this issue contains
>> Cai Guo-Qiang's explosive art
>> Gregor Schneider's hermetic rooms
>> All Together Now: Rirkrit Tiravanija
>> Interview Vadim Zakharov

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Room with No Escape:
Gregor Schneider's Photo Series Haus ur

Among some of the most recent acquisitions to the Deutsche Bank Collection is Gregor Schneider's photo series Haus ur. With its soundproof chambers, doubled rooms, and hybrid spaces, the artist plunges the viewer into claustrophobic confusion, proving himself to be a poet of the ominous. Oliver Koerner von Gustorf introduces Gregor Schneider's hermetic constructions.

Gregor Schneiders Haus ur in Rheydt, 1985-1999, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2006

"You can kill a person with an apartment just as well as with an axe," as Heinrich Zille once said. The artist and photographer from Berlin was certainly referring to the miserable living conditions in the rear courtyards of the Kaiserreich and the Weimar Republic. But his statement could also be understood metaphorically, if you think of the compartmentalized, claustrophobic spaces that Gregor Schneider constructs - such as his Haus ur, which he has been working on since 1985 in Rheydt, a town incorporated into Mönchengladbach, North Rhine-Westphalia.

Puff aus Berlin, Haus ur Rheydt, 1996, Deutsche Bank Collection, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2006

He was sixteen years old in the mid-eighties when he took over his father's one-family house next door to the parents' lead foundry - and the turn-of-the-century building a perfect example of a typically German, nondescript architecture. The abbreviation "ur" derives from the address in Unterheydener Straße, but in German, its initials could just as easily stand for "altered" or "invisible room" - Schneider leaves this open. Since that time, the artist has obsessively built and rebuilt his opus magnum with inaccessible rooms and dead ends; he's sawn it in parts, sold them to collectors, and opened a replica to visitors at the Venice Biennial in 2001. The "House," with all its clones, motifs, and copies, becomes for Schneider a silent chamber, a secluded stage on which the fears and phobias of its inhabitants become manifest.

LIEBESLAUBE HAUS ur, RHEYDT, 1996, Deutsche Bank Collection, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2006

In the volume accompanying the art project Die Familie Schneider, the British journalist and writer Andrew O'Hagan wrote: "Gregor Schneider is a poet of the ominous. His work gives a new meaning to the term 'life threatening.' When people use that phrase they usually mean that something poses danger to life, but Schneider uses it differently, for his work suggests that life itself is a threat, an ominous activity, and that living is a desperate act of repetition where one breath must follow another in a seemingly involuntary drama of survival."

IM KERN HAUS ur, RHEYDT, 1996, Deutsche Bank Collection, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2006

With this work from 2004, Gregor Schneider created one of the most profoundly disturbing installations in contemporary art. The site of his work consisted of two entirely unremarkable adjacent brick houses in London's East End. The inner life behind the drawn curtains at No. 14 and No. 16, however, was identical down to the very last detail: the rooms, the worn furniture, the brown rug, the cracks in the walls, the yellow light, and even the used towels in the bathrooms.

Deutsche Bank Collection, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2006

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