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L'Air du Temps

Migros Museum, Zurich

Collection printemps/ete' 2004. Collecting implies a continuous movement back and forth. To collect means to establish a history, but it also means to rework and renew it. The exhibition 'L'air du temps – collection printemps/ete' 2004' presents the latest acquisitions of the migros museum für gegenwartskunst together with earlier works from the collection.

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collection printemps/été 2004

Cathy Wilkes – Urs Fischer – Kerstin Kartscher – Juan Muñoz – Enzo Cucchi – Paul Thek – Mathilde ter Heijne – Emmanuelle Antille – Christoph Büchel – Alighiero E Boetti – Ugo Rondinone – Fabrice Gygi – Marlene Dumas – Elodie Pong – Ed Ruscha – Sylvie Fleury – Monica Bonvicini – Stephen Willats - Kerim Seiler

Collecting implies a continuous movement back and forth. To collect means to establish a history, but it also means to rework and renew it.

The exhibition 'L'air du temps – collection printemps/été 2004' presents the latest acquisitions of the migros museum für gegenwartskunst together with earlier works from the collection. Throughout the history of the collection, it has not only been the presentation of a given work that matters, but also the primacy of the idea behind it and the process that springs from it. This is why it is necessary to render an account of social issues and to acknowledge social responsibility, precisely along the lines laid down by Migros founder Gottlieb Duttweiler. Thanks to a progressive acquisitions policy throughout the 1990s, the collection holds numerous important works by Swiss and international artists. Apart from those that reflect the earlier positions of Minimalist or Conceptual Art, many of the works in the collection are marked by an element of participation, and contribute to contemporary artistic discourses. At present, the conceptual priority of the curators is to integrate the collection within a lively environment that is in touch with contemporary artistic production and addresses an open-minded audience.

Worn-out lawn chairs, small tables and paintings incorporating delicate geometric shapes are the protagonists in Cathy Wilkes' installations. The objects bear traces of their usage and history. The formalist language of the installation recalls the art of the 1920s and 1930s, and its unbending belief in progress. Our Misfortune (2001), however, not only aims to illustrate the ideal of a pure, disembodied intellectualism via abstraction, it also tries to convey a sensibility to the fragile and the ambiguous. In Senza Titolo (1985/86), Enzo Cucchi, whose artistic practice stands in the tradition of Pintura Metafisica, seeks possibilities for the creation of a unity between the world and the individual. On five slabs of reinforced concrete, a mystical circle is drawn around an engraving of a fragmented human figure. Urs Fischer offers the visitor a chance to develop a narrative around his artwork. The sculpture Glaskatzensex – Transparent Tale (2000) reconstructs an architecture of glass walls, some adorned with silicon skins from previous exhibition rooms, within which is the object that lends the artwork its name: a glass cat. Central to the fragile drawings of Kerstin Kartscher is die Eisläuferin (2002) [the ice skater], a lonely, female fairy figure, persistently drawing the same circle in the ice, while the phrase 'endless' is inscribed in the mountainous landscape around her. Equally uncanny are the Nîmes Balconies (1994) of Juan Muñoz – squashed, defunct balconies, epitomes of a space between public sphere and protected intimacy. Paul Thek‘s pictures are painted on newspapers. With their fragmentary poise and material endurance, they hover between wavering intensity and timeless Vanitas aesthetics. Bojangles in Flames (1974) shows Thek's alter ego, Bo Jangles, at the moment of his tragic martyrdom, while Caterpillar in Storm of Leaves (1975) shows sketch-like pictures of a caterpillar on its way to a pile of leaves. Ugo Rondinone's installation The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1997) seductively oscillates between romanticizing nature and narcotic depression. The effects of the ink-panorama negatives, reminiscent of 19th Century copper engravings, are intensified by soft music in the background. Like a model out of a do-it-yourself kit, and based on a square grid, Kerim Seiler's installation Lattenwald (2002) - Plank Forest - expands into the room and blocks the visitor's narrow path past the tall wooden girders. Glorified by way of a glass display case are a chainsaw, protective goggles, a half-empty bottle of beer, bread and cheese. All of which are objects that together form a circumscription of masculine attributes. Traces of craftsmen, but which testify to the omnipresence of artists.

Fabrice Gygi refers his work Bureau de Vote (2001) to the presidential race between Al Gore and George W. Busch - in which the voting booth becomes an illusory place of healing. The video piece An Oval Office Tour with President George W. Bush (2003), by Christoph Büchel, takes the viewer on a tourist promenade through George W. Bush's office. The collection also holds an important piece by Alighiero e Boetti, which takes a stand against 'uniform' world-views. Alighiero E Boetti has repeatedly devoted himself to cartography and the examination of its changes, shifts and dissolutions. During the creation of this piece the artist spent several years in Afghanistan, where he asked a number of women to knit 'Mappa'. The individual penmanship of their needlework elevates each Mappa (1983) to a singular piece, and points to the fact that there are many perspectives on our world. Mathilde ter Heijne's video installation Small Things End, Great Things Endure (2001), based on Uwe Johnson's novel 'Jahrestage', raises the issue of collective guilt. Gesine Cresspahl, whose mother was unable to bear the historical burden of Nazi atrocities and committed suicide, suffers from similar feelings of guilt at the unfolding of the Vietnam War. Ter Heijne invents a new ending for the novel: she plays Gesine repeating her mother's deed.

Language plays a central part in Ed Ruscha's work. In works such as Heaven & Hell (1988), verbal elements refer to moral codes and traditional values. The picture Westward Ho (1986) wavers between kitsch and good taste. Red censorship marks remind us of the absence of previously dominant linguistic elements. In this way mnemonic traces of discourse appear, through which a narrative moment is once again embedded in the work. Monica Bonvicini's works are radical – A Romance (2003) consists of a massive steel frame, encompassing three segments of bulletproof glass, on which Freud's definition of agoraphobia is inscribed in fragments. The work not only speaks against a specific social and political situation, but also against an architecture that was shaped by and for men. In Learning to Live Within a Confined Space (1978) Stephen Willats examines the living conditions in social housing and the constraining effects on its inhabitants. Through discussion and photographic documentation, he tries to explore and promote the possibilities of the individual, where the idiosyncrasies and freedoms of single personalities may lie. Emmanuelle Antille's Radiant Spirits (2000) seduces the viewer into a multi-dimensional and voyeuristic video installation, which at first appears to be disturbing and decadent, but which is then revealed as an erotic fantasy world that is actually conformist and bourgeois. The film Secrets for Sale (2003) by Elodie Pong also oscillates between voyeurism and assertive self-expression. The artist negotiated a price for the secrets of strangers, who were then recorded on camera as they narrated them, in a kind of striptease of the soul. The work Indifference (1994) by Marlene Dumas shows a society in a surreal environment that has freed itself from all restraints. Sylvie Fleury is known for her excessive, fetishist collections of luxury objects. During 1997 and 1998, Fleury devoted herself to the hubcaps of classic American limousines. According to Fleury, the automobile industry is to men what the world of fashion and cosmetics is to women – both spark deep desires and hidden wishes. She-Devil on Wheels (1997/1998) shows the hubcaps as potent status symbols.

Curators of the exhibition: Heike Munder & Raphael Gygax.

The migros museum for contemporary art will publish a catalogue in co-production with Espai D'Art Contemporani de Castello, Spain, presenting the latest acquisitions in the collection of the migros museum für gegenwartskunst. The exhibition will be held in a modified form under the title For a Better World, between June 26 and August 29, 2004, at the Espai D'Art Contemporani de Castello in Spain. Between July 10 and August 29, 2004, the Kunsthalle St. Gallen will present further new works from the collection of the migros museum für gegenwartskunst.

Image: Fabrice Gygi, Absalon, Attitude gallery 1994

Opening: Friday, April 2, 2004, 6 - 9 PM

The migros museum für gegenwartskunst is an institution of the Migros Culture Percentage.

Tue/Wed/Fri 12 PM – 6 PM
Thu 12 – 8 PM
Sat/Sun 11 AM – 5 PM

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