SPOTLIGHT // The Uncanny House - Museum Casa di Goethe, Rome

SPOTLIGHT // The Uncanny House - Museum Casa di Goethe, Rome

By Nadine Ethner


Museum Casa di Goethe

until September 1, 2024

Rome, via del Corso 18 (piazza del Popolo), Italy

Artists: Mathis Altmann, Dora Budor, Tomaso De Luca, Anna Franceschini, Lenard Giller, Caspar Heinemann, Mélanie Matranga, Brandon Ndife, Giangiacomo Rossetti, Gregor Schneider, Max Hooper Schneider, Augustas Serapinas, Ser Serpas, Giovanna Silva, Analisa Teachworth, Nico Vascellari, Rachel Whiteread, Marina Xenofontos

Curated by Andrea Baccin and Ilaria Marotta

The exhibition The Uncanny House, investigates the terms “uncanny” and “house”, creating a new dialogue that is dedicated to these phenomena from the perspective of the present. It examines the "uncanny" as a leitmotif that has inspired literary fantasy, fairy tales, horror stories and artistic creation since the early 19th century. The works of eighteen international artists tell of the presence of the uncanny in the house where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived in the center of Rome between 1786 and 1788. Now that the physical traces of his presence have disappeared, interstitial spaces, chimeras and forgotten voices become visible.

Nico Vascellari, La Quinta Stanza (The Fifth Room), 2024 Live-streamed video from an underground room Courtesy: Studio Nico Vascellari

Nico Vascellari, La Quinta Stanza (The Fifth Room), 2024 Live-streamed video from an underground room Courtesy: Studio Nico Vascellari

Gregor Schneider, with the work Odenkirchener Str. 202: Rheydt, elaborates a reflection on the concept of historical removal in the former residence of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels; Dora Budor, with traces on the walls, presents a site-specific work made especially for the Casa di Goethe, as does Nico Vascellari, who refers to a story concerning the place that hosts the exhibition: the story of Guido Zabban, a Jewish family father who remained hidden in the mezzanine of the apartment to escape the rounding up of the city by German troops; Rachel Whiteread, in her constant artistic research towards the idea of home, with casts of objects, investigates the phantasmal nature of this space. There are also Max Hooper Schneider’s childhood music box, Mathis Altmann’s doll houses, Ser Serpas’s objects stacked in the attic, Augustas Serapinas’s abandoned windows, Marina Xenofontos’s closed doors, Mélanie Matranga’s yellowed curtains, Caspar Heinemann’s inaccessible treasure chests, Anna Franceschini’s living wigs, Brandon Ndife’s manipulated objects, Tomaso De Luca’s insidious traps, Giovanna Silva’s faint signs, Analisa Teachworth’s depths, Giangiacomo Rossetti’s dark atmospheres, and Lenard Giller’s fickle ghosts.

Giovanna Silva, JWG, 2024 Museum Casa di Goethe 2024

Giovanna Silva, JWG, 2024 Museum Casa di Goethe 2024

"The exhibition aims to open up a dialog with the house itself, where Goethe lived over two centuries ago," write the curators. "The artists are invited to interpret the sense of the uncanny in the domestic environment. In some cases, new, site-specific productions have been created, in others, the selected works explore the contrasting feelings associated with the uncanny. The house provided an especially favored locus for uncanny disturbances: its apparent domesticity, its residue of family history and nostalgia, its role as the last and most intimate shelter of private comfort sharpened by contrast of terror of invasion by alien spirits."

Following the 2022 exhibition Italian Journey XXI—The Gaze We Turn on the Other (Viaggio in Italia XXI—Lo sguardo sull’altro), which explored the subject of travel, we now turn to the topic of the house and to the place where Goethe spent most of his sojourn in Italy between 1786 and 1788. Gregor H. Lersch, director of the Museum Casa di Goethe explains: Certainly no other writer is as inextricably associated with houses as sites of literary production and “lieux de mémoire” than the German who gave his name to this museum: from the house where he was born in Frankfurt am Main, to the garden house and his home on Frauenplan in Weimar and, of course, the Casa di Goethe in Rome, are environments that, because of their authenticity and closeness to the historical person, create a feeling that visitors repeatedly describe as uncanny. Many passages in Goethe's works, for example in Faust, also show Goethe's interest in the dark side of human existence."

Catalog: Editors: Andrea Baccin, Ilaria Marotta and Gregor H. Lersch, with a foreword by Gregor H. Lersch, a text by the curators, a photo series of the renovation works in the apartment, Via del Corso 18, Rome, of the 1990ies and texts and photos of the works in the exhibition, SORRY PRESS®, Munich (Germany).

(Press: Casa di Goethe, Rome)