Andrea Wolfensberger “Fault lines”
For those of us with healthy ears the ability to hear and to identify tones and sounds is a process so ordinary and automatic that we seldom consciously devote our attention to it. We use our sensory organs, trust in their proper functioning and normally accept the results unquestioningly and as a matter of course. In fact we become aware of our complex processes of perception only when some disruption makes its way into them or their limitations become plainly apparent. It is precisely here that the artist Andrea Wolfensberger’s work finds its point of departure: she reaches, so to speak, into the interfaces of our sensory organs and subtly questions the automatisms of our perception. In her sculptures tones – spoken words intended for the ear – are visualised for the eye and transposed into a haptically perceptible presence; in this way they are simultaneously rendered tangible and displayed.
Wolfensberger records the sound waves of individual words or sounds with a scientist’s attention to detail and translates their lines and curves into three-dimensional forms. Driven by her fascination and the question of what happens when a medial transformation takes place – when words become volumetric figures – Wolfensberger plumbs language’s potential for being formed sculpturally. For example, tiny changes emerge when the same words are pronounced repeatedly: none of the sound waves recorded correspond to those preceding or following them. The subtle differentiations which emerge between the different recordings have become increasingly important to the artist’s work. On the one hand this is true in terms of sculptural aspects, because subtle and fascinating deviations appear within the pattern of these words. On the other hand, however, thematic concerns have led the artist to her exploration of repetition, which is based on a juxtaposing and reflection upon analogue singularity and digital reproduction. Wolfensberger thus also raises questions that have lost none of their urgency in our contemporary world defined by digital media and technologies – even long after Walter Benjamin’s well-known reflections on the ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’. Because at present, it seems possible to renegotiate the terms of the critical debate regarding digitality by means of a kind of nostalgic return to the analogue, bound up with a yearning for authenticity and singularity.
In Fault lines the upcoming exhibition at the Galerie Gisèle Linder in Basel, Wolfensberger devotes her attention primarily to sculptural works to be presented on the wall, whose contours – ‘folds’ – are based on recordings of specific spoken words. Both in her choice of words and of materials the artist plays with ‘negative space’, with what lies between. In works like between one and zero or between here and there, the recorded curves of semantically opposed pairs, such as ‘one’ and ‘zero’ or ‘here’ and ‘there’, collide together, merge into one another and form the sculptural surface. The materials used – mounting card or corrugated cardboard painted white – augment the delicacy of the network of lines and cause a certain transparency to appear in the sculptures. By using these materials the artist simultaneously enters into the grey area between model and autonomous sculpture and stimulates a critical questioning of the divisions between specific art forms.
With their austere and moving detachment, their shimmering surfaces and their lines and surfaces merging into one another, Andrea Wolfensberger’s sculptures speak to the viewer’s eye and vividly demonstrate the artist’s interest in processes of communication with both the surrounding space and the viewer. It almost seems as though we could hear the spoken words resonating through the swaying forms.
Frederike Harrant, November 2013
Translation: Michael Wetzel
Luzia Hürzeler "How to sleep among wolves 1"
In her video installation How to sleep among wolves 1, Luzia Hürzeler subverts the distinction between carrying something out and the ability to imagine it. As in the double meaning of the work’s title, an overlapping between instruction and question persists in the videos. For example, the artist’s wish to sleep among wolves inserts itself unremarked – as though it could come true in this way – into the stories told by a zoo employee (Othmar Röthlin), it links images of the sleeping artist with those of sleeping wolves and it produces the vision that a realistic sculpture of the artist could one day be placed in a zoo’s wolf enclosure.
The division between imagination and realisation is also called into question by reassigning traditional object-subject relationships. The fact that the artist herself becomes model to a sculptor (Rudolf Rempfler) causes a shift in the constellation of creator, model and figure, because as model for a sleeping figure she dreams about the realisation of her own work and, when she wakes up, her different roles catch up with her. And not least – she places herself in a position comparable to that of wolves in a zoo: The animals are, of course, also exhibited objects and parts of a model that is meant to make zoo visitors develop a mental image of their natural habitat.
In How to sleep among wolves 1, as in many of her other video works, Luzia Hürzeler links techniques of artistic representation with questions regarding the coexistence of humans and animals. In Il Nonno (2009/10), for example, she confronts a living lion with his stuffed grandfather. He ignores human beings’ efforts to make his ancestor into an object that seems as alive as possible just as laconically as the artist’s cat ignores the life-like bust of the artist made of meat in Selbstporträt für die Katz (Self-portrait for the Cat) (2006). Likewise, in Die Forelle (The Trout) (2012) the exhibition apparatus oscillating between monitor and aquarium is apparently noted by the trout only when it begins to threaten its existence.
In How to sleep among wolves 1 the precarious relationship between human beings and animals is put to the test by means of the imagination. Without actually crossing the boundary of any zoo enclosure, its mediating and simultaneously distancing effect is translated into artistic inquiries. Being able to sleep among wolves remains a myth, but it enriches mental images and dreams.
Translation: Michael Wetzel