Fifty-eight vertically placed wooden beams, each 1.9 metres in length, bisect the virtually square interior of Stommeln Synagogue. Five beams of this wall have toppled, with the gap commanding a view of the fan set up behind it – an almost figurative presence that keeps blowing a relentless wind into the beholder’s face. The wall of beams derives its stability exclusively from the beams’ small footprint and from their mutual fixation. However, the stability seems rather shaky. It borders on the miraculous that not more, or indeed all, of the beams have toppled in a disastrous domino-effect. It is easy to imagine the sudden noise and chaos. The five beams on the floor have crashed into the room from the direction of the torah shrine that probably used to house four torah scrolls. A man-made wind has caused them to fall. The beams remaining upright continue to harbour the kinetic potential for toppling, while the event itself, having occurred as it did in the absence of an audience, has come to an end for the time being in the form of the installation.
The simplicity of the installation by Roman Signer creates a high metaphoric density. In its consistency, the language of form actually outweighs this metaphoric density, and this explains why interpretations of the clearly more loquacious elements of this work (including wall, inside/outside, wind, word, fall, metamorphosis, change, and others) have had little to add to the immediate impression.
The ground-breaking, sometimes perhaps even restrictive associative range of a former synagogue, or a Jewish memorial used as showroom, admittedly defines the voice of Signer’s work to a certain degree (as it would the work of any other artist). Yet Roman Signer manages to generate – in interaction with the historic determination of the memorial – an artistic interpretation largely free of stereotypes that refuses to yield to the predetermined significance of the room. There is nothing of a warning index finger, of empathetic poetry, or misguided identification with the victims. Instead, we encounter a language of forms that uses the rhizomatic layering and simultaneous cohesion of a symbol to pick up on the given facts and to return them to the language of art.