Artist Wants to Scrap Gas Chamber Installation in Germany | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 21.03.2006
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Artist Wants to Scrap Gas Chamber Installation in Germany

Spanish performance artist Santiago Sierra wants to abandon a project in which he turned a synagogue into a symbolic gas chamber.


Artist Sierra creates provocative art

Sierra told Der Spiegel newsmagazine the outcry over the project which saw him accused of belittling the Holocaust was prompting him to dispense with it just over a week after the opening.

"I feel misunderstood," the 39-year-old artist said. He said he did not create a gas chamber but "a work of art with the gas chamber as its theme" in the synagogue in the town of Pulheim which lies near the western city of Cologne.

"There is a difference," he said, adding that artists had the duty to "create difficult art to deal with painful episodes in history."

The project saw Sierra pump the lethal exhaust fumes from six car engines into the synagogue.

Simulati n g gas chamber sufferi n g

Kunstaktion Synagoge als Gaskammer

Synagogue as gas chamber

Some 200 visitors, who were made to wear a breathing apparatus, were allowed into the synagogue on March 12 for the first performance of the project titled "245 Cubic Meters," a reference to the size of the building.

They were allowed to spend five minutes inside to experience a simulation of the way in which the Nazis gassed many of the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust.

The performance was meant to take place each Sunday until April 30, but provoked such controversy that the second date was canceled.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany called Sierra's show "an insult" while newspapers accused him of trivializing the Holocaust.

Sierra countered that he had tried to portray the pain and humiliation Jews had suffered in Germany.

"That they have now turned against me, is not something I had wanted," he said.

A town official for Pulheim said the local authorities were surprised at Sierra's decision but would respect it.

"It is his right to do so," the spokesman said.

Sierra has also created controversy with past projects which sought to portray the exploitation of the poor by paying jobless people to have tattoos done or masturbate on camera.

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