Today BURNAWAY welcomes M. Kitchell for this month’s Authors on Art, a series of creative responses by poets, novelists, and experimental writers curated by Blake Butler.
I’ve never seen any of Gregor Schneider’s work “in the flesh,” so to speak. I’ve never walked through one of his installations, I’ve never been able to physically experience the affect his work carries. Yet, by reading about and looking at pictures of his work, I feel more influenced and fascinated by the work of Gregor Schneider than almost any other artist. The argument could be held that I’ve never experienced the work of an artist whose entire motivation, ostensibly, is the creation of affect, the creation of an environment, trafficking in atmosphere. Mediated only by representation, I have projected myself into the work, and my feeling of experience holds.
Gregor Schneider is an artist who, throughout most of his career, has spent time building architectural spaces, designed to communicate to the viewer/participant a sense of unease; a physically manifested uncanny. Schneider came to the attention of the art world when his, at that point, life-long project Haus u r was discovered by a local curator. Haus u r is a building that Schneider inherited. He started building double walls, adding secret rooms, locking things up in isolation, insulating space, creating the impossible. There are walls hidden behind other walls, there are spaces filled with concrete. Schneider’s house serves to disorient. Schneider’s house is a labyrinthine exploration of how it feels to be uncomfortable at home. Schneider’s house tells lies.
In 1998 Gregor Schneider wanted to stage a performance art piece in which someone who was on their death bed died. He said, “I want to show a person, which dies a natural death or just died a natural death. My target is to show the beauty of death.” This idea is not presented within the realm of fear; Schneider is looking for transcendence.
In 2007 Schneider created Weisse Folter (White Torture), a series of linked rooms that are sterile, isolated. They are all white. The rooms evoke detainment cells. The rooms can also evoke hospital rooms. The space is eerie, and as the participant walks through, he or she is alone. I imagine that walking through the exhibition, alone, is similar to what it would feel like to be a ghost haunting Guantánamo Bay.
Completely insulated death room.
When I write I write about spaces and how those spaces feel and what it’s like to be a ghost in terms of your relationship to space. Geometry holds secrets, and so does the intersection where the ceiling meets the wall. Either everything is outside or there is no outside or there is only inside. Every room I can ever imagine could find itself in one of Schneider’s works. This I appreciate; I appreciate the idea of an autonomous construction of a room. It’s like narrative; you don’t have to know what’s going to happen inside of the room, you only have to understand that something will happen.
There is a work of Schneider’s that never leaves my head. It colors the way I understand eroticism, affect, terror. The work consists of two cubes, insulated in lead, fiberglass wool, and sound-proofing material. A brief conversation about the pieces with Schneider has transpired:
‘At the time, I imagined an exhibition where there would be two boxes in a room, you come in, there’s someone sitting in one of the boxes which is screened off.’
‘Then the person would die, and pretty quickly too?’
‘Of course […]’
-From The Challenge by Brigitte Kölle