Whether popcorn, batteries, water or bronze—no material is too uninteresting for Vanessa Billy (*1978, Geneva, lives in Zurich) not to use for research into sculpture and themes such as transformation and recycling. Her artistic work is poetic but at the same time remains anchored in the concrete physical qualities of the materials. Billy examines the cultural use of natural resources by contra-intuitively working on objects or placing them next to each other. For example, when a silicone lemon is confronted with a car engine. In the process the artist always investigates cycles in which humanity and technology are caught up. She asks what reactions follow actions, now or in the time continuum, and to what extent these influence our thought and behaviour.
Billy pursues these themes further at Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen. She addresses the question of the meaning of human existence, what of being and action remains or fades away: an inner tube, a breath or the surface of a banana skin. We Dissolve is then also the title of Vanessa Billy’s largest solo exhibition so far in which she traces the title theme with confrontational forms. The soft cast of a woman lies on an engine, the body becomes a factory, produces energy which dissipates or incorporates itself in new channels. In this the artist also sees a peculiarity of the contemporary. People are advancing all the time technologically—but expanding and limiting themselves simultaneously while doing so. Social media spring to mind for example, or an engine that is both an artificial limb as well as a straightjacket. The artist gives us visual indications when fragments of surfaces are caught in a fishing net or a cage or objects are exposed to a balancing act.
In “We Dissolve” Vanessa Billy places the human more visibly at the centre than in previous exhibitions and points to the life cycle through sculpture and sound with new works. However, the artist’s aesthetic style also emphasises the nature of space and surface: whether through the inclusion of architecture or her examination of the skin, which paradoxically separates the subject from the world but is nevertheless involved with it in an exchange of materials.