Die Familie Schneider

Gregor Schneider

14 and 16 Walden Street, London
01 October 2004 - 23 December 2004

Video: Die Familie Schneider

1 minutes 55 seconds
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In his first major project in the UK, German artist Gregor Schneider brought his long-standing interest in domestic spaces to a very ordinary street in London’s East End.

Die Familie Schneider comprised two neighbouring houses in a Victorian terrace on Walden Street in Whitechapel. The houses, numbers 14 and 16, were open by appointment.  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 visitor entered the neighbouring house at the same time. 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 crossed the threshold from the street to go 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.    The house was inhabited -  by a woman washing dishes in the kitchen, by a child wrapped in a black plastic bag in the bedroom, and by a naked, middle-aged man masturbating in the shower.  They were completely oblivious to the visitor, as if he or she was not there.

The claustrophobic experience was intensified when the visitor went through the second house.  Everything in the second house was exactly the same as in the first - the same downbeat furniture and decor, the same marks on the carpets and walls, an identical woman washing dishes, and an identical man doing the same unseemly thing in the shower.

This video documenting the Gregor Schneider's installation at 14 and 16 Walden Street is also available to watch on Vimeo and YouTube

Images: The identical bland magnolia and wood-pannelled bare hallways of 14 and 16 Walden Street as they appeared during Die Familie Schneider 2004. Photograph: Gregor Schneider

The Living Rooms

An essay by Andrew O'Hagan
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The Living Rooms

Andrew O'Hagan

There was a tenement flat in the Glasgow of my youth that seemed haunted to me. I’m speaking of a time before I knew how it is people not buildings which become haunted, and walking down West Princes Street three times a week I would stop at a certain corner and look up to find the yellow window at 15 Queens Terrace. I suppose I must have been nervous in those days, uncertain, to an uncertain degree, whether I’d ever cope in the adult world, but the light in the tenement flat made me frightened of ghosts. It made me realise that absence was just another presence.

On 21 December 1908, beyond the yellow window, an elderly spinster called Marion Gilchrist was murdered in her dining room and a brooch was stolen. In what was understood by Conan Doyle and others to be a case of rank anti-Semitism, a down-at-heel Jew called Oscar Slater was arrested and later convicted of the murder on circumstantial evidence. Some claimed to have seen a man ‘like’ Slater running from the house in a hurry at the time of the murder. In fact, people more often described seeing another man, and those who testified against Slater later admitted they were pressured to give the evidence they gave. Slater was also condemned for seeming guilty and for having a pawn ticket for a brooch about his person, though the item represented by Slater’s ticket was lodged at a date before the crime was committed. Slater appeared to have some sort of doppelganger, so did his conscience, so did his belongings. The case was fascinating, but I have to say it was the house that summoned the mysteries for me: we like to think that bricks have memories, that windows are eyes or the retinas of eyes, and the flat in Queens Terrace came to seem to me like a repository of hidden truths about human nature. It was a museum of the uncanny.

Read the complete essay here

Image: A woman washes dishes in the kitchen sink at Walden Street, Die Familie Schneider, 2004. Photograph: Gregor Schneider


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When is the last time you thought twice about letting a door swing shut behind you as you entered a room? Or realised, with a shudder, that you were not alone in a house? – Richard Dorment, The Telegraph, 6 October 2004

Selected Press

And when Schneider has succeeded in frightening the life out of you at number 14, you go next door to number 16. Now the essentially rational fear (of physical danger, of the unknown) you felt in the first house is transformed into a different kind of fear. For in the second house you find yourself in the realms of the uncanny, moving like a ghost revisiting the scene of its own murder, moving silently from room to room, experiencing a sickening sense of déjà vu.  – Richard Dorment, The Telegraph, 6 October 2004

Ignoring me, the woman at the kitchen sink is taking an interminable time over a grubby plate. Perhaps we’ve had a row. I might as well be invisible. More likely I am dead, but don’t know it yet, like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. Maybe I got run over or mugged and fatally stabbed on my way round here from the nearby Artangel office where I had picked up the keys, but have yet to catch up with the fact.  – Adrian Searle, The Guardian, 5 October 2004

The presence of the houses was so powerful that ever since, from time to time, I have briefly imagined myself back in their claustrophobic space. Sometimes it will be a sweet, rotten smell of the kind that impregnated the gloomy rooms that acts as a trigger. Or I have come across others who made appointments to see the houses, all of whom want to share their survivors’ stories: Did you make it down into the cellar? Or: Did you see the pornography? Or: Did you hear a baby crying? There have not been many installations that so successfully isolate the viewer with his or her own fears.  – Tim Adams, The Observer, 2 January 2005

By Appointment

An essay by James Lingwood
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By Appointment: Doors and Curtains at 14 and 16 Walden Street

James Lingwood

Walden Street in Whitechapel in London's East End is an unprepossessing row of 19th century terraced houses. Initially built for traders and artisans working close to the arteries of Commercial Street and Whitechapel High Street which pumped people and goods into the City of London, many of these streets were condemned as slums in the 1960s and 1970s and knocked down. Somehow, this enclave around Walden Street survived relatively intact. Although close to London's Square Mile, it has never been a wealthy part of town.

Die Familie Schneider was open by appointment only. Visitors - always two for each appointment - collected the front door keys for the two houses from a small office a few minutes' walk away in the same street. From the outside, 14 and 16 Walden Street looked the same, down to the white net curtains in the ground floor windows.

Read the complete essay here

A man engaged in a stark and lonely act of masturbation in a shower at one of the Walden Street houses during Die Familie Schneider, 2004. Photograph: Gregor Schneider

About Gregor Schneider

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Gregor Schneider

Gregor Schneider is renowned for his unnerving presentation of normality, in which his chosen medium – the domestic room – becomes the site of an unrelenting existential confrontation.

Schneider’s compelling and ongoing project is Haus Ur, the ever-changing construction and reproduction of the interior of his childhood home in Rheydt, Germany. Reconstructed in the German Pavilion at the 2001 Venice Biennale as Dead House Ur, this work earned Schneider the Golden Lion for sculpture. Die Familie Schneider, the artist’s first major ‘house’ work outside Germany, was commissioned by Artangel and presented in London in the Autumn of 2004.

Schneider has referenced spaces that are well beyond the domestic sphere: including a religious centre (the Caaba in Mecca) a red-light district (Steindamm, Hamburg) and the maximum-security internment facility on Cuba (Camp V, Guantanamo Bay).

Images: A child like figure concealed by a bin bag sits in the corner of a bedroom in Walden Street during Die Familie Schneider, 2004 (above) and Gregor Schneider at the launch of the publication Die Familie Schneider, 2006 (left).

In The Artangel Collection

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Die Familie Schneider

A two channel film of Die Familie Schneider is part of The Artangel Collection, alongside 176 photographs. Since its initial presentation in 2004, the film has been installed at the Turner Contemporary Margate in 2015.

  • Artist: Gregor Schneider
  • Title: Die Familie Schneider
  • Date: 2004
  • Medium: 2 channel video, 176 black-and-white-photographs
  • Dimensions: Overall display dimensions variable
  • Duration: 13 minutes 12 seconds
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Who made this possible?


Commissioned by Artangel in association with Kunststiftung NRW, with the support of The Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation, The Henry Moore Foundation, IFA, Moose Foundation for The Arts, the Goethe-Institute and the Arts Council England. 
Die Familie Schneider is included in The Artangel Collection, a national initiative to commission and present new film and video work, supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. 

Artangel is generously supported by the private patronage of The Artangel International CircleSpecial AngelsGuardian Angels and The Company of Angels.