The art of Christoph Buchel seems to be predicated upon conflict and controversy. An ‘expert set designer’, he has used this ability to sculpt what life is like for certain segments of society, and hence shine a light on contemporary human existence as a whole. And the sets he designs are quite realistic, although a case maybe made that they are hyper-realistic, sprawling spectacles, often going over the top to get a point across.
And that point is an ironic one; while re-contextualizing segments of society, like putting a ‘common’ community center in one of the most exclusive London art establishments, or putting ‘Americana’ elements of American culture in an American museum, might seem a bit like having a snow exhibition in a snowy place, but these subversive acts shed light on what might be taken for granted; the great divide that exists, causing one to initially consider such acts preposterous.
Chosen to do the Icelandic Pavilion for the 2015 Venice Biennale, Buchel rented an unused cathedral and turned it into a fully functioning Islamic mosque. Although the Venician authorities shut it down in a few weeks, before the Biennale was over, the ‘damage’ had already been done; divisive and controversial, its one of those projects you either loved or hated, but something everyone there was talking about.