The Spanish artist Santiago Sierra parked 6 cars in front of a former synagogue in the city of Pulheim, near Cologne. Rubber tubes extend from the autos' exhaust pipes into a top window of the building, pumping carbon monoxide into the building.
Visitors can take a tour, one at a time. They must wear a gas-mask, and are escorted by a fireman. During the tour, they are shown a read-out documenting that the level of carbon monoxide would kill them without the gas-mask.
The installation is part of an 11-year series of Holocaust-related installations and shows in the former synagogue. Sierra says the point of the work is to undo the banalization and the trivialization of the Holocaust.
The FAZ describes (G) the reaction:
The journalist Ralph Giordano criticized the action as an "unparallelled piece of infamy." "If Sierra had even the smallest inner contact to the world of the victims, he would have ababdoned these doings in Pulheim," said the Holocaust survivor. The Central Council of Jews in Germany renewed its strong criticism: "This fictional and tasteless artistic spectacle not only violates the dignity of the victims of the Holocaust, but of the entire Jewish community," said General Secretary Stephan J. Kramer.
On the radio this morning, an elderly woman phoned the call-in show supporting the work. She was a Jewish holocaust survivor who had lost over 90 relatives to the Nazis. She said she found Sierra's installation to be a refreshingly blunt way to convey the reality of the Holocaust to a generation which knows it only from TV screens. She admired the way in which the State was brought into the work. Previously, it had herded people into rooms full of invisible, deadly gas. Now, it provides them with protection and escort, precisely to ensure their lives are spared.