Robert Glas, 1986, Or a Sphinx’s Interior / Videostill © Robert Glas 2022
Robert Glas: Rooms of Muted Violence
Apr 25 – Jun 9, 2024
Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art
Oldenburg, Germany

Rooms of Muted Violence is a solo exhibition by the Dutch artist Robert Glas. Glas’s practice involves ongoing research into bureaucratically produced justice. With film and film installations as the predominant outcome, he aims to open up spaces to scrutinize the ways bureaucracies produce justice, what kind of justice they produce, and at whose gain and whose cost.

The exhibition revolves around the video installation 1986, Or a Sphinx’s Interior (2022), which takes inspiration from the noticeable expansion in the prison system from the 1980s onward throughout the Western world. The decades-long abolitionist practices before this U-turn stands in stark contrast with today’s virtually uncontested call for harsher punishments.

For this video installation, Glas reproduced, at 1:1 scale, an architectural model of a Rotterdam prison cell. The original was built by the renowned Dutch prison architect Carel Weeber in 1986 as part of his design process. Working with actor Ali Ben Horsting (in the role of the architect’s younger self), a former detainee of the prison, and Weeber himself, Glas created a video work examining Weeber’s visit to the test model in the 1980s. The initial practical question of “How does one test a prison cell?” leads to underlying questions on how a life and a body are affected by incarceration.

The other works in the exhibition, also based on extensive research into both the justice and European asylum systems, share a calm and contemplative tone. The artist instrumentalizes conversation as a primary tool in tackling major political, ideological, and societal questions, unfolding from his interest in the possibilities of using a common language to move beyond the communication breakdown between the formalized world of bureaucratic justice and the world of everyday life.

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