Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Absalon, Cellule 2, 1992

In 1992 the artist Absalon planned six structures, which he named ‘Cellules’. ‘I would like to make these cells my homes, in which to define my feelings, to cultivate my behaviors’, he explained. ‘These houses will be mechanisms of resistance to a society that prevents me from becoming what I must become.’

The Cellules were planned for six major cities: Paris, Zurich, New York, Tel Aviv, Frankfurt am Main and Tokyo. Two were realized.

One of these is currently installed in the voluminous, austere galleries of the Museum für Gegenwart at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. To enter Absalon’s home is a strange experience: the entire interior is less than ten metres square. You have to shuffle sideways to pass through the entry threshold. The walls, as well as the limited fixtures and fittings, are modernist white, illuminated by open windows that receive light from fluorescent strips hanging above the structure. There’s a living area to your left, with cupboards, table, stool and basin.There’s just enough room to turn around to see a tiny space containing a raised bed, with an adjoining shower/ toilet stall.

Absalon never lived long enough to fulfill his wish to live and travel between these six restricted cells. Nor did he ever claim that he would only produce one kind of work for the remainder of his life. Yet with this project he brings ‘living’ and ‘art’ into extreme, cramped proximity.