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Dream House

Dream House

Vong Phaophanit
b.1961

Claire Oboussier
b.1963

Dream House
  • Painted fibreglass, steel and light
  • 2015
  • 16 m x 4 m x 3 m
  • 14 York Street, ÏCE Condominiums at York Centre, Toronto

About the artwork

Flying up from the heart of the ÏCE Development near Toronto’s York Street is Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier’s Dream House. This small yet powerful three-dimensional ‘house image’ sits perched atop sculptural stilts that propel it just above the green roof canopy of the plaza. In this position, the Dream House can be viewed from multiple perspectives: the ground level of the plaza, the condo dwellings that surround it, and the highway running south of the site.

The forms of the Dream House are familiar, reminiscent of a tree house, a large nest, or a cabin. References to the archetypal ‘house’ are strong but in the way the Dream House sits, there is a certain feeling of fragility and precariousness, as if it were being held up delicately by outstretched finger-like stilts.

Phaophanit and Oboussier have often regarded the image and concept of the “house” as a source of poetic images, believing it to be a cross-cultural entity. By rooting the Dream House in downtown Toronto, a metropolitan city that is ‘home’ to nearly all of the world’s diverse cultural groups, the artist invites their audience to reimagine their definition of ‘belonging’. The glowing archetype of the Dream House might serve as a reminder of what unifies instead of what sets us apart.

About the artist

Vong Phaophanit moved to Paris as a teenager following political unrest in his home of Savannakhet, Laos. Upon becoming a refugee under the Geneva Convention, he carried out his studies in France. While at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Aix en Provence, Phaophanit met and married a fellow student, Claire Oboussier. A move to the UK in 1985 sparked Phaophanit’s career as an artist and pushed him to experiment with a wide range of media.

In choosing to create large-scale installations with ash, silk, rice, rubber, wax, and light, Phaophanit pays homage to his Laotian heritage. He frequently incorporates Laotian text in his work and does not often translate the words for his audience in an effort to showcase the challenge of living between cultures. Phaophanit’s solo practice is constantly evolving alongside that of his shared studio with his wife, Claire. After establishing a close creative dialogue and frequently collaborating on projects together, the dynamic duo formally unified their practices in the late 1990s, opening up their shared studio.

Phaophanit has been nominated for the Turner Prize in 1993and the Paul Hamlyn Prize in 1998. He was awarded a DAAD fellowship in Berlin (1994). His works are exhibited in major collections around the world including the Tate Gallery, the Singapore Art Museum, The Henry Moore Foundation, The British Council Collection and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. He was a senior fellow in drawing at Wimbledon School of Art and has lectured and spoken at many schools and panels around the world.

Claire Oboussier’s artistic interests were shaped at a young age by the professions of her adoptive parents: an architect and a musician. Born in London and raised in Devon, Oboussier went on to study French at the University of Sussex, graduating in 1986. While on exchange in Paris, she met and married Phaophanit. Oboussier’s career in academia culminated with the submission of her doctoral thesis in 1995 which explored the poetic and theoretical intersections of the visual and verbal realms.

Alongside her foray into critical writing, Oboussier maintained her own studio practice where she experimented with a range of media such as written and spoken word, film, sound, and sculptural elements. During the early 2000s, she was a member of the Executive Committee for the pioneering magazine, MAKE, which provided a platform for under-represented women’s art practice. Oboussier later became the publication’s editorial advisor.

Throughout her early creative ventures, Phaophanit was by Oboussier’s side. The two collaborated on many projects and in the late 1990s and formally unified their practices into a shared studio.

Fun facts

  • These creative powerhouses share a daughter, Chanthila Phaophanit, who is a talented artist in her own right. Working with moving images, Chanthila explores ideas around the trans-cultural position she inhabits and questions the borders through which we are defined.

Engagement questions

  • How does the theme of this work influence thoughts on your own dream house?