Most of us have dreamt that a familiar home is suddenly and inexplicably filled with unexplored chambers, rooms and wings. Domestic settings are near-archetypal sites of comfort, longing and belonging; they can be shaped by dreams and nightmares alike. These highly affective places, sites of scripted behaviour and patterns of movement, correspond to our fears and aspirations.
Leander Schönweger’s project Our Family Lost is an installation in the Galata Greek School that responds in dreamlike fashion to notions of architecture, intimacy and estrangement – whether in private homes or institutional buildings. Within the attic of the school, the artist has constructed a labyrinth. When viewers pass through a doorway, they enter a room with a subsequent doorway, followed by an identical room with a doorway, and so on. As they progress, the rooms become smaller and smaller, as in a fractal. Lacking an overview or a way of mapping their affective experiences onto this dream-like multiplication, and perhaps unsure if they will ever find a way out, the viewers who voyage within the labyrinth, in blind contact with other selves, become disoriented and lost. This experience is heightened by the fact that unexplained sounds of knocking can sometimes be heard in the unexplored spaces. In this way, the rooms withdraw themselves from their function as containers for human beings, gaining a life of their own.
The feeling of being lost in the labyrinth – a motif with an important history in art and culture, from Greek myth to contemporary films – is an expression of isolation and separation that responds to a disintegrating sense of social solidarity, away from cosmopolitan models of being towards nascent trends of protectionism, conservatism and traditionalism