Gregor Schneider: Die Familie Schneider
October - December 2004
14 & 16 Walden Street
Whitechapel, London E1
In his first major project in the UK, German artist Gregor Schneider constructed a remarkable new work, bringing his long-standing interest in repression, reproduction and repetition to a very ordinary street in London’s East End.
Die Familie Schneider took place in neighbouring, identical houses – 14 and 16 Walden Street. The houses were open by appointment only and visitors – always two at a time – collected the front door keys from a small office on the same street. One visitor entered 14 Walden Street alone, whilst the other entered the neighbouring house. After a period of ten minutes, the visitors emerged, exchanged keys and entered the second house. At no time was there ever more than one visitor in each house.
It is not easy to describe the heightening of sensation and the existential anxiety which many visitors felt as they turned a key in one of the nondescript doors and crossed the threshold from the street to the inside, making their way through the small kitchen and living room, up to the claustrophobic bathroom and bedroom with no windows on the first floor, and down to the dark spaces of the basement. Each house would evoke conflicting feelings of attraction and repulsion, of wanting to go further in, and wanting to immediately get out. In each was an identical woman, perpetually washing the same dishes; in each was a child, or a child-like person – wrapped placidly within a plastic bag; and in each was a man in a shower, engaged in a stark and lonely act of masturbation. An apprehensive setting encased it all, elusively disturbing, almost mimicking a familiar scene of lower middle class domesticity – but at the same time not quite right, not right at all…
Amongst the visitors who made their way through the intensely claustrophobic rooms were the writers Andrew O'Hagan and Colm Tóibín. In the publication Gregor Schneider: Die Familie Schneider, their writings, presented alongside an extended series of Schneider’s photographs, attest to the disturbing experience of these dark double houses.
Die Familie Schneider is included in The Artangel Collection.
This project was supported by Arts Council England, Special Angels and The Company of Angels