Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Playing in the Cabanes at Seneffe Castle

If you have ever walked into your child's bedroom to find sheets sprawled from the dresser, then tucked under the mattress over to the arm chair and tied unconvincingly to the window handle, keep reading. If you have ever walked into your living room and found blankets thrown over the dining table and clothes-pinned to its matching chairs, keep reading. Finally, if you have ever walked into your garden only to find plastic bags hanging from tree limbs and little heads peaking out to say, “Look at our tent!”, I have got the perfect outing for you.
Until November 2011, the Château de Seneffe is host to a magical exhibition that will please the child in, and with, us all. In French, cabane refers to any sort of little house whether up in a tree or down on the ground and usually the home-made variety using sticks, planks of wood, fabrics, etc. Just as any child, and any helpful adult, feels proud of her creation, the artists who have participated in “Cabanes” have produced real chefs-d'oeuvre. The concept behind each cabane may seem more sophisticated than child's play. But, one necessary aspect is irrevocably the same as what motivates any child to dig through the linen closet or through the garage... imagination.
This outdoor exhibition is entirely free – good news when thinking of how to entertain the little ones on the weekends. Upon entering the front gates into La Cour d'Honneur, Frederic Geurts demands attention with his metallic sphere cabane. Upon seeing this almost weightless construction, my six year-old Belgian surrealist immediately remarked, “Ça, c'est pas une cabane!” Imagination is the word of the day. There is no harm in reminding children, nor adults, that everyone can perceive differently what we all may be looking at. Immediately to the left of the gates is La Chapelle showcasing, in video, each cabane. This overview prefaces the very unique houses the visitor will be experiencing.
Guests to Seneffe can roam freely throughout the grounds. I recommend, however, stepping into the castle to pick up a brochure detailing the where and what of each exhibit. Since the drive from Brussels to Seneffe can take a good 45 minutes, this is also an ideal time to stop into the restrooms (to the right and down the stairs).
Stepping out of the entrance, my daughter and I turned left and proceeded to the Jardin des Trois Terrasses. Pierre Courtois works with cubical red designs to produce four cabanes. One sits like a tall rectangle framed by walls of greenery. The second one lacks walls but limits are marked by four red poles. The third one is the highest. This red cube literally hangs above the visitor. The final cabane resembles most what someone might find in their own garden made from mosquito netting. These four creations are a perfect introduction to the variety of forms a cabane can take and will take throughout the exhibition.
From the Jardin des Trois, we headed behind the shrubs and past Le Théâtre. Near the stream and its bridge, we were both eager to run into a cabane by Dimitri Vanggrunderbeek. His three red, green and yellow cubes tempted us all too strongly to peek our heads through their square windows.
We continued up the path to a rather American country scene – a saloon. Jason Van Der Woude creates a cabin one could find in any western movie. We walked around and glanced inside to find boots lined up as straight as the glasses on the bar. So real was the scene, I expected the upright piano to start playing itself.
Towards the Grand Bassin, my daughter and I arrived with a beautiful view of the château. She ran ahead as soon as the next cabin was in sight. Van Der Woude now contrasts the dark, closed in wood beams with an open, glass structure. On this particularly sunny day, the shadows shown as much a part of the cabane as its recycled beams.
Immediately following, Loreta Visic's cabane reminded me of all the washing waiting for me at home. She has created a house with very imaginative, and yet very appropriate, walls. Shirts, skirts, pants, underwear - wardrobes of colors, textures and styles - hang straight until the wind blows. “Look, I have the same stockings!” My daughter exclaimed. I could only imagine what she was conjuring up for her next cabane.
The rest of the promenade lead us back around to the castle. We walked into large boxes and admired towering spheres. While strolling through the grounds, more than just our voices rang in between the trees. Speakers, cleverly disguised as hanging flower pots, play recordings from works by Casanova and Madame de Sévigné. Once at the Orangerie, we took advantage of the cafe to have a refreshment and talk about our favorite exhibits.

If, during your visit, the weather is not as sunny and warm as we had it, the castle is definitely worth a visit. For more information, visit the website of the Domaine du Château de Seneffe at www.chateaudeseneffe.be. There is a variety of exhibitions and entertainment to enjoy.