It’s advisable to treat our perception with a degree of mistrust. Our brain is continuously converting sensory impressions into classifiable information: expanding data, filling in the gaps, calculating things ahead of time and ignoring discrepancies. This is precisely the chord Gregor Schneider’s works strike; they put our perception to the test.
Text Rein Wolfs
All images All photos made by Gregor Schneider. Courtesy Konrad Fischer gallery
The point of departure was the House u r, in which he both reconstructed rooms and brought about subtle changes in them through complexly built interventions. These works are field studies in cognition, checkpoints for a basic doubt in ordinary causality. The question driving Schneider both here and in many of his later works is essentially metaphysical. Apart from the five documented senses, what forces exert an effect on our cognition and thus on a subjectively understood reality? On a conscious level, visitors can barely perceive some of his interventions in House u r. Completely Insulated Guest Room is encased in lead, the Coffee Room revolves 360°, and the Studio has added windows that artificially regulate the light entering the room. Hidden away behind walls are interstices filled with objects and empty spaces that remain unnoticed. The rooms resemble laboratory experiments that postulate questions concerning unconscious experience.
For his part, Gregor Schneider regards his work as concrete, three-dimensional thought. The fact that the Bundeskunsthalle can now show a large number of his pieces as a coherent body of work, and for the first time comprehensively as a three-dimensional exhibition course, enables viewers to gain a deeper and broader understanding of his artistic practice. While House u r painstakingly investigates and manipulates the properties of rooms, Schneider implements other coordinates as points of reference for the birthplace of Joseph Goebbels, another complete house that he has reworked. The initial impulse for the piece was his awareness of the house’s existence in his native city, Rheydt. After he succeeded in purchasing the house, he embarked on his many-layered investigation of the site and all its implications. Here, too, it’s essentially about thoroughly experiencing rooms beyond the parameters that can be perceived through the senses. His attempts at inhabiting the rooms of the house, at eating and sleeping there, seem almost ritualistic in nature. Is it the spirit of the house that makes it impossible for him to feel at home? At any rate, it’s cathartic when Schneider takes a hammer to the Birth Room and beats the plaster from the walls and finally has the building gutted because its statics make demolition impossible.
Collective memory and individual experience intersect in Schneider’s oeuvre.