Santiago Sierra is known for his provocative performances, which have included paying refugees from Chechenia to remain inside cardboardboxes, giving money to young Cubans for the priviledge of tattooing their backs, dying the hair of Africans blonde to make them look European, and spraying 10 Iraqis immigrant workers with insulating foam. But the Spanish artist provoked outrage among Jewish groups in Germany yesterday with his latest installation – a homemade gas chamber set up in a former synagogue.
The artist has parked six cars outside the synagogue and attached their exhaust pipes to the building using plastic tubes. It is then filled with deadly gas. Visitors are invited to go inside one by one wearing a gas mask, escorted by a firefighter. Before being allowed in, they have to sign a disclaimer stating they realise the room is full of carbon monoxide.
The project opened to the public on Sunday, creating huge queues, and runs until the end of April.
Sierra says the installation – entitled 245 cubic metres – is a protest against the “banalisation of the Holocaust”.
However, Jewish leaders in Germany are furious. They described the installation in the Pulheim as “an abuse of artistic freedom”.