German artist Gregor Schneider (born 1969) is known for his uncanny explorations of psychologically charged architectural spaces, most notably the domestic space ofhis childhood home, where he has lived—and has been continuously reconstructing—since the age of sixteen. The title of this ongoing work, Haus ur, refers to the street address of the house, Unterheydener Strasse 12 in Rheydt, Germany; but the word “ur” also translates as “original,” a concept that Schneider calls into question by repeatedly reworking the interior of the house so the original is impossible to locate. While the house’s suburban exterior remains unchanged, its interior has undergone countless alterations, including walls in front of walls, ceilings under ceilings, and rooms within rooms; cupboards morphed into doors and doors onto dead ends; leaded floors and soundproof chambers. More “personal” items, such as photographs—which are present throughout—punctuate these transformed spaces, resulting in a claustrophobic environment that is deeply disorienting, both physically and psychologically, for those visitors who enter inside.
This iteration of Viewpoints features a video by Schneider of his own navigations through the labyrinthine interior of Haus ur. As one of a series of ten unique “tours” recorded by the artist, it elaborates the house’s internal structure and multiplies its psychological provocations. In Schneider’s video the camera functions like an extension of the artist’s body, creating shaky effects and a narrow visual field that heightens the level of ambiguity implicit to Haus ur and extends its disorientating effect into the gallery.
Gregor Schneider was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2001 for his reconstruction of Haus ur in the German Pavilion. In 2003, this “new” work, called Totes Haus ur (Dead House ur), was installed for a year at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.