Some of the most outlandish places on Earth are where you least expect them. Maybe it has to do with the solitude offered by open land, all those free thoughts buzzing around in an artist’s head where distraction is minimal, that encourage such aggressively strange constructions. Our world has plenty of shocking gems off the beaten path. America, especially, holds a high number of ambitious, bizzarro folk art installations.
House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin certainly isn’t folk art but it applies some of those devil-may-care principals that divide wild, personal creations from more conventional public works and tourist destinations. House on the Rock (originally dreamed up by architect Alex Jordan, Jr. in 1945) is much more than an avant-garde, showy home attached to a stony bluff somewhere in the Cheese State. It’s not a fun house, definitely, and it’s not a museum in the traditional sense yet it holds enough mind-blowing artifacts (some of them chintzy, other ones probably worth a small fortune) that could fill an entire city of galleries.
What is House on the Rock?
Many answers would suffice (“tourist destination”, “curiosity”, “some place to take the kids”) but nothing quite describes this compound due to its extreme originality. The House is, in truth, a series of buildings linked together that hold a stunning variety of scenes, settings, worlds, and moods. Japanese gardens lead to baroque chambers dedicated to musical automatons. Life-sized leviathans battle in the center of a nautical tower which spits you out into an endless, miniature circus display. Before you know it, you’re standing in front of the world’s most elaborate and unnerving carousel. And that’s only a fraction of it.
In my short documentary, “Baptized In Weirdness”, I tried to figure out the context and meaning of House on the Rock but was left feeling as confused, overwhelmed, and baffled (and delighted) as everyone else who visits it. The House answers questions with more questions. Trying to efficiently explain this one-of-a-kind, darkly magical place would be futile.
Addovolt Productions, Chicago