Project 16
Gregor
Schneider

Project Summary

 

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.

In 2009, 21 Beach Cells was recreated on Accadia Beach in Herzliya, Israel.



Gregor Schneider

21 Beach Cells
28 September – 21 October 2007
Bondi Beach, Sydney



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VideoBack to top

Gregor Schneider: Interview

Gregor SchneiderBack to top

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.

Gregor SchneiderBack to top

This Education Kit discusses the provocative installation works of German artist Gregor Schneider, and the shifting role of the audience from spectator to participant.

LEARNING STAGES: Senior secondary (Stages 5-6) | Tertiary

CONTENTS: Introduction | Artist bio | Project outline | World events 2007 | Theme: installation art | Art Gallery of NSW Collection connections | Selected references | Issues for discussion