Photographers in Switzerland, the neutral ground for everything from politics to aesthetics, are unveiling something new about this small, landlocked country famous for its green grass and clean air.
First off the mark is photographer Andrea Panté, who uses his contemporaries from the Swiss art world as sitters and illuminates seemingly absurd moments that have unsettled them into moments of knee-jerk reaction. For instance, David Chieppo (2009) has a man apparently tumbling head-first down a narrow flight of stairs, an image recalling the work of Yves Klein and John Bock. Another shows an apparently dishevelled Chieppo wrapped in a blue duffle coat and lying on a sofa after what appears to have been a lively evening. Panté’s photograph grasps something of the cold, which spreads over this work like glue. Panté concurrently photographed another protagonist, artist Susanne Hofer, who in one shot is standing on a stepladder behind a tripod and camera, surrounded by scattered papers and other objects in a manner resembling a choreographed photograph by Jeff Wall.
Ueli Alder’s work If You Get Far Enough Away, You Will Be on Your Way Back Home is a series of images representing the rural canton of Appenzel, the artist’s place of origin. In a manner recalling the elaborately staged photographs of Gregory Crewdson, vast landscapes peopled by costumed figures are captured by an artist who appears to have walked the length and breadth of his native land looking for a visual history of a country unnoticed and relatively unscathed by time. One imaged depicts a trophy scene of men with double-barrelled shotguns resting over the body of a bear. Another is a grainy portrait apparently of a group of turn-of-the-century musicians. Finally, another of Alder’s works is a Polaroid-sized image of a figure lying in the snow, possibly dead, with an audience of two figures in the immediate background. Alder appears in all of his works to animate the past into scenes resembling modern cinema.
Rico Scagliola and Michael Meier are something else entirely. As a measure of the dexterity of a country reinventing its cultural contribution to the rest of the world, these two artists’ works resemble a copy of Dazed and Confused or even i-D. Sophisticated video works deliver samples and re-edits of animated figures born of club and music culture. The Vielleicht Lieber Morgen series was taken over two years and represents of the downtrodden junkies and prostitutes who reside in the Langstrasse quarter of Zurich. Like British photographer Richard Billingham, Scagliola and Meier reveal something tragic and otherwise invisible. Battered and bruised women are documented is scenes of pathetic humiliation.
Patrick Hari’s works are photographic in part, employing the media of performance, sculpture, installation and documentation. Like Italian artist Monica Bonvicini, Hari introduces various elements into a photo-based installation that are then prone to break, shatter and dissolve under the weight and the intervention of the audience. Hari appears to be able to react with much purpose to any given situation, ad hoc objects are thrown together in installations to allow for new and variable possibilities that are due as much by chance as they are by any formal considerations.