Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Art Recipe: The Weisse Cube by Addi & Werner Weisse

This is the recipe as written down by Arnold Tuppley for the Weisse twins' now infamous work: The Weisse Cube.

You can read the story behind this work here.


This is an event that requires the cooperation of the public to make it work. The white cube set down into the floor of the space is the focus for the event, where an artist is interred and supplied with materials and equipment by the public. The artist’s job is then to produce work with those materials. The quality of the work produced should challenge the supremacy of the event itself, which must last exactly eighteen days. After that, an exhibition is held in the cube itself to display the works the artist has created for the public to judge for themselves which side has won.


·         1 warehouse or similar space, at least 900 sq ft, with a ceiling of at least 5m
·         scaffolding
·         plywood or similar boarding materials
·         20 litres white emulsion paint for the cube, the platform can be painted or not as you wish
·         1 artist
·         1 ladder
·         1 hidden door in the side of the cube
·         1 emergency exit
·         1 noose
·         1 security guard
·         publicity


Find a suitable venue and measure your artist’s height.

A large space is required for this piece, preferably a warehouse or some other such structure with a high ceiling of five or more metres. You need to ensure that there is enough room to build within the space a raised platform that is twice the artist’s height, or 3.44m (twice Werner’s height and the height of the original cube), whichever is the greater.

Build the false floor with the cube as a hole in its centre going down to the real floor below.

Within the space erect the floor with scaffolding and plywood to the height calculated above. Stairs should take the visitor straight up to this level from the entrance to the space so that they are unaware of the real floor below them until they come to the central hole, the reason for their visit, which should be located as near as possible to the very centre of the room. At this centre, the hole goes down to the floor below, as wide and long as it is deep, a cube, whose internal walls should be painted white. There should be no discernable point of entry or exit from the cube, but there must be a hidden door, one that the artist is aware of but which cannot be seen by the public, that leads to an escape route from the building in case of an emergency, should one arise, and an optional toilet.

Along the top edge of the cube the minimum of protective cordons, fences, or warnings, should be put up to allow for local health and safety laws, the ideal being nothing at all. Any cordon or barrier should not be visible from within the cube at the natural eye level of the participating artist so that their view is solely the white walls of the cube and then the ceiling, with no interference. At the same time the visitor to the piece should be able to look down and observe the artist, and be able to throw down to them equipment or materials.

The raised floor can be painted any colour you like, or not at all.

Employ a security guard for the duration of the event.

A security guard must be employed to watch over the artist, and to make sure no untoward behaviour is experienced by the artist from members of the public. If necessary they can help the public to throw down the things they have brought, or to stop them throwing things at the artist directly. They must also keep note of the artist’s behaviour to ensure they do not spend their time hiding under the false floor or overusing the facilities provided, or in any other way trying to shirk their responsibility as an artist, otherwise the piece will be rendered null and void. In this way, the security guard acts as watchman and invigilator for the piece.

Publicise the event.

Care must be taken to ensure sufficient publicity has been arranged to avoid the prospect of the artist sitting in the cube with absolutely nothing to do. It is the responsibility of the organisers to ensure the public are aware of the event and of the role they have to play to make it work.­­­­­­­­­­­

Hang a noose from the scaffolding under the platform near the cube on the morning of the first day.

It has become a rather macabre tradition to hang a noose from the scaffolding under the false floor in memory of Addi Weisse, the author of the piece, during a solemn ceremony that remembers both brothers. This should be carried out on the first morning of the event, with all those involved in its re-creation descending down into the cube, lighting two candles in remembrance, and then entering the space beneath the raised floor through the hidden door where a noose is hung from the scaffolding. When this ceremony is complete, everyone returns to the cube, and each exits, ascending the ladder, leaving the artist on their own. The ladder is withdrawn, and the artist blows out the candles signifying the start of the event.

Use a ladder to help the Artist gain access down into the cube every morning, and to ascend every evening, for a continuous period of eighteen days.

The artist should be interned at 10am on every morning, having the ladder withdrawn, and exiting at least 8 hours later. This pattern is repeated every day for eighteen consecutive days. They enter with nothing except for the clothes they stand up in, and an optional two litre bottle of drinking water.

Once the event has started the public are allowed to come in and throw down into the cube tools, materials, equipment, anything they think appropriate with which the artist can then make art. The artist’s task is then to produce art whose veracity and quality must surpass the spectacle of the event.

After the eighteenth day, build a staircase down from the edge of the cube to its floor, and prepare it for exhibition.

The conclusion to the event is reached after the eighteenth day has finished. The following day all debris must be removed form the cube, and a staircase built down to its floor for the public to gain access easily. An exhibition should then be set up in the cube of the work that the artist has produced during their time in the cube, a private view held, and then the exhibition opened to the public to visit for a period of one week.

The Weisse Cube

Arnold Tuppley was in Berlin at the time as a guest of Günter Hoffman, staying with the Weisse twins in the flat that Hoffman paid for. He grew used to their constant arguing which only abated during brief periods of intense concentration when they were working on some new idea or hopeful project. But on one particular night their familiar argument took on a new viciousness in their little flat near the centre of Berlin.

Addi’s relationship with Werner had always been close, but from an early age it was clear that Werner had all the talent to make things, to bring to life thoughts and ideas that otherwise would have remained stuck in the limbo of Addi’s mind, whose fingers were simply not as adept at transferring visions into reality. Addi’s lack of ability in making the works he conceived, having to rely on his brother’s practical nature, imbued in him a lack of self confidence, a feeling that in some way he was only half an artist, which Werner was well aware of.

Arnold Tuppley had been out exploring the city, and returned to find the twins mid-argument, with a friend of Addi’s, Zara Friese, sitting on the sofa making little headway in engaging either of the two in a different conversation.

The argument continued as Tuppley took a seat next to Zara, bringing in specific cases and animosities which came to the surface, lubricated by cheap beer, until after another assault by Addi, Werner, the older of the two by minutes, cruelly fought back again, claiming his brother had done nothing but ride on his coat tails his entire life.

Their flat was a half finished open plan studio, with rough bricks broken where two rooms had been knocked together. Werner was in the small kitchen area while Addi was pacing and shouting from the other side of the flat, goading his brother over and over again that he had no ideas of his own, and far from riding on anyone’s coat tails he was the only real artist in the family. Werner screamed abuse back at him and, grabbing a knife that lay on the worktop next to him, threw it towards Addi. It missed, by a long way, but the shock to both of them from the transformation of violent argument to violent attack was apparent as Addi, suddenly sick with fright, ran from the flat, followed soon after by an ashen Werner.

Arnold Tuppley and Zara Friese were left in the twins’ flat, alone. Though the argument had been in German, Tuppley had heard it enough times to have gathered what they were on about, and with Zara translating into faultless English, Tuppley was left in no doubt as to what was going on between the two brothers.

Tuppley had met Zara a couple of times before at bars with the twins. Addi was obviously attracted to her, but despite Zara rejecting his advances they still got on well as friends, and Tuppley too found her good company to be with. After Addi and Werner had both walked out, they too decided to leave and headed off to Zara’s place, not far from where the twins lived.
The following day the twins had made up, as they always did, and Addi went to Zara’s flat to apologise for them both. But the twins’ relationship had clearly taken a knock, and later that day and into the evening in a bar with Günter Hoffman, Zara Friese, and Arnold Tuppley, the argument continued.

This time it was rather restrained, each trying to make their point more politely and with more consideration than usual, but there was an atmosphere building, with both making vein attempts at recruiting their friends to their own particular side of the argument. They all knew what had happened in the flat, and so no one wanted to get involved.

A silence settled between them after they had exhausted all possibilities of gaining any external support, then Addi left the bar with a sour look on his face.

They were, of course, rather poor, as struggling young artist are wont to be, and maintained their less than luxurious lifestyle by working for Hoffman to hang shows and help with their promotion – in short, doing whatever Hoffman asked of them.  They had come to the attention of Hoffman following their rather nihilistic installation “Entfremdung” (Alienation), which had the effect of alienating the brothers almost entirely from the artistic establishment of Berlin, while providing Hoffman the opportunity to take two, young, imaginative artists under his wing.  Hoffman paid their rent, and if they had even a slightly interesting idea for art they wanted to make, he would willingly pay for the materials, and if it looked promising would put it in a show, or even set one up especially.

So when Addi returned to the bar that evening just before it closed, he brought back with him an idea, a complete work of art, a concept that would, in essence, challenge Werner to an artistic fight that would define the difference between the twins and prove once and for all that either they were nothing without each other, or that from now on they must work apart.
He could have had no idea at the time that in fact what he brought back with him that evening was their deaths.

Addi’s plan was to construct a room, a cube, 3.5 metres or so along each side, which was set down into the floor of a much larger space, open at the top, much like a pit, with no visible escape route; it was a trap, literally and metaphorically.  Werner would be let down into the cube in the morning via a ladder which was then removed, and the public invited in to freely provide Werner with whatever art materials they chose, or food, or abuse – whatever they wanted.  Werner’s task was then to create art with what he was given within the eighteen days that the event would last for.  Each morning he would descend, and each evening emerge, but during the day there was no way out, and no option but to work.
What Addi had done by putting Werner into this forced space was to cleverly turn his own brother into a work of art by making him the artist observed, the idea of an artist, exposed to the public to gawp at and throw tit-bits down to and watch, like a lion feeding, as Werner tried to challenge the supremacy of the event by creating art that was more important than the concept of the artist.

Günter Hoffman loved the idea and enthusiastically provided an empty warehouse for the event, all the scaffolding and boarding materials, and the publicity required to ensure the public’s participation, but it was clearly an unfair fight from the start; Werner was a sacrificial victim to Addi’s ego, and whether Werner liked it or not, it was such an audacious plan, such a brilliant idea, that he had no choice but to agree, bated into a trap that there was no way out of.

The show started well.

The crowds gathered and threw down so many things to Werner that every evening he had to sift the rubbish from what he could usefully use so as to not completely fill the space.  There were those who enthusiastically provided him with materials he requested, and those who came to abuse him in the absence of his brother, claiming that together they had degraded the very idea of art.

A security guard had been employed by Hoffman to keep the public away from the edge of the cube to stop them falling in since Addi was categorical that there should be no visible barrier.  But in the end the guard was more usefully employed in keeping away those who talked incessantly at Werner, making it almost impossible for him to concentrate on his work.

Tuppley, who had moved in with Zara after the knife throwing incident which had unexpectedly brought them together as more than just friends, kept Werner company during some of the quieter days, while Addi kept his distance, resisting the temptation to openly goad his brother.

By the seventh day Werner thought he was getting somewhere with the work he was producing that would be displayed publicly inside the cube as the conclusion to the event.  Sadly, however, a conclusion was never to come.

Sometime in the early afternoon on the eighth day the fire broke out.

Günter Hoffman had insisted on a secret door being installed in the wall of the cube that Werner knew about but could not be seen by the public.  It led under the false floor that surrounded the cube straight to an exit from the warehouse in case of just such an emergency.

There were only a couple of people milling about when the explosion happened.  Something in the pile of offerings thrown down to Werner had caught fire and blown up, throwing Werner across the cube, knocking him out when his head hit the hard concrete floor.  By the time the security guard had got down into the cube the smoke was already thick from the intense fire.  As he tried to drag Werner to safety through the forest of scaffold poles under the false floor, smoke was sucked in with them. They never made it.

Their path became obscured as they were enveloped by the thick smoke, which in the end killed them both.

The next day Addi went missing.