St. Petrischnee is a variety of positions from the 1960s and 1970s, the age that sought to expand or to move beyond the old rules of art history and of society. Seldom have there been such radical advances, causing older generations so much anxiety and alarm. An entire generation of youth was in upheaval, attacking the fallout of the Cold War, attacking petit-bourgeois hypocrisy and parochialism...
Marc Camille Chaimowicz
"Of all the affairs we participate in, with or without interest, the groping search for a new way of life is the only aspect still impassioning." Guy Debord
St. Petrischnee is a variety of positions from the 1960s and 1970s, the age that sought to expand or to move beyond the old rules of art history and of society. Seldom have there been such radical advances, causing older generations so much anxiety and alarm. An entire generation of youth was in upheaval, attacking the fallout of the Cold War, attacking petit-bourgeois hypocrisy and parochialism, attacking nuclear rearmament and the Vietnam war. Subversive strategies were debated and experimented with: the postulation of free love, sit-ins, the peace movement, consumption of mind-expanding drugs, conspiratorial Maoist cells, the politicisation of the working classes, support for guerrilla operations in the Third World, the counter-culture of the communes... For the young, it was all about tolerance, but ultimately the views of individual groups led to divisions, radicalisation of political ideas or to a politically passive party culture.
Out of this mood of upheaval, the young generation sought to escape the dictates of Modernism, and also to break away from Minimal Art, at the time the predominant trend in art. There were already early signs of participatory environments, but these were largely disregarded until some years later.
The works of the Brazilian HELIO OITICICA are an excellent example; he developed from his starting point in constructivism and sought to link his art directly to life. His approach was no longer based on the materiality of individual works; he saw his work rather as experiences in a post-industrial world. His nine-part series Block Experiments in Cosmococa, the first five of which he produced with the filmmaker NEVILLE D'ALMEIDA, is based on the idea of a Quasi-Cinema, actively involving the observer. The work is a direct response to the repressive dictatorship in Brazil, from which Oiticica escaped to New York in the early 1970s. On show will be CCI Trashiscapes, dating from 1973, a room-sized installation, combining portraits of the cineaste Luis BuÃ±uel, the actor Luis Fernando Guimaraes and album covers by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. All the characters wear a "make-up" of fine lines of cocaine. A soundtrack of popular Brazilian music provides the background to the pictures, which is interrupted by snatches of Stockhausen, Jimi Hendrix, street noise or a man's voice reading. Mattresses and nail files invite you to lose yourself in this cosmos of sounds and images.
MARC CAMILLE CHAIMOWICZ's room-sized installation Celebration? Real Life Revisited from 1972 was rebuilt for the first time again in 2000. The silvery walls act like "silver screens", on the floor are groups of objects like flowers, items of laundry or masks of sentimental value, the theatrical lighting is broken by the reflections from mirror balls. The sound of David Bowie or the Rolling Stones sets the atmosphere. In contrast to the minimalist neutrality of the time, Celebration? Real Life seeks to move closer to an excessive subjectivity. It is a turning away from the permanent object towards a time-dependent process, also involving the observer. The work is also a turning away from belief in a socio-political work, which reduces art to mere information. For Chaimowicz, the emphasis is on sensory perception and metaphor; the models are either unheroic figures from literature, like Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's Ulysses, or the dandified attitude of figures of the night, following in the French tradition, from Baudelaire and Proust, via Gide and Camus to Genet.
Since the end of the 1960s, MICHEL AUDER has been filming his Bohemian surroundings in New York. The "scene" comprising actors, photographic models, musicians, film makers and artists was his background, and formed the factual material for his films and videos. His viewpoint is non-hierarchical and intimate. Auder renounces the hypothetical objectivity of the film documentary, preferring the analogy with contemplative meditation. In 1971, Michel Auder accompanied and filmed the Cockettes when they visited New York, a visit that led to the break-up of the legendary performance group. The Cockettes emerged from the San Francisco hippy scene and captivated the media and the underground scene between 1969 and 1972. Their performances were freely improvised from the vital consciousness that was based on drugs, glam-rock and wild outfits. Their gender-bending - like drag queens with a subversive political humour - brought the fame. In San Francisco, they were the darlings of the cultural scene. But, invited to New York in 1972, their fame disintegrated, caught in a cultural crossfire between East Coast and West Coast. The New Yorkers, used to slick professionalism, found the group's uncouth dilettantism just too much.
The Japanese YAYOI KUSAMA was at the height of her creativity in New York in the 1960s and early 1970s, before returning to her homeland. Kusama is regarded as a forerunner of the Pop Art movement, especially the serial works of Andy Warhol. As a key figure at the beginning of the age of installation and performance art, she was the first to use current content as propaganda, which amounted to a break with art criticism. Content that stood in radical opposition to the Vietnam war, or took up themes like bulimia or sexism in art. But essentially, Yayoi Kusama's leitmotif remains the obliteration of the self in the never-endingness of the Universe. It is the struggle against Japanese expectations of a collective soul that tolerates no individual "infidelities". Kusama draped her canvases with net-like structures, later adding polka dots. She uses phallic sculptures for her installations, out of material which she spreads over whole environments. The materialisation of these hallucinatory "dot" worlds into infinity is also seen in her mirror-lined installations: Love Forever ,1969/2000 and Fireflies on Water, 2000. Both installations draw the observer into the endless expanse of the self, reflected in the Universe.
The Swiss artist MANON has been occupied since 1974 with the theme of identity, self-representation and image. Manon presents herself with equipment, insignia and environments, conveying a personal philosophy and condensing images describing the social upheaval of the 1970s. The liberalisation of sexuality, breaking free of social rules and drugs are the cornerstones of her work. On display in the migros museum of contemporary art will be the black and white series of photographs Dame au crane rasÃ©, a work created in 1978 in Paris. There are pictures of the fallen angel of the city, oscillating between mundane life and isolation in the city. Her attention is focussed on individual free space, because self-presentation is a code which conveys the opposing nature of something familiar or something unknown, but which also - like camouflage - can be misleading.
GUSTAV METZGER's work Liquid Crystals had its premiere in 1966 at a rock concert by The Who at the Roundhouse in London. The kaleidoscopic structures of liquid crystals created a psychedelic stage image. In the mood of social upheaval in the 1960s, Gustav Metzger developed his idea of "Auto-destructive Art". In five manifestos he pursues the issue of the conditions and possibilities for art after the Holocaust and Hiroshima. His flight from Nazi Germany in 1939 showed Gustav Metzger the possibility of destroying his own existence, and has characterised the work of the artist, who is of Jewish extraction, up to the present. His strategy for reconquering the terrain of art lies in the creation of "Autodestructive Art", a form of art in which there is an inherent self-destructive mechanism, and which is constituted from this. Metzger later expanded the idea of auto-destructive art to take in the dimension of auto-creative art, of which Liquid Crystals is also an example. The concept behind it is a work that can create itself of itself, without the guiding hand of the artist.
THEO ALTENBERG was a member of the Viennese Otto MÃ¼hl Commune Friedrichshof. There, he photographed the life of the commune from 1973 to 1978. These pictures provide a documentary record of one of the most radical attempts at creating an alternative way of life. Communal life was a life of intense psychological self-admiration, cut off from the outside world; there, the most diverse forms of free love and the sexual culture were played out. The potential released by this was converted into screenplays, photographic works and paintings - giving rise to new social utopias, researching democracy and analyses of language and substitution. According to Altenberg, the commune was "owned by the most consistently leftist practice, because we had made communal ownership a reality and had overcome petty rivalry, because we interpreted revolt as hedonism and were united by psychoanalytical theory." This experiment fell apart in 1990 on the collapse of the monarchy of Otto MÃ¼hl.
The migros museum of contemporary art is an institution of the Migros Culture Percentage.
Press Conference: Friday, 14 June 2002, 11.30
Opening: Friday, 14 June 2002, 18.00
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