Who? Gregor Schneider is known for his controversial and disturbing art installations. His signature constructed rooms have previously included De Familie Schneider in Whitechapel, which chillingly depicted family dysfunction, and his ongoing Unterheydener Straße, a house of horrors that he has been building since 1985. His work consistently features hollow rooms, haunting spaces and dark mausoleums that recall history’s worst crimes. His latest room, built for the Edinburgh festival, is titled Süßer Duft (sweet scent) and explores racism and slavery through a sinister and sensory experience that has a haunting aftertaste.
"Schneider's work consistently features hollow rooms, haunting spaces and dark mausoleums that recall history’s worst crimes"
What? The exhibition heads the bill for the Summerhall at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Set up in the basement of the old veterinary college, the installation allows just one person to view it at a time. The observer enters through the first door and is confronted by two more. The first opens upon a white space, the second reveals a darkened chamber. A naked black man hovers in the doorframe, another hangs by a back wall. The room is cluttered with nude, trembling bodies, catching the visitor somewhere between a charnel and a prison cell.
Why? Schneider’s fascination with darkened, asphyxiating rooms has become an art genre in itself. His work alludes gruesomely to sex, death and suffering. “One builds what one no longer knows,” he states, and indeed his work exemplifies the tricks that the human mind can play when stretched far beyond the normal.
Süßer Duft is at Summerhall, Edinburgh, until August 31.
Text by Mhairi Graham