This week, we need you to be thinking about trolls. You need to be talking about trolls. When you see a stranger, your first impulse should be to ask them about their stance on “the troll issue.” You should start describing yourself as “trollpilled.” The source of this recent obsession is the Pease Park Conservancy, which normally oversees the stewardship of Austin’s own Pease Park along Shoal Creek near downtown, but has recently expanded its purview to include the stewardship of trolls. Giant trolls.
This week, the Conservancy’s kicking off a deeply offbeat campaign to install a troll sculpture in Pease Park from Danish artist Thomas Dambo, who has carved out a reputation for constructing trolls from scrap wood and other recycled local materials. These giant public art pieces, sometimes rising up to 30 feet tall, are now installed in over 100 locations worldwide, often placed a bit off the beaten path in natural areas to encourage exploration and discovery — you can imagine how amusingly horrifying it would be to come across one of these things in the woods on your own.
Every piece of art Dambo creates has a story – a message about environmental or ecological awareness. Before building a sculpture, Dambo works with locals to understand their culture and stories seeking to find commonality in goals of taking care of Mother Nature and to educate on how to do better.
His whimsical, recycled-wood trolls provide community members with the opportunity to explore nature on their visit and to experience an example of how materials can be reused and repurposed into art. The trolls created by Thomas Dambo are hand-built so impact to the surrounding environment is minimal.
The whole Pease initiative is proposed with the tone of a kid begging their parents for a dog, except this time it’s a troll. We are obsessed with the increasingly straight-faced collection of FAQ questions: “How long would the troll be in Pease Park? What are the possible sites for the troll? How does the troll fit into Pease Park Conservancy’s interpretive plans?” I promise to feed the troll and take the troll for a walk every day.
But really, the troll seems like a pretty good deal, as far as trolls go. The artwork would be donated to the City of Austin, but fully funded and maintained by the Conservancy, with no use of public money in the exchange — no troll toll, in other words. The artist would offer the troll to the park for at least 15 years, meaning it has the potential to frighten children who haven’t even been born yet. We’re always in favor of public art, but Dambo’s trolls actually seem like good public art, which is a lot harder to come by — they’re strange and enigmatic and haunting in that “Where the Wild Things Are” sensibility of scaring kids on purpose to make them more interesting people. Stare long enough at the troll, as they say, and the troll might start staring back at you.
We’re obviously convinced already, and how on earth could you not be? All that’s left is to fill out the Pease Park Conservancy’s, uh, “Troll Survey,” with your thoughts on where exactly in the woods the troll might be installed. We suggest the third option, near the new playground at Kingsbury Commons on the south end of the park, but you could really put one of these things anywhere. Austin, please build the troll.