If you feel like engaging in a little culture this weekend, take a trip to see Swiss artist Christoph Büchel’s epic, sprawling exhibition at Hauser & Wirth gallery’s East End branch, Coppermill. Situated just off Brick Lane, Büchel has merged the gallery seamlessly with its surroundings, turning the entire space into a down-at-heel hotel/cheap electronics shop, complete with a tacky sign and shop front on the outside of the gallery.
Moving inside, the illusion continues as a staircase leads into the hotel itself, a rabbit warren of rooms that are disturbingly stuffed with beds, including narrow mattresses in the kitchen and bathroom. The attention to detail is obsessive, with drawers, desks and beds littered with personal possessions while half-eaten food and overflowing ashtrays suggest a very quick getaway by any inhabitants.
Past the hotel the gallery opens out into a massive warehouse space, made up as an electronic workshop and stuffed with disused fridges and piles of spare parts. And crammed into every spare corner are more temporary dwellings, far dingier and squalid than the hotel, and packed full of clothing and paraphernalia. The exhibition becomes a lurid treasure trove, perfect for the nosy, even if you end up feeling uncomfortably like a voyeur.
Büchel’s previous works have often been overtly political, and for last year’s Venice Biennale he collaborated with Gianni Motti on the ‘Guantanamo Initiative’, a campaign to lease the site of Guantanamo Bay from the Cuban government, on the grounds that the US occupation of the territory is unlawful. Politics reappear here – particularly issues about illegal immigration – but the show also offers something darker and more psychologically disturbing, especially in its secret passages, which are found in a wardrobe and, almost amusingly, an old chest freezer. These lead to cramped tunnels – making the show not for the claustrophobic or well-dressed – and some frankly odd discoveries. If this is the house of Büchel’s mind, there are some dark and disturbing corners lying within, which inevitably make for fascinating viewing.
More info on the show and Hauser & Wirth is at www.hauserwirth.com.