Dark Doubling

The Black Square – Hommage to Malevich near the Hamburger Kunsthalle
The Black Square – Hommage to Malevich near the Hamburger Kunsthalle Wikimedia Commons

Gregor Schneider works in peculiar ways. A German sculptor and installation artist, he came on the scene in the mid-1980s for spending almost a decade dismantling, recreating and exhibiting, down to the slightest detail, the rooms in his home. The mere reconstruction is a fairly prosaic exercise, but the attentive focus on recapturing every last cracked ceiling tile, stained carpet or water stain, comes off as a perverse compulsion and taints the viewer’s visit with unease; very likely the artist’s intention.

In a similar response to architecture, Schneider used white or "clean" torture (interrogation tactics that leave no physical mark on victims) and images of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay as inspiration for building interrogation rooms or holding cells, and inserting these environments into a museum context.

The artist is also known for "Cube Venice," his contribution to the 2005 Venice Biennale in the form of a 50-ft.-sq. scaffolding, draped in black and erected in the middle of touristy San Marco square—a play on the Ka’aba in Mecca.

Schneider’s sculptures also evoke psychological anxiety. "Mann mit Schwanz" (Man with Cock) (2004) is a prime example. The top half of a plaster cast of a man’s body is swathed in a black trash bag, obscuring identity or expression. The lower half of the body is dressed in sweat pants and fitted with an erection. Perversion and death are inextricably intertwined, as the viewer is not sure if this is a disturbing murder scene or sexual tableau.

All that being said, it is still startling to hear that most recently Schneider announced his plans for a performance piece that includes a person dying or the body of someone who is recently deceased. He aims “to show the beauty of death" as quoted in The Art Newspaper. Schneider has teamed up with a physician who is apparently willing to help him find volunteers who think art is worth dying for.