Roman Signer is principally a visual artist who works in sculpture, installations photography, and video. He started his career as an artist later in life at the age of 28, after working as an architect’s draughtsman, a radio engineer apprentice, and a short stint in a pressure cooker factory. He holds degrees from arts institutions in Switzerland and Poland. He studied at the Schule für Gestaltung in Zurich and Lucerne between 1966 and 1971. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland from 1971-1972.

Signer’s work has grown out of, and has affinities with both land art and performance art, but they are not typically representative of either category. It is often being described as following the tradition of the Swiss engineer-artist, such as Jean Tinguely and Peter Fischli & David Weiss.

Signer’s “action sculptures” involve setting up, carrying out, and recording “experiments” or events that bear aesthetic results. Day-to-day objects such as umbrellas, tables, boots, containers, hats and bicycles are part of Signer’s working vocabulary. Following carefully planned and strictly executed and documented procedures, the artist enacts and records such acts as explosions, collisions, and the projection of objects through space. Signer advocates ‘controlled destruction, not destruction for its own sake’. Action Kurhaus Weissbad (1992) saw chairs catapulted out of a hotel’s windows; Table (1994) launched a table into the sea on four buckets; Kayak (2000) featured the artist being towed down a road in a canoe. In documenta 8 (1987), he catapulted thousands of sheets of paper into the air to create an ephemeral wall in the room for a brief, but all the more intense moment. As the Swiss representative at the Venice Biennale in 1999, he made 117 steel balls fall from the ceiling on to lumps of clay lying on the ground. Many of his happenings are not for public viewing, and are only documented in photos and film. Video works like Stiefel mit Rakete (Boot with Rocket) are integral to Signer’s performances, capturing the original setup of materials that self-destruct in the process of creating an emotionally and visually compelling event.

Signer gives a humorous twist to the concept of cause and effect and to the traditional scientific method of experimentation and discovery, taking on the self-evidence of scientific logic as an artistic challenge. As well as working in his studio, which he calls his lab, Signer often takes off to the Swiss mountains to conduct larger experiments. A recent example of his installation work was “Accident as sculpture” (Unfall als Skulptur)(2008) in which Signer had a three-wheeled delivery car, loaded with water barrels, roll down an 11 m high ramp and up the other side. At the apex, the vehicle overturned and crashed to the ground. The resulting chaotic arrangement constituted the exhibition at de:Kunstraum Dornbirn. Another example, the video 56 Small Helicopters (56 Kleine Helikopter) (2008) shows a squadron of 56 remote-controlled toy helicopters as they rise into the air, collide with each other, carom off the ceiling and walls, and finally die in mechanical spasms on the floor.

In 2011, Signer showed Restenfilme or film leftovers, always presented in a darkened room furnished with several rows of wooden chairs, one of which rocks unassisted on its back legs. The projection gathers actions, which Signer never constituted as full artworks, as well as shots of locations that were possible staging grounds for potential works.

A collaborative film from 1996 with director Peter Liechti titled “Signer’s Koffer” (“Signer’s Suitcase”) documents a series of his “action sculptures” along with interviews of Roman Signer and other characters encountered during his travels performing the work.

Roman Signer, 2010.
Roman Signer
Appenzell, 1938

Past Exhibitions

Fly me to the Moon

Kunsthaus Zürich
05/04/2019 — 30/06/2019

Collection David H. Brolliet, Geneva

Fondation Fernet-Branca
27/05/2018 — 30/09/2018

Mit Natur Zu Tun – To Do With Nature

06/06/2017 — 26/08/2017

Why The Performance?

Ming Contemporary Art Museum – McaM
18/09/2016 — 20/11/2016

Culturescapes Island 2015

04/09/2015 — 07/11/2015

Solo Shows

Middelheimmuseum, ‘Roman Signer. Projet pour un jardin’, Antwerp, Belgium
Centre de la photographie, ‘Roman Signer. Le temps géle/Die gefrorene Zeit’, Geneva, Switzerland
MAN Museo d’Arte Provincia di Nuoro, ‘Roman Signer – Films and Installations’, Nuoro, Italy

Centre Culturel Suisse, Focus on Roman Signer’, Paris, France
Galerie Art Concept, ‘Roman Signer. Sculptures’, Paris, France
OCT, ‘Roman Signer. Videos and Films. 1975-1989 and Now’, Shenzhen, China (Travelling Exhibition)
Dundee Contemporary Arts, ‘Roman Signer: Installations’, Dundee, Scotland
The Curve, Barbican Centre, ‘Roman Signer: Slow Movement’, London, England
The Rose Lipman Building, ‘Roman Signer’s Library of Marvels: A Project by Rachel Withers’, London, England
Le Point du Jour – Centre d’art Éditeur, ‘Roman Signer – Tombés du ciel’, Cherbourg-Octeville, France
GAFA Art Museum, ‘Roman Signer. Videos and Films. 1975-1989 and Now’, Guangzhou, China (Travelling Exhibition)
Flux Laboratory, ‘Roman Signer at Flux Laboratory’, Zurich, Switzerland
Galerie Martin Janda, ‘Roman Signer – Early Works’

CAFA Art Museum, ‘Roman Signer. Films and Videos 1975 – 1989 and Now’, Beijing, China (Travelling Exhibition)
KINDL Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst, ‘Roman Signer. Kitfox Experimental’, Berlin, Germany
China Academy of Arts, ‘Roman Signer. Films and Videos 1975 – 1989 and Now’, Hangzhou, China (Travelling Exhibition)
Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, ‘Roman Signer’, St. Gall, Switzerland
Heimat Projectspace, ‘Project #4 Exhibition’, Borgerhout, Belgium
Hauser & Wirth, ‘Screening Roman Signer: 46 Suoer-8 Films (1975-1989)’, New York NY
Hauser & Wirth, ‘Skulptur – Installation’, Zurich, Switzerland

Villa Nobel, ‘Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) und 5 Filme von Roman Signer (*1938)’, Sanremo, Italy
Rice University Art Gallery’s video space “RG Cubicle”, ‘Three Works by Roman Signer’, Houston TX
iwbFilter4, ‘Roman Signer: Fluss’, Basel, Switzerland
High Line Channel 22, ‘Roman Signer. Kayak’, New York NY
Galerie Barbara Weiss, ‘Neue Skulpturen’, Berlin, Germany
Bund 18, ‘Installation with 2 Ventilators’, Shanghai, China

Kunsthalle Mainz, ‘Attila Csörgő und Roman Signer’, Mainz, Germany
HAB Galerie, Hangar à Bananes, ‘Roman Signer – Mon Voyage à Nantes’, Nantes, France
Häusler Contemporary, ‘Aktion mit schwarzen Regenschirmen’, Munich, Germany
Aargauer Kunsthaus, ‘Roman Signer. Strassenbilder und Super-8-Filme’, Aarau, Switzerland
Middleheim Museum, ‘Roman Signer ‘, Antwerp, Belgium
Galerie Martin Janda, ‘Roman Signer’, Vienna, Austria

Group Shows

Kunstmuseum Solothurn, ‘Zeit verstreichen – Moment und Dauer in der Gegenwartskunst’, Solothurn, Switzerland
Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, ‘Das Kapital. Schuld – Territorium – Utopie’, Berlin, Germany
Jeu de Paume, ‘Soulèvements/Uprisings’, Paris, France
‘Emscherkunst 2016’, Emscher River, Germany
MASI Museo d’Arte della Svizzera italiana, ‘And Now the Good News – Works from the Annette and Peter Nobel Collection’, Lugano, Switzerland
‘Am Ort – Kunst und Musik im öffentlichen Raum Chur’, Chur, Switzerland
Kunstmuseum Basel, ‘Sculpture on the Move 1946 – 2016’, Basel, Switzerland
Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, ‘Das Kapital. Schuld – Territorium. Utopie’, Berlin, Germany
Kunsthal KAdE, ‘The Way Things Go. About cause and effect’, Amersfoort, Netherlands
North Silk Factory and West Scenic Zone, ‘Utopia / Heterotopia’, Wuzhen, China
Marta Herford, ‘Magic and Power – Of Magic Carpets and Drones’, Herford, Germany

Kunsthaus Zug, ‘Wege der Sammlung IV. Konstellationen’, Zug, Switzerland
Hauser & Wirth, ‘Salon d’Hiver’, Zurich, Switzerland
Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, ‘A Few Free Years. Von Absalon bis Zobernig: Schenkungen von Friedrich Christian Flick an die Nationalgalerie’, Berlin, Germany
Fundacio Gaspar, ‘Art Strikes Back!’, Barcelona, Spain
Middelheimmuseum, ‘Pom’ Po Pon Po Pon Pon Pom Pon’, Antwerp, Belgium
Centre Culturel Suisse, ‘Performance Process’, Paris, France
Jane Lombard Gallery, ‘The Transportation Business’, New York NY
Domaine Du Muy, Parc de Sculptures Contemporaines, Le Muy, France
Kunsthaus Zug, ‘Wege der Sammlung III. 25 Jahre Kunsthaus Zug’, Zug, Switzerland
Safn, ‘Notions of Time –Hreinn Friðfinnsson & Roman Signer’, Berlin, Germany
Bicycle Factory, ‘Mountains with a broken edge’, Havanna, Cuba
The Holden Gallery, ‘Trial/Error/Art’, Manchester, England
USFCAM – University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, ‘Enhanced! Photographic Works from the Drapkin Collections with Contemporary Light-Based Media’, Tampa FL
Häusler Contemporary, ‘Verkehrte Welt’, Zurich, Switzerland
Galerie Barbara Weiss, ‘1989’, Berlin, Germany

21st Century Minsheng Art Museum, ‘Cosmos – Limited and Limitless, Existence and Co-existence’, Shanghai, China
Nordico – Museum der Stadt Linz, ‘Kunstgenuss Essen. Von der Linzer Torte bis zur Bosna’, Linz, Austria
One Torino, Pallazo Cavour, ‘Shit and Die’, Torino, Italy
Kunstmuseum Bern, ‘Im Hier und Jetzt! Schweizer Kunst der letzten 30 Jahre aus der Sammlung Kunst Heute’, Berne, Switzerland
MAXXI – Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, ‘Fair Play. Arte, video et sport oltre limiti e confini’, Rome, Italy
FRAC, ‘Rumors of the Meteor’, Lorraine, France
Konsthall Oslo, ‘The Drawing Biennial in Oslo’, Oslo, Norway
LABoral Centro de Arte, ‘A screaming comes across the sky’, Gijón, Spain
Lentos Kunstmuseum, ‘Reines Wasser’, Linz, Austria
Spazio Thetis, Arsenale Novissimo, ‘Ha visto i colori divini del Lago di Constanza? – Robert Walser’, Venice, Italy
Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe, ‘Alpenliebe’, Austria
Skaftfell – Center for Visual Art, ‘RÓ RÓ’, East Iceland
FRAC Nord – Pas de Calais, ‘Constellations’, Dunkirk, France
Søndre Havn, ‘OPEN WIRE – digitale skulpturer og oplevelser’, Køge, Denmark
Heimat Projectspace, ‘Project #4 Exhibition’, Borgerhout, Belgium
Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, ‘Room Service – Vom Hotel in der Kunst und Künstlern im Hotel’, Baden – Baden, Germany
Weserburg | Museum für moderne Kunst, ‘Verwandlung der Dinge’, Bremen, Germany
PARKETT exhibition space, ‘Small is Beautiful’, Zurich, Switzerland
Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, ‘ Post/Postminimal’, St. Gall, Switzerland
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, ‘Lens-based sculpture – Die Veränderung der Skulptur durch die Fotografie’, Vaduz, Liechtenstein
City of Gstaad, ‘Elevation 1049 – Between Heaven and Hell’, Gstaad, Switzerland
Akademie der Künste, ‘lens-based sculpture – Die Veränderung der Skulptur durch die Fotografie’, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Germany
Les arts au mur Artothèque de Pessac, ‘Les dérivés de la photographie’, Pessac, France

Kunstverein Hannover, ‘Hängt hoch den Baum!’, Hanover, Germany
MONA – Museum of Old and New Art, ‘The Red Queen’, Hobart, Australia
Kunsthalle Krems, ‘Essen in der Kunst’, Krems an der Donau, Germany
City of Gstaad, ‘Elevation 1049 – Between Heaven and Hell’, Gstaad, Switzerland
Kunstverein Arnsberg, ‘Public Abstraction Private Construction Part VI’, Arnsberg, Germany
SI Swiss Institute, ‘A Sunday in the Mountains’, New York NY
Kirchner Museum Davos, ‘Kirchner Bogenschützen – Kunstgeschichtliche Reflexionen’, Davos, Switzerland
Espace François Mitterand and Studio Gwin Zegal, ‘Expériences de l’Art’, Guingamp, France
La Brasserie à Foncquevillers, ‘Rêver le quotidian, manuel de survie à l’ordinaire’, Foncquevillers, France
Museo Cantonale d’Arte, ‘La realita non è un luogo comune. Fotografie e video dalla Collezione d’arte della Julius Baer’, Lugano, Switzerland
Art Foyer, ‘Konzept – 20 Jahre DZ BANK Kunstsammlung’, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Villa Empain, ‘Turbolences II’, Brussells, Belgium
FRAC AQUITAINE, ‘À Bayonne (64). Mémoire Vives’, Bayonne, France
Kunstmuseum Thurgau, ‘Konstellation 6. Begriffe – Räume – Prozesse’, Warth, Switzerland
Stampa, ‘Projects # 4 – Im Raum’, Basel, Switzerland
La Maison Rouge, ‘Theatre of the World’, Paris, France
Mead Gallery, Warwick Art Centre, ‘The World Turned Uside Down – Buster Keaton, Sculpture and the Absurd’, Coventry, England
Städtischen Museen Heilbronn, ‘Macht. Wahn. Vision. Der Turm und urbane Giganten’, Heilbronn, Germany
Kunstmuseum des Kantons Thurgau, ‘Konstellation 6. Begriffe – Räume – Prozesse’, Warth, Switzerland
EYE, ‘Modern Times 5: Weapon of Choice’, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Athens Biennale, ‘AGORA’, Athens, Greece
Kunsthalle Münster, ‘Die Liebe zu den Dingen’, Münster, Germany
Kunsthalle Bremen, ‘Zeitgenössische Fotografie und Videokunst aus der Sammlung’, Bremen, Germany
South London Gallery, ‘Back and Forth 3’, London, England
Kulturort-Weihertal, ‘Biennale Skulpturen – Symposium 2013’, Winterthur, Switzerland
Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, ‘Home! Sweet Home!’, St. Gall, Switzerland
Bromer Art Collection, ‘Lovin’it – Symbol und Widerspruch’, Roggwil-Kaltenherberg, Switzerland
WOMAD Festival, ‘Ruble Splutter and Spark: Fire and Explosives in Artists’ Films’, Charlton Park, Wiltshire, England
Havremagasinet – Boden Art Center, ‘Frumöfl/Elemental’, Boden, Sweden
Helmhaus, ‘Serge Stauffer “Kunst als Forschung”’, Zurich, Switzerland
Museum of Contemporary Art, ‘The 9th Shanghai Biennale: Re-activation’, Shanghai, China
Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, ‘Lufonauten – Eine Ausstellung für Kinder’, Aachen, Germany
Z33 Huis voor actuele kunst, ‘Space Odyssey 2.0’, Hasselt, Belgium
Museo di Santa Giulia, ‘Novecento Mai Visto – Highlights from the Daimler Art
Collection from Albers to Warhol to (now)’, Brescia, Italy
Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, ‘Flex-Sil Reloaded’, St. Gall, Switzerland
India Art Fair, ‘Video Lounge’, New Dehli, India
FRAC, ‘La Fabrique des Possibles’, Marseille, France
South London Gallery, ‘Back and Forth – 3’, London, England
Z33 Huis voor actuele kunst, ‘Space Odyssey 2.0’, Hasselt, Belgium
Kunsthalle Mannheim, ‘Nur Skulptur!’, Mannheim, Germany
Häusler Contemporary, ‘Sweet Home’, Munich, Germany
Kunstmuseum Luzern, ‘Il museo siamo noi – Kunst der 1970er Jahre aus Luzerner Privatbesitz’, Lucerne, Switzerland

MAC Museum of Contemporary Art, ‘Poetas en Tiempos de Escasez’, Santiago, Chile (travel exhibition)
El Parqueadero, Museo de Arte del Banco de la Republica, ‘Poetas en tiempos de escasez’, Bogota, Colombia (travel exhibition)
Galerie Luciano Fasciati, ‘Formungen’, Chur, Switzerland
Kunsthaus Zürich, ‘Bilderwahl! Zu Weihnachten’, Zurich, Switzerland
Bonnefantenmuseum, ‘Nachtfahrt’, Maastricht, Netherlands
Baró Galeria, ‘Sunday, Night // Roman Signer, Tatiana Trouvé, David Medalla e Adam Nankervis’, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Stiftung Schloss Dyck, ‘Orchesterwechsel – Sammlung Rheingold in Schloss Dyck 2012’, Juchen, Germany
Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland Art Gallery, ‘Sculpture is Everything: Contemporary Works from the Collection’, Brisbane, Australia
Fontanapark, ‘Art-Public Chur. Sowing, Harvesting, Being Happy’, Chur, Switzerland
Bündner Kunstmuseum, ‘Präparat Bergsturz. Konservierte Bewegung’, Chur, Switzerland
Kunsthalle Kiel, ‘Von Sinnen- Wahrnehmung in der zeitgenössischen Kunst’, Kiel, Germany
FRAC – Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, ‘La Fabrique des Possibles’, Marseille, France
LACE Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, ‘(Re-) Cycles of Paradise’, Los Angeles CA
Zeughaus Teufen, ‘Ausgewogen?’, Teufen, Switzerland
The 9th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai, China
Marianne Boesky Gallery, ‘The Nature of Disappearance’, New York NY
Fondation Vevey, ville d’images, ‘Festival des Arts Visuels de Vevey’, Vevey, Switzerland
MAMA Rotterdam, ‘The Silent Clowns’, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Marianne Boesky Gallery, ‘The Nature of Disappearance’, New York NY
Sammlung Rheingold in Schloss Dyyck 2012, ‘Orchesterwechsel’, Juchen, Germany
Centro de Arte Moderna, ‘TASK PERFORMANCE – Encounters with the films and videos of Robert Morris, Dennis Oppenheim and Roman Signer’, Lisbon, Portugal
Galeria Juan Pardo Heeren, ‘Poetas en Tiempos de Escasez’, Lima, Peru (travelling exhibition)
Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, ‘Die Leidenschaften. Ein Drama in fünf Akten’, Dresden, Germany
FRAC Acquitaine, ‘Coup Double’, Bordeaux, France
Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, ‘Lufonauten – Eine Ausstellung für Kinder’, Aachen, Germany
Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, ‘Gebärde Zeichen Kunst’, Berlin, Germany
Festival des arts visuels de Vevey, ‘Images’, Vevey, Switzerland
Probstei St. Peterzell, ‘Felix der Verleger’, St. Peterzell, Switzerland
MONA, ‘Theatre of the World’, Hobart, Australia
Fontanapark, ‘Säen, ernten, glücklich sein’, Chur, Switzerland
Institute Robert Walser, ‘Apropos the Kissing of a Hand’, Newcastle upon Tyne, England

Contacts & Details

City of birth: Appenzell Country of birth: Switzerland Date of birth: 1938 Lives in: St. Gallen, Switzerland