WAY OF THE CROSS, Logroño
2020 (Based on an idea for Berlin in 2006)
Plaza del Mercado
In Kreuzweg (The Way of the Cross) Gregor Schneider erected a darkened black passageway in the shape of a cross. The cross-shaped structure has four openings, one in each of its ends, through which the viewer can enter and exit. The structure’s shape of a cross is fully obtainable only from an aerial, God-like point of view. Upon entering the passageway, the viewer loses the formal contour of the structure. In addition, the complete darkness and blackness of the interior blurs the contour of the viewer’s body. It melts it into the indefinite blackness it is covered by, as well as cancelling the distinction between one’s own outer/physical and inner/psychological space; between a publicly shared and a private personal space.
Obviously enough, Kreuzweg bears a direct reference to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Rather than merely formal or iconographic, the reference to the Crucifixion is experiential, staging the work as a rite of passage, a liminal phase in which human subjects walking through it are being severed from their identities and from everyday concepts of time and place to be born again and reemerge in a world of a higher order. The work organizes an event juxtaposing the deprivation of life with resurrection.
Kreuzweg is the current culmination of the redemptive theological thread that runs throughout Schneider’s oeuvre. It can be considered the explicit conclusion of many earlier works. One example of which is CUBE (2005-07). Schneider’s CUBE is a gigantic cubic outdoor structure covered in black cloth, seemingly replicating Islam’s holy edifice of the Kaaba. Kreuzweg follows CUBE in many ways. Formally, when flattened, a cube turns into a cross. In this sense, Kreuzweg is the spatialization of CUBE after it was flattened. The formal affinity between the two works allows Schneider to generate one religious notion of salvation from another, ostensibly rival, religious notion of salvation, and to harness both of them to the experience of his work. It allows him to connect CUBE’s circumambulation of black void with the immersive walked-through black void of Kreuzweg and to ascribe their symbolic value to the role played by voids in his other works.
In 2008 CUBE became END: a sixty meter long dark corridor which Schneider constructed outside Abteiberg Museum in Mönchengladbach. In order to enter the dark corridor, the viewer had to climb a small ladder and pass through a black square opening. At the end of the corridor, in which one loses one’s own orientation and bodily integrity, a shaft led the viewer to an underground dark space. The sole way out of the dark underground was the elevator which carried the viewer to the museum’s illuminated collection galleries on the second floor as if launching him or her from the domain of black death to the white territory of the afterlife.
Schneider’s interest in the afterlife is also apparent in Cryo-Tank Phoenix 1 & 2 (2006). A sealed cylindrical tank made of electro-polished stainless steel Cryo-Tank Phoenix was first presented on 02.11.06–the Christian Day of the Dead–at St Peter‘s Church, Cologne. Its initial religious backdrop created a fundamental connection between the cryonic vision of preserving dead bodies in low temperature until wishful revivification, the story of Christ’s resurrection, and the anticipated event of his Second Coming. It marked the appearance of Cryo-Tank Phoenix in affinity to the apocalyptic-eschatological circumstances of the afterlife, turning every site in which it emerges into an intermediary zone situated between life and death, between this world and the world to come.
The circumstances of the afterlife stretch back to Haus u r (House u r), Schneider’s foundational work. Haus u r is the name Schneider gave to the abandoned residential building in his hometown Mönchengladbach-Rheydt, which he occupied from 1985 until 2001, all the while ceaselessly reconstructing its inner structure as an idiosyncratic typology of visceral rooms built inside the house’s preexisting rooms (with windows in front of windows, walls in front of walls, etc.). At the 2001 Venice Biennale, after nearly two decades of implosive activity, Schneider dismantled the rooms of Haus u r and remounted them in the German Pavilion in the Giardini, under the title Totes Haus u r (Dead House u r). The title Totes Haus u r conveyed the implications of externalizing and displaying House u r as that of killing and revivifying, of lethality and redemption. Around that time, 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, articulating death as a continuous scenario, and life as afterlife.
Gregor Schneider and the Architecture of the Afterlife
Text by Ory Dessau