Switzerland: Mecca cube for Millennium celebration

Switzerland: Mecca cube for Millennium celebration

See here for more on the Mecca Cube.

The city of Neuchâtel decided to display the cube, explaining it thus (PDF):

Despite the success of CUBE HAMBURG, a number of topnotch exhibition curators, all of whom have assured Schneider of how greatly they appreciate the CUBE, have failed to obtain permission to mount the project in Saragossa, Paris, London or New York. “In my opinion,” the artist asserts, “the CUBE has long proven its aptness for travel.”

Schneider takes pleasure in the fact that CUBE NEUCHATEL 2011 represents a second place in the world for the CUBE to be visited, and he hopes that in the coming years such a work will at last be welcomed in other cities as well: for instance, in Venice, Berlin, New York and London. Surely, CUBE NEUCHATEL 2011 will serve to demonstrate for all of Switzerland how the population deals with the distrust and misgivings between cultures. Describing the beauty of a cube invisible under its jet-black shrouding, Yasar Erdogan was put in mind of “...when one begins seeing black roses in the night.”

See more on the cube and the Abstract Protest exhibition here..


An article in Le Matin describes the debate on this art project:

An art work project referring to Mecca is one of the projects of the Millennium Expo in the Swiss city of Neuchâtel, which will be celebrating its 1000th anniversary next year. The project is stirring up ill-feelings among the organizers and a fear of debate.

For a thousand years Neuchâtel residents cultivated their reputation as being reserved. In preparing for the commendable anniversary, they're not deviating from that rule. Since the beginning of the week, the capital of the canton is murmuring about a nasty affair: the president of the Millennium association resigned because he refused to support one of the expo projects shortlisted for the festivities in 2011.

(The cube in Hamburg)

The project would have 'religious connotations", but nobody wants to say more, explained newsapapers Le Temps and the local L'Express. Interested in the mystery, Le Matin didn't have much difficulty discovering what's shaking Neuchâtel. It's an abstract work of art in the shape of a black box, making a life-size copy of the Kaaba, the monument in Mecca around which Muslim pilgrims turn seven times.

This black cube, designed by the German artist Gregor Schneider, has gotten a lot of media attention. In 2005 the authorities in Venice refused to place it in St Mark's Square, for fear of provoking Islamic fundamentalists. The same happened a year later in Berlin. In April 2007, Hamburg finally agreed and the exhibition of the cube in a city square finally received praise from the harshes imams in Germany, in the name of dialogue between cultures.

It was in this sense that the Centre d'art de Neuchâtel (CAN, Neuchâtel Art Center) propsed to give the cube a place of honor at the Place du Port of the capital in 2011. It's direcor, Arthur de Pury, would have loved to explain this to Le Matin when they contacted him, but he'd been ordered by the authorities not to say anything before the final choice is made among the 110 projects. The head of the Bureau du Millénaire (Millenium office), Christophe Valley defends this code of silence, saying that it's useless to debate in public about a project which might not be realized.

Among the city fathers and elites on the many committees and sub-committees of the Millenium, the debate has yet to be warm and sustaining, as it led to a resignation. But there hasn't been much transperacy either. A member of the steering committee, the supreme body, Maria-Angela Guyot (SVP) complains that information has been hidden from the beginning.

Yvan Perrin, also of the SVP and a member of the Honoarry Committee, isn't more in the know. He says that the public should be involved in the debate, and that the need to talk with the Muslim community in the canton.

One might think that only rightist were left in the dark, to prevent angry cries. Yvan Perrin remarks prove the contrary. Moreover, the president of PS in the city of Neuchâtel, Matthieu Béguelin, a member of the Millenium Committee, says he was informed last Monday of the disagreements, but without any reference to the famous cube.

Now the town of Neuchâtel decided to end its silence, and put out a press release confiring the existence of the cube project and setting a date for a press conference [ed: This was a couple of weeks ago]. This about-face, says Le Matin, is due to their investigation.

Source: Le Matin (French), h/t Al-Kanz

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