Initiator: Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council
Curator: He Yining
Hosts: Design Society, Shenzhen;
Modern Art Base, Shanghai;
Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing
Duration: Aug.5-Sept.8, 2020, Shenzhen;
Sept.30-Oct.29, 2020, Shanghai;
Nov.14, 2020-Jan.9, 2021, Beijing
Shenzhen | Opening support: Consulate General of Switzerland in Guangzhou;
Shenzhen | Partners: Painting Hero, Jiazazhi Press, PermaJet
Shanghai | Co-host: swissnex China
As the train departs from Zürich HB, where the iconic Mondaine railway clock hangs above the platform, the passengers are about to enter a world that will awaken their senses and leave them with visual experiences they won’t easily forget. The southbound journey to Lausanne, a city more than 200 kilometers from Zürich, is characterized by the breathtaking view of snowy mountains and crystal lakes—the ever-changing sceneries that make up the unique geographic and cultural landscape of Switzerland. Between Mountains, Hills and Lakes starts from the curator’s own travel experience and research in Switzerland in the past two years and goes on to examine artworks in photography and related media that explore the society and culture of the country from geographic, mythical, technological, and everyday perspectives. Using geography as a metaphor, the exhibition not only aims to present Switzerland as a melting pot for diverse cultures and complexities, but also hopes to illustrate the uniqueness of contemporary Swiss art. The 9 projects featured in the exhibition come from 7 leading photographers from Switzerland who are active on the global art stage and 2 Chinese photographers who have completed residencies in Switzerland in recent years. These artworks combine to construct a multi-layered visual representation of contemporary Switzerland for the audience to traverse and explore.
In Malleus Maleficarum, Virginie Rebetez starts a dialogue between history and the present by investigating the phenomenon of mediums and healers, which are common in the catholic region of Fribourg and well-rooted in the culture, and learning about their identity and practice as she places them in the broader historical context of witch-hunting. Thomas Brasey’s Libre revisits the attempts by the people of the Republique et Canton du Jura to fight for their independent identity in the 1960s and 1970s, which remains a unique case in Switzerland’s modern history. In Die Winter, Stephane Winter draws inspiration from the story of his own life as an adopted child and approaches the subject with positivity and a sense of humor; through heartwarming photos of everyday life, the artist encourages the viewer to reconsider the definition of the “typical family” and to free oneself from preconceived notions of what it should be.
Olga Cafiero’s Costiss is rooted in Switzerland’s unique landscape and focuses on the Valle Verzasca, a valley in the Locarno district of the Canton of Ticino; by integrating the mythical nature of the valley and one’s own identity, her work delves deep into the culture of the region. In Janus on the Mountains, Zhu Lanqing sees the Alps not as a symbol of wilderness but as a conquered property for entertainment and consumerism; her work explores the ways human activities have been affecting the local landscape. Similarly, Christoph Oeschger’s 2° explores the complex relationship between climate politics and environmental protection with cutting-edge imaging technologies; in an essay film, he uses different events from the history of climate investigation to discuss how we can understand climate change. In Bubbles, Chen Haishu turns his gaze toward the water, one of the most important natural resources in Switzerland. From large-scale mountain reservoirs to aquatic ecosystems on the micro-level, his work combines various media (including photos, sounds, videos and other existing materials) in a fictional narrative that revolves around “water”, exploring the artificialization of nature and its subsequent re-naturalization.
As one of the core strengths behind Switzerland’s economy and culture, technology has taken on fresh meanings in Catherine Leutenegger’s and Matthieu Gafsou’s works through creative visual languages. In Beauty of Science, Leutenegger visits the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne and spends a year making numerous intricate portraits of science and technology that challenge the boundary between the images she creates and those she discovers and produces, which allows her to capture the present while envisioning the future. On the other hand, Matthieu Gafsou’s H+ presents an ongoing conversation between photography and transhumanism, in which the artist is able to create a detailed map of the transhumanist revolution.
In addition to the 9 projects featured in the exhibition, Between Mountains, Hills and Lakes will also showcase 29 photography books published in the last 5 years with the support of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. There will be a comprehensive public outreach program accompanying the exhibition that includes online and offline symposiums, artist talks, workshops, and other events, which will focus on the topicality, technicality and artistry of image production in China and Switzerland, as well as the current and future state of the photography industry in both countries.
This exhibition coincides with the 70th anniversary of Sino-Swiss bilateral relations. After opening at the Design Society in Shenzhen, it will travel to Modern Art Base in Shanghai and the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Beijing.
 Olga Yatskevich, http://virginierebetez.com/malleus-maleficarum
Thomas Brasey, Olga Cafiero, Chen Haishu, Matthieu Gafsou, Catherine Leutenegger, Christoph Oeschger, Virginie Rebetez, Stephane Winter, Zhu Lanqing
Researcher, writer and curator of photographic art and visual culture based in Tianjin, China. Graduate of London College of Communication, University of the Arts London.
Her previous curatorial practice is principally focused on the way in which photography is able to freely straddle the boundaries of fine art, responding to and raising questions about contemporary and historical social issues through effective, diverse, and interdisciplinary means. Yining’s exhibitions have been held in museums, art museums, and photography festivals in China and Europe, including: “The Abode of Anamnesis” (2019, OCAT Institute), the 3rd Beijing Photo Biennale (2018, CAFA Art Museum), “The Port and The Image: Documenting China’s Harbor Cities” (2017, China Port Museum), “A Fictional Narrative Turn” (2016, Jimei Arles International Photo Festival)，and the “50 Contemporary Photobooks from China 2009-2014” (2015, FORMAT 15 international Photo Festival, UK).
Publications include Photography in the British Classroom, and The Port and the Image, among others. Her Translations include Photography and Travel, Perspectives on Place: Theory and Practice in Landscape Photography (forthcoming), Art and Photography (forthcoming), and Artists Who Make Books (forthcoming) and few others. Furthermore, her latest research attempts to discuss the construction, application and development of image algorithms in the creation of photographs at the intersection of photography, media ecology and technical philosophy in China.
Janus on the Mountains, 2016
Janus on the Mountains focuses on Switzerland’s world-renowned Alps mountains. Alps used to be the very definition of wilderness, danger, unknown and sparseness. During his journey here, Rousseau exclaimed, “In wildness is the preservation of the world”. Although it is human instinct to approach the wilderness of the nature, but under the revolution of transport and the driven of interest, trains and cable cars are sprawling onto more and more virgin ground, opening and connecting the used to be forbidden domains. Ski-stations are the principal platforms of tourism in the mountains, they became Zhu’s focus during 3 months. With the appearance of men and man-mades, the edge of wilderness became less defined. This blurry edge lays in the middle between what is still danger, unknown and what has become the “European Playground” or the “Skiing Paradise”.
“In this work, I collected lost postcards sold at flea markets, booklets depicturing explorers and alpinists, complicated and information rich maps. They create a non-linear voyage in the time. This journey to the mountains and their peaks started with an old Alps postcard, it is guided by old maps and people holding telescopes, while cable cars and ski boards are our transport. Travelling throughout past and present, imagination and reality, I modified and created my own path to the tops, proving yet again mountains are natural subjects of humans’ endless imagination and desire of conquer, as well as the validity of the mountain tourism within consumerism.” – Zhu Lanqing
In 1991 born in Dongshan Island, Fujian Province, China, lives and works in Xiamen now. She graduated from the Department of Photojournalism at Renmin University of China and then moved to Taiwan to study at the Institute of Applied Arts in Fujen Catholic University. Her work, most related to the home and place, have been published in many magazines and shown at different international art festivals. She is interested in the possibilities of the presentation of photography, especially handmade book. Her first book was selected in the list of PHOTOEYE’s Best Books of 2012. Her second book A Journey in Reverse Direction won the Three Shadows Photography Award 2014 and Jimei X Arles Discovery Award 2015. She also won the Barcelona International Photography Award 2015 and Photo Boite “30 UNDER 30” in 2016.
Malleus Maleficarum, 2018
Virginie Rebetez takes on a photographic investigation of mediums and healers, common in the catholic region of Fribourg (CH) and well rooted in the culture, learning about their identity and practice, as she places them in a broader historical context of witch hunting.
“Malleus Maleficarum is perhaps Rebetez’s most ambitious and daring effort to explore the space between visible and invisible, to reimagine and reconsider the story and the history in a fresh way. The past is brought in through the figure of Claude Bergier who was accused of witch crafting and burnt at the stake in 1628, in Fribourg. Rebetez brings back Bergier by inquiring mediums about him, in organizing mediumistic readings, building then bridges between people and locations, separated by time and space. Malleus Maleficarum is an unexpectedly personal and intimate book, reflecting on life and embracing the unknown, and at once boldly pushing the abilities of photographic language to represent the reality and beyond.” – Olga Yatskevich
Virginie Rebetez (CH, 1979) lives and work in Lausanne, Switzerland. Graduated from the Photography School of Applied Arts in Vevey (2005), she followed her education in the Gerrit Rietveld Academie (Amsterdam, NL), from where she obtained a Bachelor in visual arts, in 2008. All her projects are closely connected to each other and focus on the space created by absence. She uses photography to bring physicality to the invisible by exploring new narrative forms. Since 2008, Rebetez has participated in numerous group show and published two books. She also took part of several art residency programs, in Johannesburg (SA, 2013), New York (US, 2014) and Cairo (EG, 2017). Rebetez’s work is part of the Fotostiftung Schweiz in Winterthur (CH), the city of Nyon (CH), as well as of several private collections.
Legends, similarly as myths and tales, take their origins from the marvelous. These stories of oral tradition speak of figures and events that are beyond human dimension, which origins are the religious, the heroic and the fantastic that give birth to a new territory. The invisible and imaginary worlds of these stories offer answers to what is beyond human reach and give some sort of significance to the intangible and the unknown, thus making it possible for mankind to bear the unbearable – the wilderness of nature, our terrors, our finitude, etc.
Great fears are originated by what can neither be understood nor seen; nighttime, for instance, has always been a mystery land filled with devilish anxiety, extraordinary creatures and events. Not only darkness prevents us from clearly perceive the essence of things, but it disrupts all evidences. The comforting virtues of the legends soothe our daily lives and help us bear and accept the troubles and mysteries of human condition.
“As a native of Camorino, I chose to treat this theme during my residency in Valle Verzasca to better understand my Ticino’s origins. I let myself be surprised and embraced by the valley in order to try to perceive its peculiarities. In my opinion, be it real or fictional, history is what enables us to understand who we are and where we come from. I believe legends are the roots of oral tradition, which is an integral part of our culture. Along with myths and tales, legends speak of beliefs, fears and hopes of the natives.” – Olga Cafiero
* N.B. Costiss means “listen” in Valle Verzasca – Ticino’s dialect.
Olga Cafiero is a Swiss and Italian photographer based in Lausanne. After a BA in photography and an MA in art direction at ECAL, she studied art history at University of Lausanne. Her work has been shown in exhibitions in Switzerland and internationally since 2008, and regularly published in international magazines since 2009. Her awards include Foam Talent (selection), Hyères Festival de Mode et de Photofographie, BFF-Förderpreis (laureate) and a Swiss Design Award (laureate) and L’enquête photographique Neuchâteloise in 2020.
Die Winter, 1988-2011
Born to unknown parents in Busan, South Korea, Stéphane Winter finds himself immersed in the life of an – almost – ordinary Swiss couple. The action mostly takes place in a small apartment in the suburbs of Lausanne. During the day, Robert Winter works as a mechanic, Pierrette is a housewife. In their very own cosmos, the everyday evenings are blurred by the soft purr of Austrian television.
They closely examine the features of the latest Opel, a new car, that they patiently save for. They are a little bored, and when they’re bored enough, they indulge in role-plays during impromptu photo shoots. On weekends, they visit an aunt in German-speaking Switzerland or go for a walk on the Great St. Bernard Pass. In this reconstructed landscape, Stéphane Winter sometimes seems to mischievously embody the friendly extraterrestrial Alf from the 1980s.
Outside, the seasons are following one another; snow piling up on the balcony, the car park and the residence from across – identical. Cars leave their mark in winter. From the balcony, you can glimpse the nearby highway piercing the landscape; a few years later, a tunnel with noise protection – the motorway is still there… In this suburb of Lausanne, we are far away from the Switzerland of watches and thousand franc bills. The Winters represent the more discreet Switzerland, the Switzerland of allotment gardens and Migros.
Through his work, Stéphane Winter describes the intimacy of a small world that he has been photographing since he was 14 years old. He distracted himself with a camera but did not intend to gain public exposure or to develop it into a certain project. It is without doubt from this sincerity that his work draws all its strength.
Stéphane Winter is graduated from the School of Applied Arts in Vevey with a degree in photography. He then started his career as a professional photographer while also working in the chemistry sector. He has coordinated cultural projects between the countries of South Africa, Sri Lanka and Russia in collaboration with an NGO and has been working on experimental projects linking his two fields of activity.
In 2015, he decided to focus on his long-term autobiographical and personal work to finish a non-experimental project. In 2016, in collaboration with his publisher Gwin Zegal and the Festival Images Vevey, Stéphane published his first long-term work in the form of a book supported by an exhibition, “die Winter”. It represents 23 years of life with his adoptive parents in photographs. In 2017, he completed and presented his second long-term project as a residency work: a documentary of 10 years as a traveling consultant on the road in between and in European hotels.
He is now continuing his long-term photographic experiments, some of which he no longer needs his camera for.
Libre explores the territory of the Republique et Canton du Jura, looking for signs of struggle: in the 60’s and 70’s its people fought for independence, a unique case in Switzerland’s modern history. This series also re-enacts some of the glorious feats of the Groupe Belier, an organization which humiliated the Bernes occupant with weird, funny, and (almost) always non-violent acts of “terrorism”. – Thomas Brasey
Thomas Brasey (CH, 1980) lives and works in Lausanne, Switzerland. After completing a PhD thesis in organometallic chemistry, he eventually got tired of tinkering with matter and started studying photography. He obtained a bachelor in visual communication at the University of Art and Design Lausanne (ECAL) and has since then been working as a freelance photographer.
The decision of the international community to limit global warming to 2° compared to the average temperature before 1850 is regarded as a milestone in the climate policy of our time. The decision in favour of the 2° was taken on the basis of the tangibility and communicability of this climate objective. Even though we now know that this target is far too low and that we must expect serious consequences even if the temperature rises by 1.5°, this target can hardly be achieved.
The 2° go back to the economist Nordhaus, who tried to create an economic cost-benefit calculation of global warming and therefore defined the 2° in a chain of variables. In this economic logic, negotiations are also taking place at the UN climate summits and the politicians seem to be caught in a stalemate. Decisions are not made, but politicians act as if everything can still be done. The climate policy of our days can be described by Yurchak’s concept of hypernormalisation. The Russian anthropologist used this term to describe the state of Soviet Russian society before its collapse. The filmmaker Adam Curtis explains the term in his film of the same name as follows: “Yurchak argues that everyone knew the system was failing, but as no one could imagine any alternative to the status quo, politicians and citizens were resigned to maintaining a pretence of a functioning society.”
“In the work 2° I combine different visual materials to a whole. On the one hand, there is the confrontation with the representation of climate summits in the media. I focus on the hand gestures of the politicians, which seem like a sign language in the mass of press images, but without conveying actual content. The starting materials are press photos taken at the two climate summits in Cancun 2010 and Paris 2015 (panoramas). On the other hand, there is a “rework” of the gestures of the speakers at the climate conference in Katowice. I combine these with pictures showing the symptoms of global warming. In recent years, the melting of glaciers has brought more and more objects to the surface that were frozen in the ice for a long time. From these objects I created 3d-Scanns with the help of a photogrammetry app. The technique used refers to the surveying technique used from the beginning of the 20th century for land surveying.
The pictures of the Rhonegletscher show the landscape change in Switzerland. The Rhonegletscher is covered with cloths to protect it from melting. A man-made landscape is created to protect nature from the man-made climate.
The images are accompanied by an essay video in which I interweave various events from the history of climate research and the question of how we can get an idea of real climate change. ” – Christoph Oeschger
Christoph Oeschger is an artist and photographer based in Zurich, Switzerland. In 2014 he founded the publishing project cpress together with Christof Nüssli. His work has been exhibited in Switzerland and abroad.
Bubble, 2019 –
“This is a fictional visual story about water in Switzerland, and the phenomenon of artificialization and renaturation of nature.
Water is the element that Swiss are most proud of. It’s a part of the landscape, a cultural image, but at the same time also economic resource and political resource. Numbers of reservoir projects were built up through the whole country for the dream of developing renewable energy and protecting clean water resource, which have formed new landscape and social structure today; Deeply rooted into the history in Switzerland, the water supply and sewage disposal system formed the everyday relation of Swiss with water; Using both traditional and latest technology, the Swiss scientists keep studying the influence of the human actives, especially the hydraulic projects to the environment and ecosystem of different water bodies; After recognising the negative influence of artificial water body, Swiss started different approaches to renaturalize them… Innovated by the multiple relations between water and Swiss society, Chen creates this project based on both historical facts and his imagination, employing multiple mediums such as photographs, sound, video interview and found materials. Chen also quote the sentences from the science fiction Sloaris by Stanisław Lem, which describes a planet covered by intelligent fluid and discusses the essence of intelligence, memory and the boundary between human and nature.” – Chen Haishu
Chen Haishu, 1986 born in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, China. Now works and lives in Berlin, Germany. Using not only photography but also other medium such as text, video, installation, performance, film and photobook, the artistic works of Chen focus on the critical analyzes of condition of existence, social perception and collective memory in our modern society.
Transhumanism is an intellectual movement that aims to augment the human body through use of sciences and technique. This topic refers to everyday purposes, which are already banal, such as the use of pacemakers or smartphones. It also refers to fantasies which advocate immortality and even claim the abandonment of the body made of flesh in favor of the machine. From the myth of the cyborg to the chimera, transhumanism can bring to mind a new religion.
H+ is about the present. What really exists, what we can see, where we can see it. From Switzerland to Russia, between France, Germany and Czech Republic, he has been tracking, the people – from biohackers working in garages to major labs –, the objects and sometimes the concepts related to this movement. When he started his research in 2014, Matthieu Gafsou quickly realized that the problem would not be to find information or subjects, but to sort those out, to prioritize and to build a clear map of the transhumanist movement. It is the sum of various fragments that weaves a network of meaning, a mesh rather than a narrative. Implicitly, this allows Gafsou to formulate his relation to documentary photography: it is a bridge of sight and not a truth. There are, therefore, many defects and deformations. Gafsou opts for a radicality of renditions, which testifies of the latent violence involved in the technological transformations underway.
Matthieu Gafsou (CH, F, 1981) lives and works in Lausanne, Switzerland. After completing a master of arts in philosophy, literature and cinema at the University of Lausanne, he studied photography at the School of Applied Arts in Vevey. Since 2006, Gafsou has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions, and published five books. In 2009 Gafsou was awarded the prestigious “Prix de la fondation HSBC pour la photographie” and subsequently was invited to contribute to the Aperture Foundation’s 2010 reGeneration2 exhibition. In 2014, Lausanne’s influential Musée de l’Elysée hosted Gafsou’s solo show titled “Only God Can Judge Me”. In 2018, the “H+” exhibition was one of the highlights of Les Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles. In parallel to his artistic practice, Gafsou is on faculty at the University of Art and Design Lausanne (ECAL).