Ben Allen was invited to transform the first-floor bar area of Quarterhouse, to make it an exciting visitor centre for visitors to the 2017 Triennial. The resulting installation is purposefully immersive, and designed to challenge the visitor to engage with the space’s sensory multiplicity. It’s also an invitation to explore the feelings created by the vertical gothic tree-like forms, and the primal human response to occupy or gather in the ‘clearing’ between.
The forest-like gothic forms have a particular Anglo-French origin, which the artist felt was appropriate to East Kent as the historical arrival point in England for master builders and masons. The Clearing also proposes a connection between gothic architecture and pre-modernist early 20th century Central European expressionist architects such as Bruno Taut and Hans Poelzig.
A decade spent in Berlin gave Allen access to a circle of artists including two whose works have in particular influenced The Clearing: Thomas Demand’s Lichtung / Clearing 2003; and Tacita Dean’s film Michael Hamburger 2007, in which the émigré poet describes his English apple orchard and the continental roots of the tree / apple species. Ben writes that “Dean’s nostalgic film presents the idea of tree species – like cultures – being the flotsam and jetsam that washes up on English shores”. The Clearing also references the work of the German Philosopher Martin Heidegger.