Mic Enneper

Kunsthalle Cologne

A long, enclosed black ramp, the walls of which are topped with 20 round steel pipes lying across them, forms a space that narrows as it recedes, exerting a powerful suction that ends somewhere in the darkness. Wondering where it will end, we walk along the almost 65-foot-long wall, eventually coming upon a second structure, in back of the ramp. This structure consists of two cubes linked to the ramp by a ceiling plate. The blocks form a rectangular interior that cannot be entered. A sheet of glass separates the viewer from its leaden-gray inner walls, on which five steel tips on two facing sides are attached at eye level. These tips appear menacing; they loom from the wall like ritualized torture instruments.

Lager 50° 56’/6° 57’ Nord-Ost (Camp 50° 56’/6° 57’ northeast, 1991) is Mic Enneper’s largest installation to date. The numbers in the title refer to Cologne’s longitude and latitude; the ambivalent term “Lager” refers to a storage place as well as to an often deadly prison, such as a concentration camp. The enigmatic block behind the ramp, colored with polished graphite, evokes both fear and awe. But that makes the massive wooden block a witness to life itself—albeit to a life whose concealed daily tenor, as Martin Heidegger describes it, is sinisterness. This is the fear of the unknown—of darkness and death; it is a fear that ultimately undermines all security in this world. The characters who inhabit myths build ritual sites meant to serve as places of refuge and security. They believed that, for a few moments, they could exorcise the enigmatic and the unknown, and ultimately death itself by performing rituals in these locales.

These ritual places eventually became sacred buildings, medieval and modern churches. They functioned as repositories for traditions, for remnants of ritual actions (hence Enneper’s use of the term “Lager,” storage). And secondly, they served to reveal the malevolent quality of life that people had repressed in their daily activities. Recognizing such terror, they gathered strength and hope to continue living. In the Modern age. however, we have increasingly lost the ability to perceive a primal terror and with it the relationship to sacred or ritual spaces. By trying to reconstruct such spaces, Enneper evokes not only the ancient sites, but also the sinister quality of life that was banished to these spaces.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.