“Switzerland”

Olafur Eliasson, beyond appearances

His works can be seen in Geneva, but also Los Angeles, and in the near future, Beijing, before Munich for a summer festival, then Massachusetts. But what makes Olafur Eliasson tick? An interview in Geneva with a widely shown artist who nevertheless remains discreet.   In Geneva, Olafur Eliasson took care to greet every journalist present at the launch of his exhibition “Objets définés par l’activité” (Objects defined by activity) designed by Laurence Dreyfus, curator and adviser at the Espace Muraille. This private mansion, founded by collectors Caroline and Éric Freymond, is an ideal setting for Eliasson’s human-sized works. With restrained and sober elegance, the artist goes over the key points in his professional life: the environment, light, his projects, his proclivity for social contact…   What is the subject of your new exhibition “Objects defined by activity” at the Espace Muraille? This rather intimate exhibition presents sixteen pieces, some of which are preparatory works – and not models – for future, larger projects. Others were produced for the occasion. My works bear ties with science and allude, through geometric systems, light, movement, and flows, to our way of perceiving objects, space, our environment, and others.   Indeed, many pieces play on optical illusions and the way we see things, such as The We Mirror, Colour Window or Day and Night Lava… These works translate our skill for grasping the world, and the way our senses can help us to change it. These are, in some way, “instruments” that exacerbate our way of perceiving the world. Let’s take, for example, The We mirror. This three-dimensional dodecagon plays with its image in the mirror, superposed over its material reality… But does this reflection really express what we see? The way we see things isn’t always the one that we trust. Is...

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One hour with swiss kinetic artist Ralfonso

Since the early 20th century, kinetic artists have been exploring the possibilities of movement, introducing the element of time, the nature of vision, reflecting the importance of the machine… AMA has had an interview with Ralfonso who extend this artistic lineage and incorporate motion into his art.   What is your background? My educational background is very much on the business side. I studied Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California, where I received my Bachelor’s Degree and then went onto an MBA from Wharton at University of Pennsylvania. So I have no formal art training, which might have been a blessing, as I was able to discover the magic of “art in motion” at my own pace and in my own way. How did you start to make kinetic art? My passion for this particular niche of sculptural art started very early. Even as a very young boy, I was always fascinated by mechanics and design. From this fascination, I started to design objects and sculptures that have a motion component, that then became art in motion, or kinetic art. I try to push the boundaries of kinetic art at the intersection of art, mechanics and design. Mostly I am inspired by nature, by the shape and natural interaction of all the elements. Therefore, my sculptures gently move with the wind, water, motors, or when pushed by hand, and range in size from 50cm to 15m.   What are the major difficulties of making kinetic art? Aside from all the aspects involved in designing a static sculpture, you add the dimension of movement to the art piece. This adds the 4th dimension of time and “change over time” to my designs. So now I have a much bigger tool box to work with, which include interactivity via internet, smartphone...

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A boomerang effect in Geneva

The MEG is dedicating an exhibition to the diversity and wealth of Australia’s arts. “L’Effet boomerang. Les arts aborigènes d’Australie”, thus offers insight into the colonisation of this country, from a political and aesthetic perspective. It was in 1770 that British explorer James Cook, acting as a representative of King George III, became the first Westerner to set foot on the Terra incognita, today known as Australia. Even if the land was already populated, the explorer still dubbed this territory as Terra nullius – “no man’s land”, an expression that says a great deal about the way indigenous people were long considered as a primitive society. However, the “material culture” developed by Australia’s 270 or so ethnicities over the 60,000 years in which they had inhabited the territory would whet the interest of Western travellers. Many European goods were exchanged for local fetishes, sometimes painlessly, for the Aborigines had the means to reproduce these artefacts easily. It was during this period that Australia became a “contact zone” between two worlds, two space-time bodies. In the Second Preface to Bajazet, Racine stated that “spatial distance may compensate for temporal proximity”. By discovering Australia, the West conquered the ends of the Earth, and made the acquaintance of a radical otherness, originally viewed according to an axiology riddled with prejudices pitting the primitive against the civilised or the natural against the social. What remained to be constructed were bridges between two territories but also across the centuries. Not exactly straightforward, as anthropologists Herbert Spencer and Francis James Gillen noted. For the Aborigines, the time of individuals is integrated into the notion of the Dreaming or the Dreamtime, a poetic expression coined by anthropologist Francis James Gillen to describe the pervasive mythology of humans meeting their ancestors during ritual ceremonies. From an aboriginal...

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Marc Spiegler: Reflections

As Art Basel opens, we talk with the organization’s great Global Director, Marc Spiegler. He speaks very openly about his vision of his job, the Art Basel fairs, the market and its evolution, about art and the people making it. Marc Spiegler: the art market architect. Marc Spiegler, 48 years old, has always been a very fine analyst of the art market. He simply loves to understand it; and because we love that too, it is always a pleasure to speak with him.   How do you feel at the eve of your fair, a decade after taking on the job? I absolutely love the job and it’s tremendously rewarding, so it certainly doesn’t feel like ten years: it feels like yesterday. At the same time, this fair is my 26th with Art Basel. And if I look back, it feels like a lot has changed. Our organisation has certainly evolved enormously. When I started, we just had the Basel and Miami Beach fairs, we were solely coordinated from Basel, our digital presence was negligible… all we did was the two fairs. Ten years later, we’ve added an extremely strong fair in Asia, and built an extensive online presence – we now have an online catalogue with more than 20,000 artworks from past fairs, not to mention our very large reach on social media, with more than 2 million followers: eight times the 250,000 attendance across our three fairs. And the leadership structure shifted from being exclusively in Switzerland to spanning across three continents, with more than 80 staff making all that happen. When I started we were barely 20. At the same time, the business has changed greatly. The expectations for fairs continue to evolve. 10 years before I arrived, fairs were exclusively trading platforms. Now the international fairs are required to be events in the...

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Wolfgang Tillmans, at the frontiers of the visible

As one exhibition concludes, another opens… While the solo show dedicated to German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans is finishing at the Tate in London, the retrospective on him at the Fondation Beyeler is starting up in the Swiss city of Basel. Perfect timing for a closer look at this artist whose experimentations have taken him far and wide… Contemporary photography – unfortunately – doesn’t always have many superstars to boast about. Even if the medium has achieved recognition in the last decade, its ecosystem still remains closed: it has its own dedicated galleries, themed auction sales, mono-medium fairs, specialised journals… In this respect, Germany’s Wolfgang Tillmans emerges as something of a phenomenon. Earning steady recognition from institutions and art critics from a very early stage in his career, he is already counted amongst the most fashionable photographers… And yet we can sense that this artist still has more tricks up his sleeve. Born in 1968 in Remscheid in West Germany (near Cologne and Düsseldorf, and therefore also near Europe-focused Belgium and the Netherlands), he discovered the photography of Polke, Richter and Rauschenberg while he was still a teenager in the museums of big neighbouring cities. After three years in Hamburg, Tillmans continued his studies at the Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design in South England. He then moved to London before staying in New York for one year in 1994. This is where he met gallerist Andrea Rosen, who would be the first to support him, as well as his lover, painter Jochen Klein. The two Germans would return to Europe where they lived together in the British capital until the death, in 1997, of Klein, a victim of AIDS. Tillmans was not yet 30 at the time. In 2000, the artist suddenly emerged from obscurity by becoming...

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