Perhaps the cleaner can be forgiven for thinking the work of art was no more than a few scattered pieces of debris – the installation “Dwelling 6/2016” was in a church rather than a gallery, and the effect the artist was going for was to show the unstable life of refugees as they arrive in Europe.
At the centre of the work was a stack of pallets covered in foil emergency blankets, this was surrounded by foil figurines reminiscent of people adrift at sea.
The pallets represent the way refugees are transported around Europe like a cargo, while the safety blankets symbolized warmth, or the lack of it, Menze-Kuhn told The Local
But this subtlety was lost on the cleaner at the Phillippus Church in Mannheim, who swept up the foil statues and threw them in the bin.
“I though about what I could do,” Menze-Kuhn said. “I knew I couldn't repair it.”
The she had a brainwave.
She went and found the bin with the foil remains in it and simply put it in front of the pallets.
“The parts which the cleaner put in the bin symbolized for me all the refugees who are coming here that nobody knows what to do with,” she said. “It had a deep poignancy.”
“It's unleashed a big discussion,” she adds
Photo: Romana Menze-Kuhn
Phillipus Church's pastor Kayra Seufert for one was astounded by the new direction.
In its new form “the fundamental statement of the work has been drastically changed,” she told Die Welt
This is far from the first time a cleaner has considered a work of modern art fit for the bin.
In Milan last year, cleaners swept up an exhibit called 'We were going to dance tonight', mistaking the empty bottles and ciagrette buts for debris from the previous night's party.
A Damien Hirst collection of beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays was thrown out of an exhibition in London in 2001, while in 2004 a bag of paper and cardboard by German artist Gustav Metzger was cleared away at the Tate Britain.