Updated: Jun 30, 2020
It was about time to visit a museum after 3 months. The quarantine, the lockdown, made me, and most art lovers, feel nostalgic about the physical interaction with art and the experience of wandering around inside the museum. Of course I did enjoy the digital art experience and the viewing rooms throughout this period, but in my opinion nothing beats an actual visit. I am so glad I managed to visit HK (Haus Konstruktiv) in Zurich's Selnau area today to enjoy the summer exhibition.
Sabine Schaschl has curated two unique exhibitions, one dedicated to Otto Piene, the artist who founded the group ZERO movement in 1958 together with Heinz Firmly aiming to stir up the art scene. Artist Gunther Uecker joined them three years later and together they promoted the zero point and a new beginning for art.
In the first room by the reception of the museum, you enter a world of air sculptures of different sizes (mainly massive!) and very colourful. The sculptures are gently moving according to the air pressure. I could stay observing them for ours. They look like giant trees and flowers and made me feel like Alice in Wonderland. In the same room there are many small drawings. To give some background, Otto Piene moved to NY in 1965 and in 1968 he became a fellow of the newly founded Centre of Advanced Visual Studies at MIT. There, he worked on his visionary sky-art projects which were initially developed for outdoors. He wanted the large-format objects, inflated with air and helium, to rise in the sky. The drawings on the wall, are records of the development processes behind the sky events.. great combination!
On the fourth floor of the museum, you enter a world of light, as in an almost dark room, you see the movement of lights coming through the sculpture and filling the space. The ceiling, the walls, the floor - all the space is following the rhythm of the light. A very cosmic experience, worth exploring. When I exited the room, I felt like I had been at an art therapy session. Otto was always concerned about the transfer of energy in his art. It is really amazing how you drop all judgements while you experience his light works, it is a powerful experience! You are simply captivated by the light and it's flow, cleaning your energy and welcoming the new.
The second exhibition of the museum is dedicated to the Austrian artist Brigitte Kowanz. This retrospective solo show conveys how, since the 80s, Kowanz has been making it possible to experience the medium of light as a stand-alone phenomenon and an information carrier. On the fourth and fifth floor of the museum, you seem to enter a space where you can explore the light's real artistic potential. Firstly the actual sculpture shapes and statements in them are so powerful as they are, and then all the light that comes out of the works and fills the room, feels like a second reflection or recognition of what you just saw. The artist began to experiment with transparent image carriers and luminous pigments around the year 1980. In her works, the artist focuses on the actual language and words as a way to explain the functionality of light, while the light illuminates the structures of the respective language. In this way, Kowanz puts the complex interaction between light and language.
An interesting observation is that Kowanz used the Morse code a lot in her artistic practice. The Morse characters, produced by darkened sections of the neon tube, denote two decisive dates in the history of the Internet: the first presentation of concept of the World Wide Web at CERN and the day on which it was made accessible to the public. In a way, Kowanz's work 'grounds' the idea of a virtual space. Hidden behind ciphers like WWW or Internet, are places and moments in which the 'virtual reality' essence came into the world to then cover the globe as a technical infrastructure.
Go see the exhibitions while you can - on until mid September 2020.