84 x 60 x 88 cm
Rietveld chair (red-blue chair, leather belts
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Permanent loan, Collection A.R.
Whenever Christoph Büchel (born 1966 in Basel, Switzerland) unveils one of his elaborate installations in a museum or gallery, there is certain to be a public debate that occasionally becomes political. In 2010, a swingers’ club that he installed in the lower level of the Secession building in Vienna caused an outcry by a public that did not understand how this could be considered a piece art and how such indecency should be expected to be paid for by tax payers. Then in 2015, people were outraged when an empty church in Venice was turned into a mosque for the duration of the Biennale. In the end, authorities cited violations of the terms and conditions of use of the former church as grounds for stopping the art project only two weeks after its inauguration. While these works are kinds of ready-mades in social space that Büchel uses to rile the exhibition scene, his realistic imitations of private and semi-private rooms take visitors to the limits of their sensibilities by forcing them to become involuntary voyeurs while he jabs a finger in the open wounds of society. His installation “Home Affairs” from 1998, in which he transformed an exhibition space in Chicago into a deceivingly realistic apartment of a compulsive hoarder, was widely discussed, as was the exhibition “Close Quarters” from 2004 in the Kunstverein Freiburg, in which he exhibited a refugee hostel. Büchel’s works often require the audience to become physically involved by climbing, crawling, and squeezing through the highly detailed environments.
Büchel is often called a guerilla artist, but his works are much more than mere provocation. He addresses issues of territory and ownership as well as often-suppressed aspects of living in our society in a way that affects each of us. Consternation and uneasiness is also the effect of his untitled work in the collection of the Haus Konstruktiv. Here, an iconic design object from the 1920s, a Rietveld chair, has been equipped with massive leather straps that immediately bring to mind an electric chair and torture. If we consider that it was the goal of the architect Gerrit Rietveld to express the concepts of the Constructivist-Concrete artists’ group De Stijl in the everyday object of a chair, we naturally wonder: Is this an image of torture by artistic dogmas? Or of the constraint of the “form follows function” principle? While there are no certain answers when it comes to Büchel, his works offer much in the way of material for extensive discussions.