srijeda, 19. kolovoza 2015.

Gregor Schneider - Haus u r

Gregor Schneider: 20100208_fourth_plinth_london_01

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"Schneider's work consistently features hollow rooms, haunting spaces and dark mausoleums that recall history’s worst crimes"

Gregor Schneider, Haus u r, Rheydt, 1985, b/w print Agfa paper, 2/6, 42 x 52 c
Gregor Schneider, Haus u r, Rheydt, 1985, b/w print Agfa paper, 2/6, 42 x 52 c
Leaving Dominik Mersch Gallery into the bright sunny Sydney afternoon, I took a wrong turn and walked several blocks before realising my mistake. Given the show I’d just seen my disorientation was perhaps understandable. Gregor Schneider’s German Angst is a photographic and video-based survey of some of the controversial artist’s most significant work of the last 30 years: the infamous Haus u r and Weisse Folter (White Torture, 2007). Australian audiences might remember Schneider for his dramatic installation 21 beach cells on Bondi Beach in 2007, or our very own glimpse at Haus u r, the basement of which was recreated at the AGNSW in 2012.
Haus u r is an ever-evolving project for Schneider, a complete home he inherited in 1985 and has been modifying with his unique brand of oppressive installation ever since. Building materials become strange mechanisms for thickening doors, padding roofs and blocking off rooms entirely.
In White Torture (named for torture techniques designed to leave no physical marks), the albeit sinister domestic environment of the Haus u r is left behind, and we are plunged into an endless series of not-quite-clinical corridors and cell-like rooms, devoid of identifying features. In their refusal to give over their intended function, the spaces become more disturbing than if they were filled with horror. -

Since 1985, Gregor Schneider’s work has focused on the creation of uncanny architectural environments, cavernous depths and labyrinths that evoke a dark individual or collective psyche. Between 1985 and 1997, from his mid-teens, he compulsively refigured a former residential block next-door to his father’s lead factory in Rheydt, Germany for the work he has renamed Totes Haus Ur (Dead house ur). Drawing from a place between the seen and constructed experiences of the world and the unseen and unfathomable, Schneider’s works activate physical and psychological impulses. Inspired by the architecture of Guantánamo Bay for a number of works, clear identification and orientation are denied and visitors are left unsure of where they are and what they are seeing.

Houses of horror
Gregor Schneider has taken two identical homes, put three sets of identical twins inside and asked them to do identical, unspeakable things. This might be his most sinister work yet, says Gordon Burn

Some scenes from the early life of Gregor Schneider, which show him to be death-bothered and indicate an incontrovertible disposition, well in advance of the usual childhood fascination with bogeymen and creepy-crawlies, towards the black-hearted macabre. Schneider grew up in a landscape of dust and fumes and dirty heavy industry. Rheydt, his home town on the outskirts of Monchengladbach in Germany, where he still lives, has traditionally been a centre for open-cast mining, although many of the mining villages are now shut down and deserted. The house he grew up in was part of the lead-making factory that has been in his family for five generations. That house - now known to gallery-goers internationally as Totes Haus ur [Dead House] - acted as a kind of baffle between the factory and the Schneiders' Unterheydener Strasse neighbours, who have always taken exception to the unsightliness and the noxious gases Factory Schneider still emits. Schneider's father used to run the business; two of his brothers have taken over since their father's death.
Little Gregor (he was born in 1969) must have been a worry to his mother. He was not like other children. None of his friends, for example, lay in bed at night working out how to completely isolate themselves - from noise, from evidence of any other living presence - by lining their rooms with 4ft-thick layers of lead, glass fibre, soundproofing materials and other stuff. (Completely Insulated Death Room would be finished in 1991.) None of them coated their faces and naked bodies in a doughy mixture of meal and water and cycled through the cold to school; or if they did, they certainly didn't refer to the end result as "body art". Gregor was an avid admirer of a Canadian called John Fare who removed various bits of his body in a slow and bloody process of auto-amputation.
Home alone, Gregor filled a coffin-shaped box with wet cement and lay face down in it, with a chisel at hand in case things went kerflooey. The original idea had been to make a second impression of his back and, unaided, flip the first entombing slab on top of himself, but this proved impractical.
Around this time he was earning pocket money working as an altar boy at the local Catholic cemetery, where he learned many things. One of these was never to take the position at the front-left corner of the coffin, because that was where you caught the worst of the death smell. Today, as he explains it - his English is sometimes not so good - he mimes bending to take the handle of the coffin; he shows you how they lowered the ropes into the grave. Three funerals a day. In between, he got a lot of reading done. He smiles broadly.
When he was 16, Schneider's parents moved to the suburbs, leaving him in the house overlooking the factory yard in Rheydt on his own. When his father paid him a visit, he hurt his leg in one of the several traps Gregor had set in the floor. There was a B&Q megastore conveniently situated on the other side of Unterheydener Strasse, and Schneider started making day-long visits. He bought industrial quantities of plastic sheeting, cement, piping and ventilation grilles. The lead, whose lethal molten condition and psychedelically coloured drying surface had always absorbed him, came free.
Without knowing exactly what he was doing, or where it was leading, he set to work. Walls were built in front of walls, windows in front of windows, ceilings were rigged to rise and fall unseen. Love Nest is a narrow cell with a bed, a bath and a hot-plate. The idea was that it contained all that was necessary for human existence and the person inside need never leave; it was entered by a crawl space under the sink. His Coffee Room rotates 360 degrees on its own axis, so slowly as to be imperceptible: leaving by the door through which they arrived, visitors risk stepping into a void.
It goes without saying, perhaps, that Schneider has a lifelong interest in scenes of crime and what he calls "places charged with a strong past event, but from which the event itself is absent". As a schoolboy, he obsessively photographed a place in the woods where a female art student had been murdered. He has been interested to discover "whether a scream would stay behind in a room after you had left it". Under the floors, there is a birdcage, dead animals, inflatable dolls. "I'd love to stop someone getting away one time," Schneider has said, "but I have never dared to yet. I'm one of those people who live double lives and go out into the park at night and sift through the litter bins and secretly take something home with me ... I assume that there are others working at it and I will probably never meet the best ones."
Schneider's work, like the work of many of the artists he showed with in Apocalypse at the Royal Academy in London in 2000, represents a kind of anti-sublime; what Jake Chapman has called, only half-jokingly, a "degenerate sublime". It takes art about as far from the pleasure principle as it can be taken. But maybe this is inevitable. Good art sucks in the psyche of its time, and disorder, fear, Bacon's "smell of death" continue to be the central 21st-century experiences. In a way, Schneider is part of a tradition in German art dating back to Otto Dix and George Grosz who, in the period between the wars, produced numerous gruesome images of the lustmord - sexual murder.
He was awarded the Golden Lion at the 2001 Venice Biennale for an installation that consisted of 100 tons of rooms from the Rheydt house shipped to Italy and reassembled in the German pavilion. Bits of the house have been touring the world ever since. They have made Schneider one of the most sought-after artists in Europe. He is certainly the most famous person in Rheydt after Goebbels, who grew up one street away. But there is a sense that Schneider is wearying of the notoriety of his crazy house and local curiosity about the oddball loner who lives in it.
A couple of years ago he started working with human "collaborators". In N. Schmidt (2001-2003), Schneider's probably fictitious "lodger" had to lie on a gallery floor playing dead. In Old House-Slut (2000-2003), a woman had to lie on a gallery floor looking raped and dead. For Rubbish Bag in Wanking Corner (1999), Schneider himself crouched in the bag of the title for seven hours, all-seeing but invisible, and nobody ever knew he was there.
Die Familie Schneider, his new show in London, features living, breathing, wanking people and represents a startling, and hugely risky, change of direction. It has been made possible by Artangel, an organisation Schneider has long admired forits determination to "think outside the museum". Adjacent houses in a Victorian terrace in Whitechapel in east London have been acquired. The houses have been decorated and "distressed" to the artist's exact specifications. Down to the tiniest wallpaper tear and ceiling stain, they are identical. For the duration of the show they will be occupied by two "families" of identical twins, one in each house, whose movements throughout a seven-hour day will be co-ordinated precisely. Only one visitor will be admitted at a time. Nobody under the age of 16 will get in. The address is available only on application.
I talked to Schneider in one of the upstairs bedrooms at number 14. It had been given a kind of seedy, cheap glamour: cream "boudoir" carpet, cream vanity units, what Schneider calls "porno" mirrors. There was no natural light; a wall had been erected in front of the window; we were in a room-within-a-room. From the street, though, it looks as if the window and the room behind it are still as they were - "normal". Both houses are, in fact, sealed off from the outside world. They are flocked, dado-railed tombs.
Schneider had just been back to Rheydt to make a decision about a headstone for his father, who died recently. As the artist of family Schneider, this responsibility fell to him. In his role as altar boy, he attended the ceremony when the new Catholic cemetery opened. "It was empty. Now my father's in," he says. "Now it spreads and spreads."
It grew late. It had been raining. We walked in the direction of the main road via the London Hospital. Outside the hospital, a young woman was screaming into a mobile; she was sobbing, her body shaking. An IV patch showed in the space between her top and her trousers. "I'm fucking cracking up! I can't fucking take it!" We sought help from two paramedics who were having a smoke by their ambulance. They shrugged. "We don't work here. We just bring them in." But they went over to the woman, who was spasming now and had slumped to the pavement.
We were headed for the Blind Beggar pub, scene of one of the Krays' most notorious slayings. The twins' portraits grace the walls. There are posters advertising Kray walks and Jack the Ripper tours, something I thought Schneider would be interested to see. But he stopped suddenly. He felt tired, he said. He thought he should go home.
I suspected that he wanted to see what had happened with the young woman - not in a voyeuristic way but to reacquaint himself with that kind of abjectness and human misery. To look at it and remember and take it back to the houses, where in the morning work would be continuing with the mildewing and bruising and the calling-back of things that might or might not have happened inside those walls.
"Anything bad ever happen in this house, Frank?" a house-hunter asks the narrator of Richard Ford's novel Independence Day.
"Nothing I know about," Frank Bascombe, a realtor, replies. "I guess all houses have pasts. The ones I lived in all sure did. Somebody's bound to have died in some room here sometime. I just don't know who."  -

Gregor Schneider's chilling installations are set in places few of us would ever want to live. Through creaking doors stained with rust into a warren of musty rooms, viewers are propelled into an underworld of dank cellars and grimy cement floors.
In 2001 Schneider won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale when he exhibited his childhood home, Totes Haus u r (Dead House u r) in the German Pavilion. But this was no ordinary suburban dwelling: visitors walked up to an inconspicuous brown front door, the kind found on any German street, only to be admitted in to a house of horrors. The place was a maze of fake partitions, lead-lined rooms, makeshift sleeping quarters and a kitchen encrusted with mould. The most disturbing aspect was the basement, whereunder a low ceiling, amid the dirt and dust, hung a disco ball. Schneider is at his most gruesome when he alludes to sex and death, and more than anything this small prop suggested something sordid in the house of Schneider, as horrific as the nefarious activities of Fred West or Josef Fritzl. Although Schneider would argue (possibly disingenuously) that any associations we make concerning his art are constructed from our own ghoulish imaginations.
It is difficult for us to know why Schneider decided to transform his childhood house into such a charnel. He has been doing so since the age of 16 when his father died, and critics have often suggested Schneider's continued investigations and manipulations are the result of trauma. If that is the case, Schneider is not telling. What he does say is that he hopes his work helps us to reflect upon and overcome our worst nightmares. That these fetid rooms have become highly sought after by collectors and museums certainly reveals how compelling we find the most disquieting aspects of the human condition.
Last year Schneider became embroiled in controversy after saying he wanted to create a space in a museum in which people could die. His argument was that society's horror of death was so acute that we prefer to ignore it, leaving people to die in the clinical impersonality of a hospital rather than somewhere beautiful. His impassioned response reflected on the endemic cruelty in our society that leads us to blatantly disregard our final act.
Why we like him? For the psychological hell that was White Torture, made in 2007 and inspired by photographs of Guantanamo. Visitors walked through a maze of soundproofed cells, with interlocking doors and strip lighting, a terrifying place that aimed "to destroy a person's psyche without leaving any demonstrable traces".
Grave matters: Schneider worked as a coffin-bearer in his first job as a teenager.
Subversive spaces: His new installation is a children's nursery, recovered from a village in the Rhineland, abandoned to make way for opencast mining. - Jessica Lack                    

This is the house of the closet-man. There are no rooms, just hallways and closets.
      Things happen in rooms. He does not like things to happen. . . . Closets, you take things out of closets, you put things into closets, and nothing happens . . .

      Why do you have such a strange house?

      I am the closet-man, I am either going or coming, and I am never sad.

      But why do you have such a strange house?

      I am never sad . . . [1]

"Few things intrigued me more as a kid than the hidden closets and secret passageways found in old houses. The very thought of clandestine nooks and crannies offering a path to who knows where filled me with excitement. When I recently paid a visit to Gregor Schneider's Dead House ur in the small German town of Rheydt, an hour away from Cologne, that distant sensation--part curiosity, part fear of being trapped in a claustrophobic space--came back in full force. But this place is a bit too much: The building is more labyrinth than house, and the prospect of getting stuck in a particularly narrow passage is truly frightening. The artist's remarks (e.g., "What is within the house must stay there"; "I'd love to stop someone from getting away some time") don't exactly put me at ease. Nor does the sinister atmosphere: Unheimlich comes to mind.
The facade--it looks like any anonymous building in any German town--doesn't give away the house's secrets. I arrive by car with my friend Udo. We find Unterheydener Strasse and ring at the door of No. 12. Gregor Schneider, an amiable artist in his early thirties, answers and lets us in, serves us coffee in his rather messy office/breakfast room, and shows us a few works on video. It's all business as usual--just another studio visit. Then the tour begins, and nothing else is normal. We leave the room not through the door but through a secret aperture that is revealed by pushing back part of the wall behind me. On the other side, we get a surprising view of the room we've just left: It is a motor-driven contraption set on wheels and may very well have been circulating slowly, like a high-rise cocktail lounge, while we were having coffee. Standing in the larger space, you can see the external walls of the building. Or rather, that is what you are made to believe, but when you open a window, you get no view of the street or the garden. Behind the window is a second window. There seems to be no outside. Everything leads back into the house." [2]
"The tour continues and things get stranger. We squeeze through crawl spaces, scurry down holes in the floor, follow dark corridors that suddenly open onto tidy, brightly lit rooms. Schneider himself comments on his creation in a dry, matter-of-fact tone. At certain critical points along the way, he makes clear that we could keep going but ominously adds that it's not recommended. Pointing at a narrow cleft in the floor, he intones, "Here it gets a bit too dirty." Udo and I take his word for it.
"For our house is our corner of the world," Bachelard writes. "As has often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word." What is Schneider's Dead House ur? Nothing the artist tells us about the place seems completely unequivocal. Who owns it? Does he actually live here? Is Hannelore Reuen, whose name is on the entrance, a real person? We ask, but we get no straight answers, though a few things do appear certain: More than fifteen years ago, Schneider, a teenager at the time, began taking the building on Unterheydener Strasse apart from within. (The structure, apparently owned by his family, was once thought to be uninhabitable because of its proximity to an industrial complex.) By now, the original dimensions and configuration of the various rooms are all but impossible to reconstruct. The list of "improvements" the artist has made over the last decade and a half reads like a strange form of experimental literature, working through every conceivable repetition and duplication of basic architectural units: "wall in front of wall, ceiling under ceiling, section of wall in front of wall, room in room, lead in floor, light around room, light around room, wall in front of wall, wall in front of wall..." At this point, not even the artist can recount all the steps involved." [2]
"I come from the Expressionist corner," Schneider tells us over coffee. Precociously drawn to the arts, he had already gravitated in his early teens to painting, creating images of young, undernourished girls and screaming faces. He also dabbled in body art, covering his torso with flour or burying himself in the soil. Extreme practices of automutilation and self-inflicted pain fascinated him; he was especially taken with the story of Toronto practitioner John Fare, who in the late '60s hacked off parts of his body one by one and finally beheaded himself in an amputation machine. "I saw the human scream as the ultimate in expression," Schneider told Ulrich Loock in an extensive interview produced in conjunction with the artist's 1997 exhibition at the Bern Kunsthalle. "Then [I] flipped into the opposite mode." He began to build soundproof cells, rooms of total isolation, covered with layer upon layer of insulating materials. One of them--the ultimate in claustrophobic nightmares--has a door with no handle on the inside and a merely decorative, nonfunctional knob on the outside. Once the door is shut, the person inside is gone forever.
Esse est percipi, said Bishop Berkeley, but Schneider would beg to differ. He is interested above all in forms of existence that escape perception--substances, spaces, objects, and qualities that remain hidden. When one wall is built in front of another, a space is created between the two. Schneider fills such gaps with red or black bricks. Disappearing between the walls, these solid materials can't be seen, but they're there. The invisible works are just as significant as the visible ones to Schneider, and the very distinction between the two might be of minor importance to him. Listening to the artist talk about his interventions and constructions--workman-like descriptions of dimensions, materials, and tools--one glimpses a vision of the world that doesn't translate well into common sense. By no means mystical, it nonetheless involves a profound experience of space. "I was registered as having a perceptual disorder and being mentally ill, but I only told them what I was doing at the time. I didn't lie. I told them that I build rooms," Schneider explained to Loock, responding to the curator's interest in the genesis of the artist's activities." [2]
"Schneider's investigations probably could have taken place somewhere else, but as it is, most of his works relate directly to the house at 12 Unterheydener Strasse, which makes for a curiously extreme case in today's increasingly global world of international exhibitions and biennials. Where some artists turn nomadic lifestyles into signature gestures, Schneider seems to bring his space with him wherever he goes. His straightforward black-and-white photographs and videos of empty rooms have been shown all over Europe and the US, most recently in Pittsburgh at the Carnegie International. At times entire sections of the house have been transported to museums and galleries and meticulously reconstructed, as was the case in Schneider's recent show in Vienna at the Secession. Almost everything one encounters of the artist's work refers back to the ur-site. Walking through the house I experience a strange feeling of deja vu: I have seen these rooms before; I've even been in some of them. The "guestroom" is just as colorless and inhospitable as the black-and-white images indicate. Nothing can be heard, nothing moves. Time seems to have come to a stop. This really is a dead room." [2]
"If the white rooms on the upper floors radiate a kind of refined and clinical violence, the subterranean space that Schneider sometimes refers to as the disco or the brothel conjures up something more disconcerting. In The Poetics of Space, Bachelard speculates, "As for the cellar, we shall no doubt find uses for it. It will be rationalized and its conveniences enumerated. But it is first and foremost the dark entity of the house, the one that partakes of subterranean forces. When we dream there, we are in harmony with the irrationality of the depths." The dreams the Dead House ur cellar offers up are particularly unsettling, and the irrational forces in question strike a resoundingly brutal tone. In some of Schneider's images, one glimpses details of dolls hanging from the ceiling or shattered against the floor. These terrifying paraphernalia would seem completely out of place against the antiseptic whiteness of the upper-floor rooms, but in the moist dungeons they confirm one's suspicion of ineffable goings-on, performed perhaps by the mysterious tenant, Hannelore Reuen. Remembering Schneider's remark that the house should really be seen only once and that "what is within the house must stay there," we find no reason to linger." [2]
"The artist has also managed to escape the house, building an impressive CV of international shows, but in project after project he seems bound to return. Exhibitions, he told Loock in his interview, are the death of work; as soon as they're done, one can start all over again. One day Schneider may create work that has nothing whatsoever to do with Dead House ur. But for fifteen years, each new beginning has meant a return to the interiors of 12 Unterheydener Strasse. In this private universe, where time seems to have come to a standstill, his investigations into space can proceed without external disturbance. "Whether I am insulating myself from the world, or whether it's a breakthrough--I don't really know."' [2]

Read our feature on the German artist whose ‘unheimlich’ interventions in the domestic environment have seen him take the rubble of Goebbels’s birthplace to Poland, hide a synagogue in the suburbs and tunnel into the hidden spaces of a museum, from the April 2015 issue
In the beginning there was Haus u r – an abandoned residential house in Gregor Schneider’s hometown of Rheydt, which he occupied from 1985 until 2001, all the while continuously reconstructing its inner structure as a discontinuous, unregulated typology of rooms built inside the house’s preexisting rooms (with windows in front of windows, walls in front of walls, floors on top of floors, etc). Repeating the architectural elements and materials that were already there, Haus u r was realised as an indistinguishable duplicate of the original, one that assimilated it. Under these circumstances, each room was doubly defined as both an overdelineated, isolating container and an external boundary indicating the inaccessible and unseen spaces and objects beyond it – in the remaining gaps between the primary rooms and those they were penetrated by – without exposing them.
As an ongoing process lasting for more than a decade, Haus u r rejected architecture’s pretension to offer permanence and distinction in favour of a fundamental indeterminacy. Rooms such as the Kaffeezimmer (Coffee Room, 1993), Total Isoliertes Gästezimmer (Completely Insulated Guestroom, 1995), Liebeslaube (Love Nest, 1995) or Keller (Cellar) were repeatedly implemented within configurations of conscious/unconscious, seen/unseen and higher/lower. Their structural net of concealed gaps, holes, recesses and abysses, through which a person could have disappeared; the effects of sensory deprivation, disorientation and seclusion they produce; the walls behind which figures and personal photographs of ancestors were hidden; the covert rotation mechanism under the floor of the Kaffeezimmer by means of which it unnoticeably revolved around itself; and the all-over dissemination of blind windows and false doors guaranteed the house’s ambiguity as an unfixed intersection of a petit-bourgeois dwelling, hostel, squat, Duchampian bachelor machine, haunted house, spatialised subjectivity, family genealogy, memorial site, tomb, trap, dungeon, sadistic institute, behaviourist experiment and phantasmatic scenario. The fundamental inner split of Haus u r, whereby each room is also the room into which it was inserted, and the space – the difference – between them; whereby self-affirmation is self-negation, and vice versa; whereby presence is absence, and absence is presence, and so forth – this inner split situates the event of Haus u r, the outcome of its ontological inconsistency, beyond perceptibility, where opposites are indistinct.
At the 2001 Venice Biennale, after 16 years of psychophysical investment, Schneider further repeated the underlying repetition of Haus u r when he dismantled its rooms and reconstructed them in the German Pavilion in the Giardini, under the title Totes Haus u r (Dead House u r) (which won Germany the Golden Lion for best national participation). With that came the shift from the living realm of the private to the dead realm of the public: that which up until then had been visited only by a few guests under Schneider’s guidance and commentary became a massive attraction for the many; that which up until then was discrete, introverted, contingent and organic became exemplary, propositional, calibrated and purged. The title Totes Haus u r addressed the implications of objectifying Haus u r, objectifying 16 years of a total way of being, as that of killing and revivifying, of lethality and redemption. After Venice, Totes Haus u r began travelling the world by ways of physical dislocation or technological reproduction (uprooted in its entirety, in single rooms and segments, or in photographs), and its body became distributed and dispersed in an extensive event of self-displacement and amputation.
Gregor Schneider Rheydt, from April 2015 Feature

Rheydt, 2014 (installation view, unsubscribe, 2014, Zacheta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw). Courtesy the artist / VG-Bild Kunst, Bonn
In 2014, Haus u r symbolically returned to Rheydt and reappeared in the guise of the birthplace and childhood home of Joseph Goebbels – the Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany – which stands a short distance away. Deciding to present Goebbels’s house as the clone of his own house, Schneider had acquired the property (along with its contents at the time of purchase) a while before from the family that was then living there. Immediately thereafter, in order to incorporate the house he had just bought into his own universe, he started to destroy it, dismantling and completely removing its inner structure and all architectural elements, up to the point where it became an empty cube. In November 2014 the ruins of Goebbels’s house were stacked in a truck that drove all the way from Rheydt to Warsaw, where it was parked in front of Zachęta – National Gallery of Art during the opening days of Schneider’s unsubscribe exhibition. Inside Zachęta, Schneider scattered unexceptional items and materials from the house – among other things, a pile of wooden studs and plates, sand and dolls on top of an empty newspaper basket, books, shelves, a full jar of jam and a USB stick – staging an arena of unrevealing evidence that emphasised its inability to testify about the historical rupture with which it was provided. In an adjacent dark space Schneider displayed four projections, depicting him drinking soup and sleeping in a bed inside the Goebbels house, the Goebbels house when empty and the process of its dismantling. Comparable to his Amateur Videos (1998–2001), in which he shot himself going through the concealed spaces – the escape routes – of Haus u r, this video footage validated the connection between the two houses; it grounded their interchangeability
Goebbels’s house is the follower of Haus u r – it repeats it – and its precedence is repeated by it. They turn each other into a sort of a Nazi monument, a property of historical incommensurability. In this context, the inherent imperceptibility of Haus u r becomes a form of negative representation, referring to that which transgresses verbal and visual signification in terms of what it is not.
Earlier last year Schneider expanded his self-initiated connection to the history of Nazi Germany when he launched Hauptstrasse 85a (85a Main St) in Synagogue Stommeln in Pulheim, a small town outside Cologne. Synagogue Stommeln is one of the very few synagogues that was not destroyed by the Nazis. The German farmer who bought it from the local Jewish community in 1937 convinced the Nazi authorities it was no longer a Jewish place, and there was no reason to burn it down. During the 1980s the synagogue was restored, and since 1991 it has functioned as an alternative art space whose programme includes unique projects by artists such as Maria Nordman, Rosemarie Trockel and Daniel Buren, among many others.
Schneider’s project in Stommeln pursues the history of the place, yet avoids memorialisation. His gesture there can be described as sealing the synagogue building and concealing it under the complete, new covering of a spotless, untouched suburban family house. As curator Ulrich Loock writes in the press text, Schneider’s Stommeln project ‘not only consists in making the synagogue disappear, but at the same time in blending in with its surroundings to such an extent that it is not conspicuous or recognizable as an artwork. Along with the synagogue, the artwork itself is thus also being made to vanish.’ Schneider evokes the Jewish past of the place by erasing it once more. After its erasure during the Second World War, and after its erasure was made untraceable after the war, Schneider erases the erasure of the erasure.
Gregor Schneider Weisse Folter, from April 2015 Feature

Weisse Folter (installation view, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 2007), 2005–2007, 1225 × 200 × 230 cm. Courtesy the artist / VG-Bild Kunst, Bonn
Schneider’s family house in Stommeln is like a 1:1 model of a house: new, untouched and lifeless. Unlike Haus u r and Totes Haus u r, which denoted human presence through traces of disappearance, Hauptstraße 85a articulated human absence by the lack of any signs of former life. In this sense it recalled Schneider’s Weisse Folter (White Torture) (2007), the dehumanised total installation he produced during the eccentric worldwide odyssey of Totes Haus u r. As with other works by Schneider, Weisse Folter is a duplicate without origin, whose origin is inaccessible. It was based on images of Detention Camp 5 in Guantánamo Bay naval base, and was organised as a mazelike sequence of shiny grey soundproofed hallways, lined with deep-red doors and small spotless white cells with a built-in bed, a one-piece stainless steel cast of sink/toilet and an opaque vertical window slit; after escaping these sequences of hallways and cells, one was caught in an unregulated movement of sharp transitions between different climaxes and sensorial stimulations – a constellation of a metal room filled with hot air, a dark room filled with cold air and a triangular white room, which suggested (as the title declared) practices of stealth interrogation and clean torture designed to break the subject’s protective shields while leaving no visible marks. Experienced as a breached facility in which the visitor is an unauthorised intruder and a violable bodily sovereignty, Weisse Folter was a blind authoritarian architecture of a public institution, where isolated personae were suspended from their place in society and from everyday concepts of time and place.
Political theorist Suzy K. Freake considers Weisse Folter an embodiment of the concept of ‘statelessness’, which Hannah Arendt first outlined in her 1951 book, The Origins of Totalitarianism. The term ‘stateless’ describes the various groups of uprooted persons who had lost the protection and representation of their nation-state within interstitial spaces of legality. Weisse Folter, Freake claims, takes statelessness from the field of subjugation and weakness to the field of resistance. By recreating Guantánamo Bay halls, rendering them available to public experience, and consequentially ‘foregrounding the stateless persons residing there’, it seemingly undermines the power of the nation-state seeking to reproduce the obscurity of the camp; and by emulating the state’s practices of ‘clean’ torture, it deconstructs the law’s monopoly on violence.
If Weisse Folter turned its visitors into dehumanised detainees who experienced its spaces while keeping their surfaces pristine, who suffered simulated clean torture with no traces, and were denied representation due to isolation, then Kunstmuseum, the installation Schneider launched in August 2014 in Kunstmuseum Bochum, performed progress from anonymity, detainment and permeability towards integrity and personhood. Kunstmuseum was a dark walkthrough metal pipe tunnel, accessible via only one entrance from outside the museum building and, like all of Schneider’s major installations, by only one visitor at a time. As one walked through the dark tunnel, one’s ability to act freely was neutralised, one’s sense of sovereign bodily separateness was lost. It enforced a regression to precoordination, until it discharged the visitor into an illuminated industrial space with two metal doors. While gradually regaining their self-identity, the discharged visitor was able to open the unlocked door, behind which a corridor led to an abandoned room, titled Archiv (Archive), consisting of ring binders on shelves, a desk with a computer, a locker, a ventilator and a kitchenette. Inside Archiv, the visitor, who was up until now an animal, infant or slave, slowly conceived the function of the archive, of stored knowledge and descriptive language, as if for the first time. Next was a white hallway with two white doors, behind one of which was another abandoned setting of a room, titled Büro (office), where the visitor, still under the oppressive impact of the tunnel, confronted the role of the missing manager as a preliminary manifestation of division of labour, relations of production and social alienation. Then was another white hallway, this time with three doors, behind one of which awaited catharsis as the visitor left the installation and returned to the world – the oppressive setting of history.
This article was first published in the April 2015 issue. - Ory Dessau

For Project 16, Gregor Schneider transformed Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach in 2007 with a giant cage titled 21 Beach Cells. The 4 x 4 metre cells contained amenities for visitors – an air mattress, beach umbrella and black plastic garbage bag – and were soon inhabited by beachgoers looking for a site to rest and find shelter from the sun. The shadow image of Guantánamo Bay’s Camp X-Ray – and Australia’s own immigration detention centres – became a site for relaxation. 21 Beach Cells captured the atmosphere of the time, an environment of global terrorism, detention of illegal immigrants and the recent Cronulla race riots, questioning Australia’s egalitarian self-image.
Since 1985, Schneider’s work has focused on the creation of uncanny architectural environments, cavernous depths and labyrinths that evoke a dark individual or collective psyche. Between 1985 and 1997, from his mid-teens, he compulsively refigured a former residential block next-door to his father’s lead factory in Rheydt for the work he has renamed Totes Haus Ur (Dead house ur). Schneider rented and moved into the building, reshaping it piece by piece with constant additions until it became a complex organic structure, no longer conceivable as a whole.
Drawing from a place between the seen, contained and constructed experiences of the world and the unseen and unfathomable, Schneider’s works activate physical and psychological impulses. Clear identification and orientation are denied and visitors are left unsure of where they are and what they are seeing. The architecture of Guantánamo Bay has inspired a number of Schneider’s works. Weisse Folter (White torture), 2007, was named after a form of psychological torture and interrogation that leaves no bodily trace and was modelled from images of Guantánamo’s Camp V maximum-security facility.
The indeterminate purpose and function of the 21 Beach Cells positioned them between comfort and isolation, safety and imprisonment. The work’s labyrinthine structure became apparent once people were inside. The transparent walls gave a false impression of expanded vision and orientation. Some doors were locked and required visitors to retrace their steps to the exit; others led into open cells, creating confusing paths and passageways. Schneider stated that the influence for the work was the Cronulla race riots, which occurred on 11 December 2005 when a crowd of around 5000 young Anglo-Australians descended on the Sydney suburb to ‘reclaim the beach’, leading to violent attacks on people of Middle Eastern appearance. A backlash from the Lebanese community resulted in a pervasive environment of fear and segregation, including a police ‘lock-down’ of the local area.

Gregor Schneider was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2001 for his infamous work ‘Totes Haus u r,’ exhibited at the German Pavilion, Schneider has earned a reputation as an outstanding artist and as the creator of an utterly baffling oeuvre.
In 2007 Schneider built the confronting Kaldor Public Art Project, 21 beach cells, which created a dominating presence on Bondi Beach, Sydney. Gregor Schneider also installed ‘Basement Keller Haus u r’ 1985 – 2012 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The eleven-by-four-metre room shipped from Rheydt, was carefully inserted into the architectural fabric of the Gallery. A suite of photographs documenting ‘Totes Haus u r’ accompanies his work at the museum.
The provocative artist is well known for the sensory aspects of his work. Since 1985 he has been rebuilding the interior spaces of his home in Mönchengladbach-Rheydt, Germany. As walls are removed or ceilings lowered, Schneider’s spatial incursions create a sense of claustrophobia. Such feelings of unease are heightened when the artist includes in the work lifeless, sculptural bodies covered in plastic or real people repeatedly performing everyday tasks. His work consistently features hollow rooms, haunting spaces and dark mausoleums. The original work ‘Haus u r’ 1985 –now, is the foundation for the building work that he produces for exhibition purposes.
Schneider’s fascination with darkened, asphyxiation rooms has become an art genre in itself. His work alludes gruesomely to sex, death and suffering. “One builds what one no longer knows”, he states, and his work exemplifies the tricks that the human mind can play when stretched far beyond the normal. Schneider wants his work to help us to reflect upon and overcome our worst nightmares. That these fetid rooms have become highly sought after by collectors and museums certainly reveals how compelling we find the most disquieting aspects of the human condition. In 2008 Schneider became embroiled in controversy after saying he wanted to create a space in a museum in which people could die. His argument was that society’s horror of death was so acute that we prefer to ignore it, leaving people to die in the clinical impersonality of a hospital rather than somewhere beautiful. His impassioned response reflected on the endemic cruelty in our society that leads us to blatantly disregard our final act. -

Gregor Schneider at Summerhall

Who? Gregor Schneider is known for his controversial and disturbing art installations. His signature constructed rooms have previously included De Familie Schneider in Whitechapel, which chillingly depicted family dysfunction, and his ongoing Unterheydener Straße, a house of horrors that he has been building since 1985. His work consistently features hollow rooms, haunting spaces and dark mausoleums that recall history’s worst crimes. His latest room, built for the Edinburgh festival, is titled Süßer Duft (sweet scent) and explores racism and slavery through a sinister and sensory experience that has a haunting aftertaste.
What? The exhibition heads the bill for the Summerhall at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Set up in the basement of the old veterinary college, the installation allows just one person to view it at a time. The observer enters through the first door and is confronted by two more. The first opens upon a white space, the second reveals a darkened chamber. A naked black man hovers in the doorframe, another hangs by a back wall. The room is cluttered with nude, trembling bodies, catching the visitor somewhere between a charnel and a prison cell.
Why? Schneider’s fascination with darkened, asphyxiating rooms has become an art genre in itself. His work alludes gruesomely to sex, death and suffering. “One builds what one no longer knows,” he states, and indeed his work exemplifies the tricks that the human mind can play when stretched far beyond the normal.
- Mhairi Graham
Gregor Schneider’s major new installation ‘Weisse Folter’ (White Torture, 2007), which takes its title from a term for psychological torture techniques that leave no bodily traces, is a rather nasty piece of work. Unlike his erratic ‘Totes Haus u r’ (Dead House u r, 1985–97), ‘Weisse Folter’, installed in the cellar space of K21, is uncannily smooth and clean. But appearances can be deceptive.
This disorientating art experience unfolds in a series of sinister and hermetic corridors, cells and rooms. Every five minutes, an unsuspecting museum-goer is permitted to enter an unmarked door, which leads to a first room that stinks of fresh paint and plastic flooring. From there, a sliding door emits a kind of scraping moan as it opens to reveal the first in a series of corridors. Here, already, the transition from the real to the simulated hyper-real is potent. Doors lead off from the corridors, but some of the doors are sealed, while others open to cells. One cell contains a green steel cage, another a two-way mirror with a steel bar passing through it that dissects your reflection. One door leads to a white corridor, and yet another door into a pitch-black space. As the aimless wandering and decision-making continues, stress levels rise.
Finding your way out involves navigating a further series of rooms, in which you are frozen, put in a hot metal container and detained in a kind of holding room. The transitions are unclear and uncomfortable; doors lock behind you at every stage. Ultimately, you pass through a plain door that spits you out of the building next to a pretty lake in the grounds of the museum onto a path with no obvious relation to the entrance. Annoyed by being so manipulated, but curious, I went back for a second visit and a third. I hid in the shadows and watched others work their way through. Visitors gathered illicitly – even though the idea is that everyone sees the work alone – and a middle-class patriarch boldly assured his family herd that he ‘knew the way’. A father took hold of his son’s hand as they stumbled along together in the dark. A sharply dressed young man looked palpably relieved as he gathered his wits outside by the lake.
The cells were inspired by downloaded images of Camp 5 Guantanamo Bay, although various parts of the work recall policing institutions generally. Was Schneider’s intention to dent the barrier that prevents people (himself included, presumably) who haven’t experienced such deplorable places and practices from empathizing with those who have? Schneider’s expert staging elevated the work beyond being a ghostly theme-park attraction. The world we live in isn’t so very different to ‘Weisse Folter’, it’s just that here the signs and consumption-driven comfort zones have been removed. And the topical political reference material notwithstanding, Schneider’s formal concerns are certainly apparent in his obsessive attention to detail: the soundtrack of doors opening and closing, of sealed rooms and the hum of air conditioning, the interlocking of standardized surfaces, the lighting and building materials, much of which he apparently assembles himself. The work is a kind of anti-monument, a synthetic non-space.
Contemporaneous to the K21 installation, Schneider also finally realized his large-scale public work, ‘Cube’ (2007), as part of the satisfying, if somewhat textbook, group exhibition ‘Das schwarze Quadrat. Hommage an Malewitsch’ (The Black Square. Homage to Malevich) at the Kunsthalle Hamburg. Originally intended for Saint Mark’s Square in Venice, but rejected by the Venetian authorities partly out of fear of it being misused as a backdrop for anti-Muslim propaganda, the work consists of an enormous black cube – made of scaffolding and plywood covered by a shroud of black cloth – inspired by the Kaaba in Mecca. For a while the Hamburger Bahnhof museum in Berlin also considered hosting the piece, but again it was vetoed by the head director of Berlin’s Prussian Heritage museums. But visitors to the work today would perceive nothing of its rather turbulent history. Like Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin (1971–95) in 1995, this temporary monument is popular with a mixed bunch of locals who gather in its mute shadow. The local Muslim community have taken no offence. In fact, as imposing as it is, it could easily be mistaken for an expo-pavilion or a vast advertising gimmick. Seen as a pair of polar opposites, a holy shrine and a prison, Cube and Weisse Folter aren’t really just black and white: the first one taking it’s lead from Malevich’s modest painting from almost a century ago, represents perhaps the vastness of the imaginary’s potential – the other the means of crushing it. - Dominic Eichler

Verstimmung, Galerie Kontrast, Mönchengladbach, Germany (Solo)

1985 - today
Haus u r, Rheydt, Germany
[view video, 30:00min] [view video, 15:33min] [view video, 20:40min]
[view video, 08:51min] [view video, 08:44min] [view video, 10:00min]
[view video, 10:00min]

06.09.1992 -
1985-1992 September 92-  , Galerie Löhrl, Mönchengladbach, Germany (Solo) (Cat)
[view video, 9:10min]
16.09.1993 - 16.09.1994
16.9.1993-, Konrad Fischer Galerie, Düsseldorf, Germany (Solo) [view video, 2:30min]
04.09.1994 - 23.10.1994
Drei Arbeiten, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany, Curator: Julian Heynen (Solo) (Cat)
[view video, 4:30min]
31.01.1996 - 06.03.1996

Gregor Schneider, Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, Switzerland, Curator: Ulrich Loock (Solo) (Cat)
[view video, 8:20min]

Totes Haus u r 1985-97, Rheydt, Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Curators: Brigitte Kölle, Kasper König (Solo) (Cat)  [view video, 7:42min]
20.12.1997 - 15.02.1998
tote Jungfrauen, Galeria Foksal, Warszawa, Poland, Curator: Adam Szymczyk (Solo) (Cat)
[view video, 10:00min]
27.05.1998 - 13.09.1998
La maison morte u r 1985-1998, Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France, Curators: H. U. Obrist, Laurence Bosse (Solo) (Cat) [view video, 5:00min] [view video, 9:53min]

28.09.1998 - 26.10.1998
Performing Buildings, Tate Gallery, London, Great Britain, Curators: Iwona Blazwick, Frances Morris (Cat)  [view video, 30:00min]
22.10.1999 - 11.11.1999
Videodrome, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, USA, Curator: Slavko Kacunko
[view video, 30:00min]

19.12.1999 - 23.01.2000
schlafen, Kabinett für Aktuelle Kunst, Bremerhaven, Germany, Curator: Jürgen Wesseler (Solo)   [view video, 7:16min]

06.03.2000 - 08.03.2000
Hannelore Reuen Alte Hausschlampe, Galeria Foksal, Warszawa, Poland, Curators: Joanna Mytkowska, Andrzej Przywara, Adam Szymczyk (Solo)  [view video, 1:15min] [view video, 5:00min]
30.03.2000 - 21.05.2000
Keller, Wiener Secession, Wien, Austria, Curators: Kathrin Romberg, Matthias Herrmann (Solo) (Cat)   [view video, 6:03min]

18.06.2000 - 01.05.2001
Alte Hausschlampe, Gartenlaube, Museum Haus Esters, Krefeld, Germany, Curator: Julian Heynen (Solo)  [view video, 4:49min] [view video, 3:49min]

10.06.2001 - 04.11.2001
Totes Haus u r, German Pavilion, 49th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia, Venezia, Italy, Curator: Udo Kittelmann (Solo) (Cat)
[view video, 31:40min] [view video, 33:30min]
[view video, 1:12:38min]

15.09.2002 - 02.02.2003
Paper Art 8. International Biennale the paper art, Leopold Hoesch Museum, Düren, Germany (Cat)  [view video, 10:05min]
17.10.2002 - 16.03.2003
Fotografie und Skulptur, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen, Germany, Curator: Barbara Engelbach (Solo) (Cat)  [view video, 10:00min]

Gregor Schneider. Hannelore Reuen, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany, Curator: Frank Barth (Solo) (Cat)  [view video, 1:29min]

           517West 24th, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, USA (Solo)
[view video, 2:00min] [view video, 6:56min]

28.09.2004 - 23.12.2004
Die Familie Schneider, Artangel London, London, Great Britain, Curator: James Lingwood (Solo) (Cat) [view video, 12:34min]

51st International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia, Venezia, Italy, Curator: Rosa Martinez  [view video, 04:54min]
24.06.2006 - 31.10.2006
Testigos / Witnesses,(Cube Cadiz), Fundacion NMAC, Cadiz, Spain, Curator: Jimena Blázquez Abascal [view video, 3:38min]

02.11.2006 - 15.12.2006
02.11.06, Kunst-Station Sankt Peter Köln, Köln, Germany, Curator: Friedhelm Mennekes (Solo)   [view video, 5:05min]
26.11.2006 - 10.01.2007
26.11.2006, Fondazione Morra Greco, Napoli, Italy, Curators: Maurizio Morra Greco, Alessia Evangelista (Solo)   [view video, 4:12min] [view video, 10:02min]
17.03.2007 - 15.07.2007
WEISSE FOLTER, K20K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany, Curators: Julian Heynen, Brigitte Kölle (Solo) (Cat) [view video, 19:49min]
23.03.2007 - 10.06.2007
Das schwarze Quadrat Hommage an Malewitsch, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany, Curator: Hubertus Gassner (Cat)  [view video, 11:08min]
28.09.2007 - 21.10.2007
Bondi Beach, 21 beach cells, Kaldor Art Projects, Bondi Beach, Australia, Curator: John Kaldor (Solo)  [view video, 11:11min]
22.02.2008 - 18.05.2008
süßer duft, La Maison Rouge, Paris, France, Curator: Paula Aisemberg (Solo)
[view video, 10:31min]

08.11.2008 - 06.09.2009
END, Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, Germany, Curator: Susanne Titz (Solo) (Cat)  [view video, 14:16min] [view video, 8:13min]
28.11.2008 - 22.01.2009
Doublings, Konrad Fischer Galerie Berlin, Berlin, Germany (Solo)
[view video, 5:13min]
28.11.2008 - 17.01.2009
Doublings, Konrad Fischer Galerie, Düsseldorf, Germany (Solo) [view video, 5:13min]
01.10.2011 - 08.10.2011
It's all Rheydt, Kolkata, India (Solo)  [view video, 11:36min]

28.10.2011 - 26.02.2012
Punto Muerto, Centro de Arte 2 de Mayo, Madrid, Spain, Curator: Veit Loers (Solo) (Cat)
[view video, 13:57min]
02.08.2013 - 31.08.2013
süßer duft, Summerhall, Edinburgh, Great Britain, Curator: Paul Robertson (Cat)
[view video, 4:54min]

German Angst, Yokohama Triennale 2014, Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, Japan, Curators: Morimura Yasumasa, Sumi Hayashi (Cat)  [view video, 1:16min]

unsubscribe, Zacheta, Warszawa, Poland, Curator: Anda Rottenberg (Solo) (Cat)
[view video, 7:35min] [view video, 10:00min]
[view video, 8:08min] [view video, 13:13min]

20.02.2015 - 31.05.2015
(im)possible! Artists as Architects, Marta Herford, Herford, Germany, Curator: Dr. Anne WHTE TORTURE 2005 - today, XII Bienal de La Habana, La Habana, Cuba, Curator: Jorge Fernández Torres (Cat)   [view video, 19:36min]

petak, 14. kolovoza 2015.

Jeff Keen - Like The Time Is Now (1961) etc.

Uradi-sam, lo-fi, kolažna umjetnost - u filmu, slikarstvu, skulpturi, poeziji - još od ranih '60-ih. Nijeme, monokromne krimi-drame, ludi znanstvenik Dr. Gaz i Vulvana u crnoj rupi pop-kulture...

Jeff Keen's Artwar

The fiercely original film-maker, poet and artist Jeff Keen, who has died aged 88, defied categorisation. He produced a vast body of paintings, drawings, sculpture and punchy Beat poetry, but is best known for his films, which incorporated collage, animation, found footage and live action – often all in one work. Keen used highly innovative techniques of superimposition and editing, and frequently etched and degraded the film surface. Works such as Marvo Movie (1967), Rayday Film (1968-75) and Mad Love (1972-78) were shot with his friends and family either at home, on the streets of Brighton or at the local tip; their fantastical, DIY countercultural qualities evoked the spirit of Andy Warhol's Factory and the early cinema pioneers of Brighton, where Keen lived. Despite making his first film in his late 30s, he completed more than 70 films and videos throughout his life.
Keen was born in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, and had a love of wildlife, art and books as a child. He attended grammar school and gained an Oxford scholarship, but this was thwarted by his national service in 1942. Keen was given experimental tanks and aeroplane engines to trial during the war, and would frequently refer back to this period in films such as Meatdaze (1968), which included bombers and sirens on its soundtrack, and Artwar (1993).
After the war, Keen developed a love of movies and comics and attended a small art college in Chelsea. London life encouraged his love of the arts, especially surrealism, Picasso and Dubuffet. When he moved to Brighton, Keen took up work as a landscape gardener for the local council. In 1956, he married Jackie Foulds, who was the muse for his films in the 1960s and 70s, playing the characters Vulvana, The Catwoman and Nadine. Keen himself had a B-movie-style "mad scientist" alter ego named Dr Gaz.
One of his early films, The Autumn Feast (1961), was made with the poet Piero Heliczer, who was part of the Warhol set. From the early 1960s, Keen experimented with "expanded cinema" (film events that exceed the normal modes of cinema projection), combining multiple projections and live art performance. A regular contributor to the "happenings" scene of 1960s London, at the Better Books shop in Charing Cross Road and elsewhere, he also participated in the International Underground Film festival at the National Film Theatre in 1970 and continued to make expansive, surrealist-informed 16mm epics such as White Dust (1970-72) and The Cartoon Theatre of Dr Gaz (1976-79), as well as 8mm diary films. He painted throughout the 60s and 70s and made artist books inspired by his films.
Jeff Keen's Marvo Movie
Keen's films, such as Marvo Movie, were made with his friends and family, and evoked the spirit of Andy Warhol's Factory. Public Domain
After Keen temporarily separated from Jackie in the early 1980s, his films became more abstract and introspective. He worked in front of the camera more, sometimes donning absurdist paper disguises, almost as if life had not only merged with art but fully collapsed into it. In Blatzom (1986), he became a moving sculpture/drawing hybrid. His friends and family were still involved: his daughter, Stella, operated a second camera and the editor Damian Toal came on board to help with violent, industrial-style videos such as Plasticator (1990s). Artwar was commissioned and broadcast by Channel 4.
Keen's interest in myth, surrealism and romantic painting complemented his love of movies and comics, and he continually absorbed new references into his work. His highly frenetic videos of the 1990s included homages to Apocalypse Now, Rambo and Predator as well as Budd Boetticher westerns. Although his work has always been featured in historical surveys of British experimental and avant-garde cinema, these qualities distinguished his films from more purely formalist works made at the London Filmmakers' Co-Operative, an organisation he helped to found in 1966. It meant his work was often more appreciated by skaters and punks than followers of the canonical avant garde. The extreme, short edits in his playful, visceral films have helped to keep his work fresh and alive; they still zap with energy decades later.
When able, Keen made drawings virtually every day for the last 20 years of his life. His art, which ranges from beautifully worked paintings to surrealist assemblages, collages and free-form drawings, has been rarely shown, but recent exhibitions in Paris and New York initiated by Stella have resulted in new critical acclaim. A Keen installation and related events will be presented at Tate Modern's new Tanks exhibition space in September 2012.
I worked with Keen throughout 2008 on a series of restorations, a film season and a BFI DVD boxset, GAZWRX: The Films of Jeff Keen. The process was undertaken at great speed, much like the pace of his films. We discussed everything from B-movies to Wagner to William Blake. I followed his instructions diligently along the way, but discovered that in speeding up some electronic drawings made on a children's toy, and turning them into a two-channel video, we had made a new piece of work, Omozap Terribelis + Afterblatz 2. He grew excited and wanted to make more new things, despite his declining health. It was typical of what had been his persistent desire, even need, to make art. As he said in the early 1960s: "If words fail, use your teeth. If teeth fail, draw in the sand." Whatever it takes, art must happen. -

Jeff Keen was a hugely prolific experimental artist who moved easily between painting, poetry, sculpture and cinema, often with collage as his basic approach. His lo-fi, DIY aesthetic, fascination with popular culture, sexual openness, the way he roped in friends and relatives, and his playful approach to personae echoed Warhol's Factory and the trash cinema of the Kuchars and Jack Smith.

Keen seemed set for Oxford University but he was called up in 1942 and the war became an important influence on his art. After demob came a small art college in Chelsea and thence to Brighton, where he worked as a municipal gardener while creating art in various media. Coincidentally he lived near where the British cinema pioneer, GA Smith, had had his studio in the 1890s.
His wife Jackie worked at a local art college and when it started a film society, Keen, almost without realising, became one of the first British avant-garde film-makers. The critic Raymond Durgnat wrote admiringly that "Keen makes movies on shoestrings and then blows them up to 8mm."
Wail (1960), Like the Time Is Now (1961) and Breakout (1962) are silent monochrome crime dramas and teen rebellion pics made avant garde with jump cuts, almost single-frame editing, cut-up inserts and animated found materials. Nevertheless, Keen denied any allegiance to pop art.
He preferred 8mm; 16mm was a move towards "acceptance" and "conformity", and he mounted shows in shops and other non-traditional venues. Similarly, he remained in Brighton to keep some distance from London's "mainstream" avant-garde, though he was happy to drop in. In 1962 he started his own magazine, Amazing Rayday.
In 1964 he moved into expanded cinema with the two-screen The Pink Auto, which played with and subverted the idea of epic cinema. But as experimental film became more established he did take funding from the BFI for films including Marvo Movie (1967). The First International Underground Film Festival (1970) included Rayday Film (1968-70), an elaborate semi-improvised presentation that used permutations of 8mm and 16mm projectors, 35mm slides, anything up to four actors plus different asynchronous soundtracks and live music.
The structuralist film-makers of the 1970s studied film's formal qualities and deconstructed the film-making process. Keen was interested up to a point but could never exclude visceral and emotional elements or his fascination with low art and myth, as in his persona of mad scientist Dr Gaz, and Jackie's roles as Vulvana or The Catwoman. Still, his work was shown at the London Film-Makers' Co-Op, which he had helped found in 1966, and in the Hayward Gallery's "Perspectives on Avant-Garde Film" (1978).
His longer films include White Dust (1970-72) and Mad Love (1972-78). This homage to Breton and the surrealists was inspired by finding a pile of 78s, although Keen thought the surrealists "were tone-deaf, mostly". He thought the future of art was surrealism and randomness; like the surrealists Keen became increasingly interested in eroticism, but this was out of joint with rising feminism and it did not help the reception of some of his films.
In the 1980s Keen and Jackie temporarily separated: there were fewer appearances from home movies and friends and family. Models and props became the basic elements, collage and superimposition the usual textures and absurdism a frequent aesthetic. The imagery and editing became more violent, and after The Dreams and Crimes of the Archduke (1979-84) his titles retreated into pop-art violent abstraction, as in Blatzom (1983-86), Kino Pulveriso (1993) and B-B-B Bom and Lifestorm, which he worked on through the 1990s. He hoped Channel 4 would broadcast his different versions of Artwar (1994) unannounced in between programmes, though they chose not to.
Eventually, having made over 70 films, he felt he had exhausted cinema and developed an ambivalent attitude: it had "taken over", his films "seem to compress it all and say it all, but they don't". Perhaps unhappy with cinema's temporal control of the viewer he saw them as "continuous dream time and then they stop." But he continued to, draw, paint, print, sculpt, assemble collages, write poetry and make books. However, they were rarely exhibited until recent shows in Paris and New York
In 2008 the BFI released a four-disc set of his films that reveals the full range of his work. In late 2012 there will be an installation of his work in the newly opened tanks of Tate Modern and a retrospective of his paintings at Brighton Museum. - John Riley

Jeff Keen (1923 – 2012)
Jeff Keen was primarily known as a legendary underground filmmaker whose work and activities coincided with the emergence of expanded cinema. He was one of the original participants in the 1960s at the London Filmmakers Co‐op. The BFI and later the British Arts Council supported and enabled Keen to make films and to devise a multitude of drawings and paintings. During this period, Keen maintained jobs as a landscaper in the Parks and Recreation department of his hometown, Brighton, and sometimes as a postal worker delivering mail. The artist made movies primarily on weekends with his family and friends in an ensemble cast and his painting and drawing studio was for 40 years a repository of props and art that accumulated to extraordinary effect.
Keen was able to merge Surrealist and Dadaist ideology with a social‐political critique of American consumerism with the spontaneity of the Beat and 60s era. These works are dynamic responses to an overwhelming sense of increasingly proliferating media and commodification during the decade. He often explored his experiences surviving World War II in this material, focusing on monuments of power and the ever‐present war within the artist as individual. Keen made use of invented characters or corporations (ie. RaydayFilms) with brands, personas or protagonists in a fractured, narrative style. Performative and reminiscent of Surrealism’s influence on his seminal period in the 1950s, Keen additionally drew from English Romanticism and his love of language to devise a novel method of working in a newly evolving medium.
Keen’s work can be viewed today as prescient to modes of film and video that began to take cultural references into an exploration of our own larger social portraiture. His enthusiastic embrace of alternative modes of discourse in a pre‐Internet age is astoundingly fresh today, and the diversity of his practice calls to mind both painters, film and video artists who succeeded him, from such figures as Derek Jarman, Richard Hamilton and Linder, to American artists such as Jack Smith, Ryan Trecartin and Peter Saul.
Jeff Keen very rarely exhibited his drawings and paintings. His first United States solo exhibition, Jeff Keen:Works from the 1960s + 1970s was held January 18 – February 18 this year at Elizabeth Dee, New York and included drawings, paintings and films. In tandem, the gallery initiated an offsite collaboration with Broadway 1602, New York. Upcoming 2012 exhibitions and screenings include: Brighton and Hove Museum (retrospective), the National Portrait Gallery, London (solo) and Tate Modern, London (group).  -

Jeff Keen began making films in 1960 at the age of 37 and very quickly settled on certain references and techniques. Shot on 8mm, the beatnik-style shorts Wail (1960) and Like The Time Is Now (1961) are at once both home movies of friends at play and astonishing revelations of what can be done with imagination, limited means and a tiny film frame. On seeing these films, critic and Keen fan Raymond Durgnat later wrote: "He cuts, not with scissors but a scalpel - a jet propelled one!" In Wail, images of brutal gang violence collide with war paintings and a horror-movie werewolf. His films use animation, B-movie references, noise soundtracks and costumed character play to articulate sublime, intuitive experience and to subvert and explore the dynamic links between different areas of culture - William Fowler, Sight & Sound (Mar 09).

These are Jeff Keen's standard 8mm films (disc three in the BFI set). The DVD groups them as follows...

Early 8mm Films:
Wail - 1960, 4m32s, black & white, silent, 4:3.
Like The Time Is Now - 1961, 5m31s, black & white, silent, 4:3.
Breakout - 1962, 11m19s, black & white, silent, 4:3.
Instant Cinema - 1m26s, colour, sound, 4:3.
Flik Flak - 1964-5, 3m23s, colour, sound, 4:3.
The Pink Auto - 1964-5, 20m56s, colour, sound, 16:9.
Missing Close-Ups - 1964-5, 4m24s, colour, silent, 4:3.
Day of the Arcane Light - 1969, 13m37s, colour, sound, 4:3.

Family Star:
Mutt & Jeff Icecream Sundae and Mothman - 1968-9, 31m29s, colour, sound, 16:9.

Self Portrait:
Spontaneous Combustion - 33m34s, colour, silent, 16:9.

Interview with Jeff Keen (24m35s)
Art Flies Free (2m59s)

Jeff Keen has been collecting props from dumpsters and toy shops, spray painting them, setting fire to them and animating the results for forty years. His underground films pre-date Warhol, his fans include some of the most notorious and legendary figures in the world of cinema - Jack Sargeant, sleazenation 2004.