What I found even more curious is Manders proposal for the 2010 ‘Contemplating The Void’ exhibition at the Guggenheim, New York: entitled Two Connected Houses (2010), it is a series of slides which detail a shed in the middle of the spiraling central atrium, housing some of Manders’ previous installations and an excavated underground tunnel, with bare rocks, concrete and gravel etc.. connecting to an apartment across the street, housing some more of his installations.
While the Guggenheim location was just a proposal, he has done it elsewhere before, possibly in Dublin (information is sketchy) and thus the big question is why? What does this tunnel have to do with his art or anything else? And this is not a one-off, wacky proposal, he seems to have this idea at many places, for many museums around the world.
Would you believe Manders is not the first artist to dig a hole in the ground and call it art?
Performance and installation artist Chris Burden did it in 1979, when he dug a trench in an empty Vancouver lot the week he was invited as a guest lecturer there. He did it again in 1986 on a grander scale, this time exposing the foundations of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in Exposing The Foundations Of The Museum (1986) and Swiss sculptor Urs Fischer did it in 2007 by digging a 30 feet wide by 8 feet deep hole, entitled You, in a New York gallery, surrounded by 18 inches of concrete ledge for people to walk around and a sign saying basically ‘enter and view at your own risk’.
“Sure, artworks are real. But when you make a work of art you need a lot of lies. A lie you can use as a tool to jump to somewhere else. The lie is an important aspect of our society, it’s truly a big human invention.” Mark Manders
Perhaps its human nature to want to create a place that transcends the ordinary, a place that can transport visitors to another ‘level’ of metaphysical existence. Such a place might be by necessity be illusionary, abstract, detached from the outside world. From the interior of the pantheon in Rome, built around the first century, to Etienne-Louis Boullee’s visionary, Age of Enlightenment design Cenotaph For Issac Newton (1795), there has always been a desire to create a place that catered to this aspiration of the soul.
Going back to Manders’ Building As A Self Portrait, Manders’ ‘building’ is an abstraction on the word ‘building’, which traditionally people inhabit and use, but in this case, the ‘building’ inhabits people’s minds, through his mannerisms and creations, which are signifiers of the truth. All impressions of the ‘real’ outside world are blotted out, as the windows in all of his exhibition spaces are covered with his fake newspapers, every sentence of which contain ‘fake’ nonsensical words to prevent one from deriving any direct information from them. Building As A Self Portrait therefore is a fictional place, an illusion, a place where nothing is really as they seem, and covering up the windows facilitates the ‘jump’ to the upper ‘level’ of existential presence.
In this light, the tunnels, the lower ‘level’, are integral to this ‘building’, just as in Boullee’s Cenotaph where visitors past through a tunnel-like space before arriving in the central, multi-storey spherical atrium, or his Temple Of Death (1795) project with the craggy, rock precipace under the bridge, so too would visitors to Manders’ illusionary exhibition rooms have to pass through a meta-physical quandry to get that state of elevation. But if the discourse is on fiction and reality, he wouldn’t really need to block out the windows; it must be that the world outside those windows sometimes are not as ‘real’ as it seems either, and thus the need for a rocky quagmire; those rocks in the tunnel are something we can be sure are real and true.