Initiator: Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council
Partners: PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai, Painting Hero, USM
In a long night yet to be enlightened by reason, wanderers explore extreme, endangered states of mind, exposing themselves in the extraordinary darkness… The touring exhibition “Night Pieces” (Nachtstücke), whose title pays homage to the eponymous works by E.T.A. Hoffmann and Robert Schumann, looks through the lens of 19th-century Dark Romanticism toward the style of Technoromanticism in contemporary video art and photography production, born amidst omnipresent anxieties provoked by the black box effect of technical or operational images, and bodily or artificial intelligence.
This style advocates a poetics of the grotesque and the uncanny (unheimlich). It invites both animate and inanimate, humans and non-humans, onto the same stage to inspect the depth of and interactions within their performances. It attempts to open channels between matter and the senses, concerning for the obtrusion and dread triggered by the unknown, plotting for a moment of unexpected encounter with a foreign body residing within.
The touring exhibition project “Night Pieces” will present its first stop at PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai from April 20 to 23, 2023, featuring the works of three artists and artists groups based in Switzerland. Using various media including photography, archival documents and video, they concretize sensorial knowledge through the transformative power of interpretation and fiction, connecting it to a fluid, morphing reality.
This project is supported by Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council and curated by CHEN Min. It will be developed into a touring exhibition taking place in different cities during 2023-2024. Subsequent exhibitions will continue to unfold this curatorial idea, showcasing more recent works by a growing list of young artists from Switzerland and China.
Chen Min is a curator and critic, PhD of Art, currently working at the Institute of Creativity and Innovation, Xiamen University. Her practice and research directions come from the intersection fields of Art & Tech, Surrealism & European Avant-Garde Movements. Recently She has curated « Transworlding»(The 9th Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture Shenzhen), « Sometimes your legs spread the sleeping waves » (Jimei X Arles International Photo Festival), « Play Societies: wolf, lynx and ants » (Hyundai Blue Prize winning exhibition) ,etc. She published in “New Arts”, “LEAP”, “The Thinker”, “Art China”, “Pengpai”, “Heichi”magazine, etc. She has published several translations.
Born in 1988 in Switzerland, Aladin Borioli lives and work between Bevaix, Switzerland, and London. He holds a BA in Photography at the Ecole Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne, a MA in Visual and Media Anthropology from the Freie Universität Berlin, and a certificate programme in Critical Philosophy at The New Centre for Research and Practice. His work borrows methods from anthropology and philosophy and combines them with the practice of art and beekeeping. Since 2014, he has been developing a self-proclaimed ministry of bees called Apian, which is responsible for the age-old interspecies relationship between bees and humans. The results are polymorphous ethnographies, which mix different media such as text, photography, sound, videos. Apian also aims to be collaborative and has been a site for meeting around shared sensibilities, for example with zoologists Randolf Menzel and Dorothea Brückner, and the artists Laurent Güdel and Ellen Lapper.
Dorota Gawęda (1986, Lublin, Poland) and Eglė Kulbokaitė (1987, Kaunas, Lithuania) live and work in Basel. Both graduated from the Royal College of Art in London in 2012. They are the founders of the YOUNG GIRL READING GROUP (2013–2021).They work in multiples across performance, painting, sculpture, fragrance, and video installation- where language breaks down and one genre morphs into many. Transfusing different bodies of knowledge across space and time, Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė nurture a research-based practice that weaves together seemingly disparate fields – ecology and technology, science and magic, nonhuman intelligence and shared speculation. They have exhibited at Kunsthalle Mainz; EPFL Pavilions, Lausanne; ar/ge Kunst, Bolzano; Shedhalle, Zürich; Kunstraum Niederoesterreich, Vienna; Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris; Kunstverein Hamburg; Istituto Svizzero, Palermo and Milan; Kunstverein Leipzig; Swiss Institute, New York; Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf; Fri Art – Kunsthalle Fribourg; Futura, Prague; Lafayette Anticipations, Paris; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Cell Project Space, London; 6th Athens Biennale; Kunsthalle Basel; ICA, London; MoMA, Warsaw; Berlin Biennale 9; MaM, Paris among others. They are the recipients of the Allegro Artist Prize 2022; CERN Collide Residency 2022 and laureates of the Swiss Performance Art Award 2021. Their upcoming exhibitions will be presented at Centre Pompidou, Paris and HeK, Basel among others.
MOUTHLESS (2020) presents a fragmented folk horror narrative that explores history, ritual, myth, and the relationship between humans and nature, using witchcraft as a transhistorical and transcultural signifier. Based on historical events and mythic tales, the duo intertwine references of witch trials in and around the Fribourg area, Eastern European folklore, magical rites, and contemporary healing practices. In MOUTHLESS, the artists’ combine footage of performers collectively reading texts with animations of morphing organic shapes and landscapes, and scenes shot in the forest. The video can be considered a ritualistic chant or call to communicate with the deceased and the harmed whether they are human, animal, or tree.
Sandra Knecht is well-known for Immer wieder sonntags [Always on Sundays], her unique culinary creations and hosting at “Chnächt,” a barn she transported from the Jura region to the banks of the Rhine in Basel. Her artistic cooking practice is at the heart of the Cahier d’Artistes and the text by Koyo Kouoh. This practice includes the preservation of her “homeland” as well as a quest for identity through fragrances and taste, hospitality and the exploration of the transformative potential of preparing food and eating together. The monograph also shows how Sandra Knecht uses photography, video, sculpture, and installation as means of processing and expressing key concerns of hers – responsibility, equality and transformation.
Sandra Knecht (*1968) lives in Buus, a small village in the Swiss canton of Basel Land, together with her many animals. From 2016 to 2019, she hosted a dinner series at her restaurant Chnächt in Basel, called Immer wieder sonntags (Again Every Sunday). After working as a social educator for many years, she completed an MFA at the University of the Arts in Zurich.
This Land is Your Land – Sandra Knecht often quotes the song by Woody Guthrie and does so in the title of one of the works shown here. In her practice, she explores a concept of “my land and your land” – of home in Guthrie’s sense – that is characterised by inclusivity and solidarity. She has pursued this path with great determination in recent years, taking the land as her starting point. While exploring the places we call home, Sandra Knecht also explores identities: there are many “I’s”; there are also communities with human and non-human beings. The two themes – identity and place – culminate in the theme of food and drink, which is central to Knecht’s practice: we consume living things as food, we digest with the help of living things, and living things use fermentation to make what we eat and drink palatable, durable and intoxicating, like the liquor that is part of her award-winning work. Sandra Knecht convinced with her precise stagings, her handling of material and her independence within the current discourse in which she moves. (Jury Swiss Art Awards 2022)