Fundamentalist Cubes: Inside Spaces by Bruce Nauman, Absalon, and Gregor Schneider, M-ARCO, Marseille, France
30.08.2018 - 19.03.2019
Gregor Schneider, u r 19 A, Liebeslaube (Love Nest), Rheydt, 1995. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.
Curated by Ory Dessau
The exhibition Fundamentalist Cubes focuses on the figure of the empty space in the work of Bruce Nauman, Absalon, and Gregor Schneider, where bare rooms, corridors, and other architectural settings undergo personification, becoming a body, a psychic structure. Rather than a symmetrical mirror, the personification of architectural settings in the work of the three artists turns empty spaces into an ambivalent reflection of a body, a mechanism of simultaneous assertion and negation, introducing presence in terms of absence, and vice versa.
The title of the exhibition presupposes a shift from fundamental to fundamentalist cubes, in the course of which the universal geometry of elementary, absolute shapes is being replaced by a concoction of reductivist aesthetic and expressive overload. Following Minimalism’s critique of the white cube, the exhibition subverts the modernist model of the space of art as an immaterial, windowless container of autonomous display, situated outside the historical present of the everyday world. The works on view, each in its own way, shake the parameters upon which the ideal space of the white cube was constructed, by ascribing them to existing windowless institutions from which the world is sealed off, such as prisons and clinics.
At the same time, the exhibition also seeks to challenge Minimalism’s conception of the actualized space as a context in which the art object extends into an event—a concrete intervention in a real materialized place perceived in time by a particular viewing body. Rejecting the option of site-specificity, the exhibition’s empty spaces engage with the respective venue architecture only to separate themselves from it, to establish a sort of enclave that is both inside and outside. Neither phenomenological nor incorporative, these spaces are a kind of operation—a serial, prescribed scenario—whose object is the viewer; they require the bodily presence of the viewer not as a complementary factor, but in order to deprive the viewer of the ability to freely move and act within them.
Since the late 1960s Bruce Nauman (*1941) has been thematizing the appearance and disappearance of bodies through space, in an ongoing series of experiments combining sculpture, architecture, performance, video, sound, and language. These experiments signify the interplay between space and body as a metaphor of a unified selfhood or the loss thereof. The space of Nauman’s installations is both a corporeal and spectral entity—the topography of a dispersed, obscure body. Begun in 1991 and due to his premature death remained mostly unrealized, the Cellules (Cells) project by Absalon (1964–93) is a group of six different architectural prototypes of white cells, designed in accordance to the minimal volume his body required for the purpose of permanently accommodating the artist in the outdoors of six different cities and countries. The Cellules were initiated as the emanation of a total-personal space, and the cancellation of the urban-social space they would have been surrounded by.
In the work of Gregor Schneider (*1969) the figure of the empty space was begotten by, from, and within one particular site of origin: Haus u r (House u r), the abandoned residential building in his hometown Mönchengladbach-Rheydt, which he occupied from 1985 until 2001, all the while ceaselessly reconstructing it inwards, installing rooms inside the house’s preexisting rooms. Initially secondary, Haus u r was conceived as a replica of itself, as a copy without original—a duplicate that conceals and assimilates the thing it duplicates.