Overcoming the rumor of the introversion and isolation of Swiss art.
‘In recent years a dense network of activities and mutual attention, of multi-layered, divided forms of communication has come to exist. Above all, the rumor of the introversion and isolation of Swiss art has shifted away.’ Thus, in her introductory text in the catalog, curator Bice Curiger summarized the group of artists she presented in it. Curatorial assistant Juri Steiner followed by pointing out what significance was conveyed by the at first sight poetic-sounding, unconventional exhibition title: It refers to the slogan that went around in relation to the youth riots of 1980: ‘Down with the Alps – a free view of the Mediterranean!’ He argued that the euphoric mood of the ‘Movement’ in the context of the exhibition stood as a metaphor for ‘the horizontal perspective. It provides an opportunity to flatten the vertical myth of Switzerland. Although the Swiss have worked stubbornly since time began for a “free view of the Mediterranean”, at first with pack horses, then with the Gotthard mail, railway tunnels and finally with car tunnels, they are rather a people of bridge-builders.’ At the beginning of a globally networked world, thanks to the internet, the clear-sighted curators realized what challenges were ahead of them as they presented a supposed ‘Swiss’ art scene, which could no longer really exist in the international context. Their original, unconventional approach faced this difficulty head-on and was largely justified, not only in overcoming national and historical borders but also spatially inside the museum itself: The exhibition spread through the entire building and penetrated the historical collections. For example, Sylvie Fleury’s ‘Pelzraketen’ (Fur Rockets) was to be found in refreshingly provocative confrontation with Johann Heinrich Füssli’s dark proto-Romanticism. Both the local and the international press paid great attention to the exhibition. In all this the critique of the famous professor of art history, Arthur C. Danto, stood out. He created an international furor with his bestseller ‘After the End of Art’ (1997) and wrote about this exhibition: ‘The only obvious depiction of the Alps connected with this show – brilliantly curated by Bice Curiger – is the photograph of peaks surrounded by clouds on the catalogue’s cover. This brings us to the title, which may be the show’s main Swiss reference. […] Razing the Alps is a metaphor for changing national identity […] but this non-negotiable demand is also pure Dada. […] we are all Swiss, if Dada is Swiss. But that means Swiss art is no more Swiss than contemporary art anywhere. The art world is today the Cabaret Voltaire at large.’ (in: ‘Artforum’, October 1998). ‘Freie Sicht aufs Mittelmeer’, the big overview show ‘of recent Swiss art with guests and a banquet’ – was given a state opening by the Federal President, Flavio Cotti. Ten years later the curator Mirjam Varadinis took up the same challenge under the title ‘Shifting Identities. (Swiss) Art Now’ (06.06.-31.08.2008), a stock-taking of the current Swiss art scene at that time. This exhibition could also be seen from 6.10. to 22.11.2008 in the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt.
no exhibition catalog online
Metaphor for the horizontal perspective. It provides an opportunity to flatten the vertical myth of Switzerland.