Santiago Sierra

The Corridor of "People's House" People's House, Bucharest, Romania, Spain, October 2005


Courtesy of the artist and Prometeogallery, Milan

A black corridor, 240 meters long, 120 centimetres wide and 2 meters high is built into the national museum of contemporary art in Romania, which previously served as the “House of the People” under the tyrannical regime of the dictator Ceausescu (1918-1989). 386 women were gathered in order to fill this space for two hours, at midnight on the night of October 14th. They were placed at the sides of the corridor and asked to repeat over and over the sentence “give me money” in Romanian. Each woman was paid 20 leus for her work (about 6 Euros), and invited to also keep the donations she collected. The people who arrived were brought into the museum one by one, after passing a detector in a security check. The detector, the time of day and the pouring rain outside were all an important part of the process undergone by the visitors to the exhibition.

“The House of the People” is the second largest government building in the world (after the Pentagon), and it expresses the communist megalomania which was entirely disconnected from practical need or the life of the city. After the Romanian revolution of 1989 and the end of Ceausescu’s rule, the building was re-branded by the new authorities as a product of the national genius, and it symbolises Romania’s problematic relationship with its recent history. “The House of the People” could have been described as the perfect set for evoking the post-communist syndrome, when Santiago Sierra’s corridor erased the museum space and confined the visitors to a certain path of enforced repetition.

The installation offers a commentary on the question of what it means to be locked into a previous perception, and to wake into a nightmare of schematic thinking, in a space where vision is blocked, because it lacks depth or defining lines. This project continues in a local context Sierra’s larger investigation into questions regarding borders, their relevance and flexibility. This is part and parcel of his attempt to push things to their political and economic conclusion, in order to create scenarios which operate as exercises tormenting in their futility, in the burdens they impose and their escalation of existing conflicts.

The corridor creates an extra-territorial space in which Sierra confronts the question of rehabilitating the Romanian people, in the transition from a state of enslaved masses in a dictatorial state to a state of subjects in a democratic state, which suffers still from the past mires.