discovered the house’s famous former resident in the 1970s, the house has gone from strength to strength; it is currently empty – has been since 2012 – and Wolbers has taken the opportunity to create a fascinating experience, drawing on the history of the building.
Entry is timed: you ring the doorbell when the people in front of you have left the building, and when the time is right you enter and begin to explore, guided by the lights, haunted by the voices that surround you, telling stories of the house and the people who lived there. The house is in a shabby state, with peeling wallpaper, holes in the ceiling, and bits of furniture lying about. Lights, photographs and old newspapers emphasise the history behind the building. It’s an eerie experience, and one which will stay with me for a while.