The Dark Side of the Modern Home

This is an extract of an essay published in Sparke, Massey, Keeble and Martin, eds., Designing the Modern Interior (Berg, 2009)

The modern home is, conventionally, bathed in the light of order. Adolf Loos’s vision of a ‘New Zion’ stripped of its nostalgic ornament; Le Corbusier’s ‘fenêtre en longeur’; and Pierre Koenig’s glass curtain walls and open plans constitute steady steps in the progress of the rational, improved home from its Enlightenment origins. But they do not represent the only kind of modern dwelling. In fact, such domestic utopias might be an inadequate measure of twentieth century modernity. The ‘most terrible century in Western history’ provides many images of broken homes.[1] Windowless bomb shelters, the maternity wards of Heinrich Himmler’s lebensborn programme, ghetto towns like Terezín and the ruins of war-torn cities like Beirut constitute an landmarks in an alternative and unwritten history of the modern home. How might these homes be understood not as ‘accidents’ of history but as its design? And, if viewed in this way, what are the aesthetics of these ruins of history?

Ruins have, of course, long been aestheticised by being seized as symbols through which to reflect on the irresistible passage of time. Their broken state invites comparison with the frailties of the body: while the weeds that thrive in their cracks testify to the triumph of nature over culture. Many eighteenth and nineteenth century aesthetes – famously Wordsworth, Piranesi, Diderot and Michelet – found a melancholic pleasure in contemplating the ruin as utopia in reverse.[2] This sensibility is by no means exhausted today. Recently, for instance, the depopulated centres of America’s rustbelt cities in a similar fashion.[3]

But it is important to stress that two new orders of ruin emerged in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which laid a claim on modernity. Linda Nochlin has observed that the French Revolution marked the first moment in history in which architectural fragments appeared ‘as a positive rather than a negative trope’. The ruin was drafted to symbolise the march of progress:

[T]he fragment, for the Revolution and its artists, rather than symbolizing nostalgia for the past, enacts the deliberate destruction of that past, or, at least, a pulverization of what were perceived to be its repressive traditions. Both outright vandalism and what one might think of as a recycling of the vandalized fragments of the past for allegorical purposes functioned as Revolutionary strategies.[4]

Mikhail Yampolsky has written ‘Destruction and construction can be understood, in certain contexts, as two equally valid features of immortalisation …’[5] The erection of a new monument on the site of an old one is an act of double commemoration or, as he puts it, immortalisation.That a Russian intellectual has allegorized destruction as progress should not come as a surprise. After all he was schooled in a society created by revolution.

It is, perhaps, more difficult to limn the ruins produced by industrial warfare, although of course many have tried.[6] The products of this order of modernity – the results of mechanised violence – seem less innocent or optimistic. The ruins of Rotterdam, Leningrad, Dresden, Warsaw, Hiroshima, Mostar and even New York could and can not function as what Simmel called the ‘naturalised artefact’ because their origins lay in catastrophe.[7] Their status as symbols is overshadowed by their status as indices of events. As Andrew Hersher has argued of the modern ruin in another context:

Damage is a form of design, and the traces of damage inflicted by political violence – a facade stippled by the spray of bullets, a penumbra of smoke around a hole where a door or a window once was, or a pile of rubble no longer identifiable as architecture at all – are at least as significant as any of the elements from which buildings are constructed for living, for the living.[8]

In this sense, the ruins produced by violence are far more ‘legible’ than those produced by the effects of entropy. Comparing the kinds of objects which provoke nostalgic reverie such as the pressed flower in the scrapbook with souvenirs of death like relics, Susan Stewart has written: ‘they mark the horrible transformation of meaning into material more than they mark, as other souvenirs do, the transformation of materiality into meaning.’[9] This contrast also structures the differences between the entropic ruin and the debris of modern war.

It is not surprising that the image of the house in ruins, and its accompanying figure, the displaced person, was a persistent theme in Europe after 1945. It formed the mis-en-scène for novels by Heinrich Böll, Marek Hłasko and Graham Greene as well as films by Roberto Rossellini, Grigori Chukrai and Andrzej Wajda. The destruction of the home was a powerful allegorical form through which artists and writers could reflect not only on the difficult conditions of the present, but also on the problems of remembrance and forgetting. The condition of house in fragments – decayed and riddled with spatial and temporal uncertainties – seemed much like the condition of memory itself facing the recent horrors of war and, in the East, the pressure of an ideology which claimed to already know the past and the future. Equally, the utilitarian modern homes promised to Europe’s displaced peoples – in the new geography of East and West in the aftermath of war and mass destruction – were criticized as being inadequate precisely because they could not inspire memory work of dreams.[10]

Humankind seemed to be stripped of its humanity when displaced from home. In 1945, General Patton, for instance, expressed higher regard for the Germans in their bombed out ruins than the Jews who had survived the camps and were now searching for homes and families in Europe’s ruins: ‘[General] Craig … told me he had inspected another Jewish camp yesterday’ he wrote in his diary, ‘in which he found men and women using adjacent toilets which were not covered in any way although screens were available to make the toilets individually isolated, which the Jews were too lazy to put up. He said the conditions and filth were unspeakable. In one room he found ten people, six men and four women, occupying four double beds. Either these Displaced Persons never had any sense of decency or else they lost it all during their internment by the Germans’.[11] Housing not only provides shelter: it makes people orderly in the minds of others, tidying lives and bodies.

Whilst the image of the home in ruins may have been at it peak in the 1940s and 1950s, it has been a persistent theme in twentieth century culture. What should we make the image of the home in ruins at the end of the century? What perspective might be taken on the debris of domestic life in the twentieth century? In the remains of this short essay, I will turn to the work of two artists, Gregor Schneider and Ilya Kabakov, both of whom have created homes from and with the debris of modern life. Kabakov’s ‘Ten Characters’, an installation based on the form of the communal apartment, and Schneider’s Totes Haus u r (Dead House ur) are powerful commentaries on the catastrophes which shadow modernity in the ‘medium’ of the home.

It would surely be possible to read the domestic spaces exhibited by both artists as autobiographies or even psychological portraits. Kabakov has described his early installations in his Moscow studio as ‘an experiment of biography in the installation genre’ in which he ‘became a character of himself.’[12] And Schneider’s seemingly compulsive and secretive behaviour as well as the assault on his own home which is the basis of the Dead House has encouraged many to follow this line. Paul Schimmel has called the Dead House as ‘life’s echo.’[13] Such readings reproduce one of the principal myths of the century: that the home is a mirror of the individual and a container of private memory. As Ivan Illich puts it, ‘to dwell means to inhabit the traces left by one’s own living, by which one always retraces the lives of one’s ancestors.’[14] But Schneider and Kabakov’s artistic archaeologies drawn attention to a wider and perhaps more disturbing set of modern ambitions of the domestic ‘perfection’.

Undiscarded things

Ilya Kabakov, active in non-official art circles in the Soviet Union from the 1960s, emerged into the consciousness of the West in the late 1980s, his art drawing attention to the textures of life and the residual utopianism of the Soviet Union at the time when it was being dismantled. His first major installation exhibited in the West in 1988 was ‘Ten Characters’, an extension of the themes he had been exploring in albums and paintings made since the 1970s.[15] His installation – a series of cell-like rooms off a shabby corridor poorly lit with electric light bulbs – presents the possessions and living spaces of ten absent Soviet citizens. In their absence, their lives are described in a series of vivid extended texts (often in the heterogeneous voices of official reports, newspaper articles, diaries and ad hominem reflections) and, of course, their possessions. The viewer is invited to be both a psychologist and an archaeologist, extracting meaning from the debris of life and fragmentary reports. In this work, Kabakov recreated a communal apartment (komunalka), the most distinct space in the domestic landscape of the Soviet Union, domestic exotica for audiences in Washington, Paris and London.

The komunalka is a fascinating historical artefact: it remains both a symptom of the radical hopes and, in the event, the failure of the Soviet dreamworld. In the aftermath of the October Revolution, the ‘bourgeois’ conception of home as a private space – both socially and spatially – was rejected in a series of decrees issued from 1918 nationalising land and abolishing private ownership of property. Collective modes of housing were not only adopted as a matter of exigency, but also proclaimed as the democratisation of space.[16] Large pre-revolutionary apartments, once occupied by the wealthy and their servants, were sub-divided to provide homes for a number of working class and peasant families. In his Moscow diaries Walter Benjamin described, employing a characteristically surreal metaphor, how these private homes had become common property and were now over-populated by numerous families and their meagre possessions; ‘Through the hall door one steps into a little town’.[17]

The komunalka was an instrument with which to create the new collectivity. It was to be the first stage in a new domestic landscape which would be furnished with dom komunii (communal houses), glass and steel building-machines which would accommodate hundreds of adults and children meeting their basic needs with by collective facilities like public canteens and an on-site boarding schools. Minimal allowances of ‘private’ space were to be provided to foster the kind of communalism lauded by communist ideologues and inhibit the ‘private’ possession of things. In fact, the desire for such things was expected to disappear when all human needs were satisfied by the perfect environment.[18] Andrei Platonov in his novel, The Foundation Pit (1930) described the ‘All Proletarian Home’ as a step towards Communism itself. His hero, predictably an engineer who is – less predictably – riddled with doubt, designs a

single building that was to replace the old town where … people lived fenced off from one another on their private plots: in a year’s time the entire local proletariat would leave the old town and its petty properties and take possession of the monumental new home. And in another decade or two, some other engineer would construct a tower, in the very centre of the world, where the toiling masses of the whole earth would happily take up residence for the rest of time.[19]

Such new collective homes were never (or hardly ever[20]) built. And whilst the mass housing schemes promoted by Nikita Khrushchev and his successor Leonid Brezhnev dramatically altered the face of cities and the living patterns of society, they did little to break up the institution of the family (in fact, in the form of the single-family apartment they did much to reinforce it). Moreover, the komunalka – the first phase in the campaign against bourgeois domesticity – remained a lasting feature of domestic life in the Soviet Union. In 1989, for instance, one-quarter of the population lived in komunalkii, sharing a common kitchen, a common toilet and a common telephone in an apartment subdivided by flimsy partitions, sometimes little more than curtains.[21]

Conventionally art historians have turned to Kabakov’s ‘Ten Characters’ as a comment on the forms of horizontal surveillance which operated not in only in the communal apartment but throughout Soviet society. Constantly aware of one’s movements and opinions being detected by others, the individual modifies his or her behaviour. Life is reduced to one of vigilance and performance or as Boris Groys puts it elegantly ‘the communal turns everyone into an artist’[22] For the purposes of this essay, another feature of the installation calls for attention, the debris from which Kabakov fashions his art. One space – once occupied by a cosmonaut who seemingly has flown into space by means of a catapult – is a ‘spectacle of total devastation’.[23] A massive hole in the ceiling created by an explosion detonated at the moment of take off has left the room littered with plaster fragments whilst the former occupant’s possessions are strewn all around. The room itself, bathed in the red light of propaganda posters, is a temple for Soviet dreams of futurism, of transcendence.[24] After the departure of this anonymous Gagarin, all that remains however is junk.

Another room – occupied by ‘The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away’ – is far more orderly and retrospective in tone. Scraps of paper and film, slithers of packaging, rags, tins and jars are carefully arranged in vitrines and hung on the wall. Each has a label attached to it, in the style of a museum catalogue, with a number and an inscription. The room itself is short and narrow, like a corridor, and contains two doors, one of which is permanently locked. This is the living space of an individual, but no furniture is visible, except a small divan.

Svetlana Boym, in her brilliant study of the myths of everyday life in Russia, describes the komunalka as the place where ‘domestic trash’ triumphed.[25] Far from being a new commonwealth in which the frictions caused by attachment to possessions was eased by the benefits of collective life: things (and often the social divisions they represent) announced their presence loudly, if sometimes mysteriously, in the communal apartment. This is Kabakov’s own description of the corridor:

Despite regular cleaning …, there was always a heap of undiscarded things. No-one knew whom these things belonged to, what they were used for, nor was it known whether the owners of these things still lived in the apartment or if they had already left. These things were scattered in all the corners, hung on the walls, stood along the entire length of the hallway. Because of all this, the apartment took on the appearance of a mysterious cave, full of stalactites and stalagmites, with a narrow passageway between them leading the constantly open kitchen door … Near the large discarded things – big wardrobes, cast-iron stoves, couches and other household junk -, smaller things were piled up on all sides and on top of the other ones – pipes crates, boxes, old buckets, bottles, both broken and complete … [26]

Recycling and garbage were prominent in the ecology of late Soviet socialism: a greasy tide of filth seeped into public spaces such as common hallways, streets, parks and beaches; whilst shortage turned citizens into skilled fixers of broken things, adept at the everyday arts of bricolage. On when things were completely exhausted (itself never a certain state), could they be dumped. But Kabakov’s debris – collected by the pseudonymous figure of the ‘The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away’ – is neither a practical resource nor is it without value. It evidently operates within the memorial economy rather than the economic one.

But what is being memorialized in this collection of things? Might this room operate as what Mikhail Epshtein, writing at same time, described as a ‘lyrical museum’, a home for things cycling between the warehouse and the dump? The collection of the ordinary stuff of everyday life, he says, is a response to modernity: ‘Our ancestors would hardly have thought of trying intensely to understand surrounding Things or of creating a memorial for them because the homes they lived in were such “memorials.” The Thing was meaningful from the start when it was inherited … and meaningful at the end when it was passed on …[27] In the Soviet Union, the figure of the collector – an activity laced with pathos – is rendered poignant by the fact that he was a representative of a social system which made the greatest possible claim to free mankind from the weight of the past and from the alienating effects of things. But Kabakov’s collector does not preserve fragments of a pre-revolutionary world (say in the manner of Chatwin’s fictional Utz or Dombrovsky’s Keeper of Antiquities[28]): he collects the debris of Soviet socialism. Even before the end of the Soviet experiment in 1991, Kabakov sensed how this dreamworld could become a ruin; how the future could become the past; and how utopia could become trash.

Dead House u r

Much distinguishes Kabakov’s installation from Gregor Schneider’s project, the Dead House. The Russian artist’s prolixity and his interest in the structures of ideology, reason and progress are very distant from the obdurate preoccupations of the young German artist. Nevertheless, Robert Storr writing in Art Forum in 2001 saw in Schneider’s work at the Venice Biennale that year ‘evidence of the delayed but growing influence in the West of Ilya Kabakov’s gritty, dystopian fantasies’. [29]

In the mid 1980s, Schneider, then a young man, began remodelling his own three-storey family home in Rheydt, a district of Mönchengladbach. By removing and duplicating walls, he created twenty-two rooms as well as numerous passages and dead-ends. Massive structures – suggesting inverted houses – were built into existing rooms. Doors to bedrooms were hidden behind heavy, brick walls which Schneider could move, albeit with difficulty, like a sliding door, to welcome (or incarcerate) his guests. Entire rooms could rotate on their axes. Many of the spaces created by these radical modifications were cramped and oppressive, punctuated with holes which penetrated through floors and what Schneider calls ‘in-between rooms.’ Blind windows were built directly in front of actual windows facing the outside world. Cupboards functioned as doorways into secret rooms. Hidden lights and ventilators produced the illusion of daylight and fresh air. And, like Kabakov’s lyrical museums, the Dead House became a kind of exhausted kunstkammer filled with decaying photographs, rolled up carpets, stuffed animals and dingy antiques. In these ways, it became a kind of mutant home formed from the corpses of other homes nearby, many of which were abandoned when the authorities forced their occupants to move so that the coal-rich ground could be mined.

Schneider’s dead ends, blind windows and cells within rooms suggest spaces of burial and torture, extra-territorial zones where the ‘rules of life’ are suspended and violent forces unleashed (Some floors were lined with lead, whilst some walls were dressed with sound proofing materials). This is perhaps where the bloodshed or loss suggested by the project’s title, Totes Haus u r, occurs. But the project also pointed to birth. u r – ostensibly refers to the first and last letters of the street on which it stands, Unterheydener Strasse. But of course, ur also means origin. Homes are conventionally sites of social and biological reproduction. In its decomposed state, Schneider’s house combines the symmetry of womb and tomb (poles that Freud famously conjoined in his essay on the Uncanny[30]). In the mid 1990s Schneider said:

I dream of taking the whole house away with me and building it somewhere else. My father and mother would then live in it, older relatives would like dead in the cellar, my brothers would live upstairs, around and about there would be men and women who don’t quite know where else to go. Somewhere in a corner would the large lady who constantly makes children and throws them out into the world.[31]

Schneider figured aspects of this particular nightmare in the form of portrait photographs concealed within the layers of rooms: each generation sealed, invisibly, as layers between walls.

In the 1990s and the early years of the new century Schneider’s elements of the Dead House were carefully removed from its Rheydt site and reinstalled within the white walls of galleries throughout Europe and North America. The Dead House achieved its greatest exposure at the Venice Biennale in 2001 when the artist represented Germany. This setting brought one of the Dead House’s most potent themes to the fore: the German pavilion had been remodeled in 1938 by the Third Reich in order to conform to the neo-classical idiom. Architect Ernst Haiger replaced the iconic columns and a modest gable of the small classical temple with four massive flat pilasters carrying an austere architrave. It represented an unmistakable projection of fascist aesthetics onto the international stage.

In this particular setting, Schneider’s Dead House was unmistakably drawn into the orbit of German history (somewhat inevitably following Nam June Paik and Hans Haacke’s treatment of the historic space in 1993 in their installation ‘Germania’[32]). Schneider created a claustrophobic labyrinth within the Pavilion and set a common glass-paned door from Rheydt into its grand entrance, a gesture which perhaps points to the complicity of ordinary homes in the reproduction of Nazism and even as the site of the execution of its crimes. This has repeatedly been the accusation made of German society. But the idea that a house is somehow guilty of crimes seems illogical, a category error which confuses mind and matter. Yet, the places in which tremendous violence has occurred are often demolished in order to exorcise their ghosts (or to deny ghost-hunters). In 1946, for instance, the garden of the Reich’s Chancellery, the site of Hitler’s bunker, was razed and the area leveled by the communist authorities which now controlled the Eastern sectors of the city. The bunker was buried (again). Similarly, in 1952, the Bavarian government blew up the ruins of the Berghof, Hitler’s heimatschutzstil home on the Obersalzberg. In an effort to stop the site becoming a site for Nazi and neo-Nazi pilgrims, the building could not be allowed to remain (though this intention to suppress memory was somewhat undermined by the choosing to commit this domicide on the anniversary of Hitler’s death, 30th April).

But of course Schneider has not destroyed the Dead House, but expanded and mutated it. In a strange twist, his secret rooms and false floors seem to echo the desperate attempts by Europe’s Jews to fashion places in which to hide in Germany and the occupied countries of the Second World War. These were, as we know, too rarely safe homes. ‘Street by street, house by house, inch by inch, from attic to cellar’, wrote one survivor of a German ghetto-clearing in occupied Poland, ‘The Germans became expert at finding these hiding places. When they searched a house they went tapping the walls, listening for the hollow sound that indicated a double wall. They punched holes in ceilings and walls ….’. [33] Entering into the constricting passages and false rooms was an uncertain experience, particularly for those who visited the ‘original’ incarnation of the Dead House in Rheydt: it produced the uncanny double effect of hunting and being hunted.

The Dead House was, in this regard, a strange kind of countermonument, a celebrated genre of public artworks through which Germany was asked to confront the Holocaust in the 1980s. Far more typical were those schemes which – by means of disappearing columns or as street cobbles carrying the names of Jewish cemeteries on their underside – asked Germans to reflect on the absences in their midst.[34] This phenomenon sought to address the aesthetic problem of the monument, historically an object associated with triumphalism, by seeking to produce a sense of anguished reflection on the part of its viewers. Such counter monuments have attracted a good deal of controversy. As Richard Esbenshade put it in 1995 ‘The celebration of counter-memory or counter-history begs the question of who is doing the remembering and the rewriting of history.’[35] A far more disturbing (and tactically irresponsible) countermemorial is perhaps one which simulates the conditions in which people became prey.

Inconclusive material

Historian Eric Hobsbawm has represented the late twentieth century as an era of disconnect: ‘The destruction of the past, or rather of the social mechanisms that link one’s contemporary experience to that of earlier generations, is one of the most characteristic and eerie phenomena of the late twentieth century.’[36] Living in a ‘sort of permanent present lacking any organic relations to the public past’ the ‘historical memory is no longer alive’ in modern societies. Hobsbawm’s observation made in 1994 was intended to reaffirm the role of the historian as a political and social conscience. What kind of connection with the past is made Kabakov and Schneider’s homes? After all the eerie is precisely the sensation generated by both installations.

Both Kabakov and Schneider explore the ways in which ordinary things might materialise memory, an inquiry which was all the more powerful for exploring the debris of the home. In environments in which homes were experiments for either the disavowal of domesticity (the Soviet Union) or its perversion (Nazi Germany), these artists produce spaces for an examination of the trash produced by modernity. The facticity and durability of material has long been claimed as its value. Hannah Arendt argued, for instance, that it was these qualities which ‘gives the things of the world their relative independence from men who produced and use them … . From this viewpoint, the things of the world have the function of stabilizing human life, and their objectivity lies in the fact that…men, their ever-changing nature notwithstanding, can retrieve their sameness, that is, their identity, by being related to the same chair and the same table.’[37] But in societies which have been forced through the mill of history, the ‘sameness’ of that chair or table might be the very cause of disturbance.

[1] Isaiah Berlin cited by Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 (London, 1995), p.1.

[2] Charles Merewether ‘Irresistible Decay: Ruins Reclaimed’ in Michael S. Roth, Claire Lyons and Charles Merewether, eds., Irresistible Decay (Los Angeles, 1997), pp.1-13. See also Christopher Woodward, In Ruins (London, 2002).

[3] James Jeffrey Higgins, Images of the Rust Belt (Kent, OH, 1999)

[4] Linda Nochlin, The Body in Pieces: The Fragment as a Metaphor of Modernity (New York, 1995),p.8.

[5] M Yampolsky, ‘In the Shadow of Monuments’ in N. Condee, ed., Soviet Hieroglyphics, (London, 1995), p.100.

[6] The damaged yet preserved state of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche in Berlin, for instance, represents a humanistic view of the ruin.

[7] Georg Simmel ‘The Ruin’ in Kurt H. Wolff, ed., Essays on Sociology, Philosophy and Aesthetics (New York, 1965), pp.259-66.

[8] Andrew Hersher, ‘The Language of Damage’ in Grey Room, 7 (Spring 2002),p.69.

[9] Susan Stewart, On Longing. Narrative of Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham and London, 1993),p.138.

[10] Anthony Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny, Essays in the Modern Unhomely (Boston, MA., 1994), p. 64.

[11] George S. Patton (September 21st, 1945) The Patton Papers, 1940-1945, edited by Martin Blumenson (Cambridge, MA., 1998) p.759

[12] Ilya Kabakov, Der Text als Grundlage des Visnellen / The Text as the Basis of Visual Expression, edited by Zdenek Felix (Köln, 2000) p.269.

[13] Paul Schimmel, ‘Life’s Echo’ in Gregor Schneider (Milan, 2003), pp.103-118.

[14] Ivan Illich H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness. Reflections on the History of ‘Stuff’ (Dallas, 1985),p.8

[15] It was first mounted at Ronald Feldman Fine Art in New York in 1988.

[16] Milka Bliznakov, ‘Soviet housing during the experimental years, 1918 to 1933’, in William Craft Brumfield and Blair A. Ruble (eds), Russian Housing in the Modern Age: Design and Social History (Cambridge 1993), pp.85–149.

[17] Walter Benjamin, ‘Moscow’ (1927) in One Way Street (London, 1979), pp. 187-88.

[18] On the early Soviet critique of the commodity see Christine Kiaer, Imagine No Possessions. The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism (Cambridge MA., 2005) particularly pp.1-88.

[19] Andrei Platonov, ‘The Foundation Pit’ (1930) in Catriona Kelly, ed., Utopias (Hardmondsworth, 1999) p.21.

[20] On attempts to produce new experimental collective whousing schemes in the 1960s see Monica Rüthers, Moskau bauen von Lenin bis Chruscev. Öffentliche Räume zwischen Utopie, Terror und Alltag (Cologne, 2007), pp.248–61.

[21] See K. Gerasmiova, ‘Public Privacy in the Soviet Communal Apartment’ in David Crowley and Susan E. Reid, ed., Socialist Spaces: Sites of Everyday Life in the Eastern Bloc (Oxford and London, 2003), p. 207-30.

[22] Borys Groys, David A. Rose and Iwona Blazwick, Ilya Kabakov (London, 1998), p.63

[23] Kabakov, Text als Grundlage des Visuellen p.332

[24] For a brilliant analysis of this space see Boris Groys, Ilya Kabakov. The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment (London, 2006).

[25] Svetlana Boym, Commonplaces. Mythologies of Everyday Life in Russia, (Cambridge, Mass., 1994), p.123.

[26] Kabakov, Text als Grundlage des Visuellen, p. 300.

[27] Mikhail Epshtein, ‘Things and Words: Towards a Lyrical Museum’ in Efimova and Manovich, ed., Tekstura (Chicago, 1993), p. 164

[28] Bruce Chatwin, Utz (London, 1988); Yury Dombrovsky, The Keeper of Antiquities (London, 1968).

[29] Robert Storr ‘Harry’s Last Call’ in Art Forum (September 2001), p. 159.

[30] ‘To some people the idea of being buried alive by mistake is the most uncanny thing of all. And yet psychoanalysis has taught us that this terrifying fantasy is only a transformation of another fantasy which had originally nothing terrifying about it al all, but was qualified by a certain lasciviousness – the fantasy, I mean of intra-uterine existence.’ S. Freud, ‘The “Uncanny”’ in Art and Literature (Collected Works) (Hardmondsworth, 1985) p. 366

[31] Gregor Schneider in an interview with Ulrich Loock in Gregor Schneider (Milan, 2003) pp.99-100.

[32] The marble floor of the pavilion interior was smashed into fragments at Haacke and Paik’s instruction. The visitor had to walk with great care over the uneven and unstable surface. As they moved, their steps were amplified and broadcast back into the echoing space. Here was a national pavilion – and, by extension, a nation – without solid foundations. See Dario Gamboni The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism Since the French Revolution (London, 1997) p.166.

[33] Henry Orenstein cited by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (London, 1997), p. 395

[34] see James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven and London, 1993) and James E. Young, At Memory’s Edge: After-images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture (New Haven and London, 2007).

[35] Richard S. Esbenshade ‘Remembering to Forget: Memory, History, National Identity in Postwar East-Central Europe’, Representations, 49 (winter 1995), pp.72–96.

[36] Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 (London, 1995), p.3.

[37] Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago, 1999) p.137. I am grateful to Paul Betts for alerting me to this passage in Arendt’s book.


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