Renatus Zürcher‘s output usually puts people at the centre: the swiss artist on show at Kunsthaus Baselland often chooses for his projects exceptional individual as inspiration for his works.
He gained attention to the great public in 1995 with a project inspired to the methodology and theoretical considerations of Swiss anthropologist Paul Wirtz: the “Boulervard” project saw the artist incorporating all the residents of Mülhauserstrasse in Basel and the street becoming a public television and video street for a short while.
In his latest show at Kunsthaus Baselland – Achterstrom – Zürcher takes up the the works of Gilbert Clavel, a writer and artist with a very fascinating story. Clavel (1883 – 1927) grew up in Basel and suffered from severe scoliosis as a result of tuberculosis and an accident in childhood. During the First World War he met the Futurist painter Fortunato Depero and considered himself as provider of ideas and part of a social reform movement. He wrote essays on art theory and a novel “Un Istituto per Suicidi” (An institute for suicides) in 1918 and from that year on he devoted himself exclusively to the conversion of a former watchtower on the Amalfi coast in Positano. Clavel proceeded with divining rod and compass to create underground corridors and a grotto. The rock became a sculptural body, which he seized with explosives.
This two last works – An Istitute for Suicides and the sculptural work on the watchtover – inspired Zürcher most and are strongly present in his exhibition Achterstrom, on show at Kunsthaus Baselland until March 31st.
The show is characterised by an atmospheric juxtaposition with Clavel’s world of thought, which manifests in individual spatial and visual experiences. The stairway to the exhibition in the basement of the Kunsthaus Baselland already recalls the descent into the hallways, corridors and the grotto in Torre Clavel, as the tower in Positano is called, among others. Visitors are welcomed by a photograph showing the Bay of Positano with the tower, in which “the waves and the air – in the Clavelian sense – were brought to a standstill” (R. Zürcher).
The film installation “An Institute of Suicide” (2012), which directly refers to the eponymous novella by Clavel, and the space installation “3 Views” (2012) were created for the exhibition at Kunsthaus Baselland. The presentation is complemented by older works such as the room installation “Tour: 16/221” (2004) and “Positano Peak” (2007).
The film “An institute for suicide” reminds us of a dream story: each of the separate film sections is devoted to one of the three types of suicide described by Clavel, the fourth combines all three into a single one. It runs backward like a film running in reverse and the unsual and unreal flow of time it expresses evokes Clavel’s idea of the end of all time: death is not the termination of life, but rather a passage that leads to a metamorphotic transformation.
“Life is a dream in the circle of time”. (G. Clavel)