NORMAL -- Picture a two-story house with an attached garage. On a March day in the yard in the neighborhood, it is peaceful -- the song of birds providing the only break from quiet behind the powder blue home.
A videotape of the serenity lasts several seconds before a giant human, almost as tall as the structure, comes charging into the scene, ramming the house. This human, costumed in a black outfit and white hard-hat, engages in a wrestling match with the house, which bends and moves through the yard.
The human is artist John Giglio. He made the 10-foot-high home of inflatable vinyl, and it was patterned after the homes he encounters in his north Normal neighborhood.
The project "Big House, Big Man" is part sculpture, part installation art, part performance art. The house, with Big Man, and the video were exhibited in a New York City gallery.
The premise behind "Big House, Big Man" and other Giglio works is to critique architecture and structure.
Buildings are dictatorial, Giglio said. They tell us where to move, where to walk and where to sit. Buildings are unbending, rigid, unmoving.
Giglio's work takes a fantasy approach in changing the dynamics. The house becomes almost a living object and it becomes flexible.
His pieces can been seen more as a question than a definitive statement. The question: "What if?"
"What if you could roll up your house and put it in your car?"
That's what he did with his last piece, an 11-foot-high house replica, which he recently delivered to The Aldrich Contemporary Museum in Connecticut. A second building -- he calls them "blowhomes" -- is in the works and by winter's end he will have completed a third. This will produce something of a neighborhood on the museum grounds.
Giglio -- pronounced JILL-io -- was trained in sculpture but during art schooling also took an interest in clothes and fashion. As his art career progressed, his work transformed into an installation-sculpture-performance hybrid.
Usually, a piece involves human performance, but sometimes the art objects perform.
Still in the proposal stage is his idea to place a vinyl inflatable house in an empty lot between two real houses. The blowhome would inflate and deflate at different times of the day.
Also in proposal stage are temporary installations in which two-story buildings are draped in clothing.
"What if you could put pajamas on a building?"
Or a dress shirt and tie? Or how about an office-casual look of an unbuttoned dress shirt draped along a building's exterior?
These works remain in sketch form only.
Beyond the what-if-ing, Giglio has made pointed rebellion against bad architecture.
Anne Arundel Community College outside Baltimore is an example of rigid, harsh, linear, unimaginative, austere ugliness, in Giglio's opinion.
Giglio made spheres that resembled the buildings. Soft, mushy and movable, the spheres were rolled through campus by AACC students, who were dressed in black and wearing white masks.
Other people usually do the performing in the Giglio pieces.
"Big House, Big Man" was an exception. He performed "Big House, Big Man" in his own yard, using a camera held stationary on a tripod.
He was shy in this matter, and planned to perform the piece in the wee hours. Unable to drag himself out of bed early, he instead performed at midday.
He doesn't know if neighbors watched the spectacle of a man wrestling his blowhome. None came outside to observe.
"Maybe they did see and they just didn't come out," he said. "That's the strange thing about it. Nobody even asked a question. I wasn't sure how I was going to answer."
Artist: John Giglio, 37, grew up in Maryland and moved to Normal in summer 2004 from Queens, N.Y. The move was precipitated by his wife's job. Diane Dean is an education professor at Illinois State University. Giglio works on art and takes daytime duties in caring for the couple's two children, ages 3 and 5.
Media: A hybrid of sculpture, installation and performance art. Giglio critiques architecture and the dictatorial role structures play in our lives and in our movement.
Artist statement (in part): "I remake chosen buildings so that they take on selected traits of a living thing. In the process these buildings may lose some of the order and rigidity designed into them, and perhaps serve as models for a world in which the built environment is less finite and oppressive. A building that I make may be soft and susceptible to harm, may not have a permanent resting place, or may have a limited life span. In these pieces, the object becomes the performer."
Education: Giglio attended The Maryland Institute, College of Art (bachelor's degree in fine art), The Fashion Institute of Technology and Yale University (master's in fine arts).
Midwest living: The move to the Midwest offers new issues and a new lifestyle to contemplate.
• At his new home, he found himself fascinated with the remote garage opener. "I just opened and closed the door (repeatedly). I couldn't believe it."
• In Queens, he had no garage and almost no yard. On certain days, street parking was prohibited on one side of the street to enable cleaning and garbage collection. He wouldn't dare to go out on nights before the restricted parking mornings. If he did, he would spend perhaps 40 minutes finding a parking spot a half-mile from his home. The hassles of life are so vastly fewer here that it feels almost like a continuing vacation, he said.
• New York seemed to continually test how little space a person could manage in. He now has a full yard and a basement for work he used to undertake in a studio smaller than his living room.