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Other Installations

Throughout the exhibition FUTURE PRESENT, selected large-format installations can be seen on the upper floors. Rooms normally used to store works in the collection of the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation have been turned into exhibition spaces for this purpose. The programme changes on a daily basis. For information on which installations can be viewed please see the infoscreen or ask at the information desk for details.

Francis Alÿs

Bolero (Shoe Shine Blues) 1996–2007, multi-media installation

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Francis Alÿs, Bolero (Shoe Shine Blues), 1996–2007 (detail), © Francis Alÿs, photo: Bisig & Bayer, Basel

The multi-part, multi-medial installation Bolero (Shoe Shine Blues) by Francis Alÿs (*1959 in Belgium) addresses – on several different levels – the relationship between the artist’s chosen home of Mexico, western society and US-dominated politics. The 384 drawings on the wall are those used in his film Bolero which forms an integral part of the installation. In the film, the movements of a shoeshiner – a service routinely offered on the streets of Mexico City – keep time with a voice and a clarinet performing a song composed by Alÿs about nothing and nothingness. The music is divided into nine phrases. The visual movement attempts to follow this acoustic structure, an undertaking that is bound to fail. The illusion of synchronisation is also picked up in the documentary Politics of Rehearsal that forms another part of the installation. In this film the voice of the critic and theoretician Cuauhtémoc Medina can be heard in the wings reflecting on the history of western, capitalist development policies, taking the US President Harry S. Truman’s 1949 inaugural speech as an example. The permanent promise and its simultaneous denial is visually embodied by a striptease dancer who repeatedly interrupts slowly removing her clothes whenever the singer and the pianist stop the music. The third film, R.E.H.E.A.R.S.A.L., gives an insight into the production process of the animated film.

Miriam Cahn

strategische orte (blutungsarbeit) berge, hügel, stadt 1985, drawings (black chalk on paper), three parts; 2 sketchbooks

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Miriam Cahn, strategische orte (blutungsarbeit) berge, hügel, stadt, 29.9., 1.10., 2.10.1985, © Miriam Cahn, photo: Bisig & Bayer, Basel

Miriam Cahn (*1949 in Switzerland) became a notable figure in the art scene in the 1980s through the vehement accentuation of her authorship as a woman. The three-part work strategische orte (blutungsarbeit) berge, hügel, stadt (strategic places [bloodletting piece] mountains, hills, city) was created using a technique she has called ‘Lesen in Staub (L. I. S.)’ (Reading in Dust) in which black chalk dust, shaved from blocks of chalk, is strewn on paper lying on the floor so that she can then draw in the layer of chalk. The subtitle blutungsarbeit (bloodletting piece) refers to her practice at that time of organising her work according to her own menstrual cycle. The fascination of these drawings lies in the appeal they exert in spite of the gloomy and catastrophic scenarios they depict. It is not just the perspective, but also the emotionally charged energy they exude that draws the viewer uncontrollably into the image. Alongside these three drawings there are also two sketchbooks on display which the artist presented to the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel in 1997: lesen im Staub: schwarze Köpfe features black-and-white drawings redolent of prehistoric cave paintings covering the whole page, while A + H-tests converts the indescribable horror of nuclear war (the title refers to the atomic and hydrogen bomb tests) into seemingly naïve, rainbow-coloured depictions.

Paul Chan

Volumes 2012, installation consisting of 1,005 painted book covers

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Paul Chan, Volumes, 2012, © Paul Chan, Foto: Tom Bisig, Basel.

The large-scale, spatial installation Volumes by Paul Chan (*1973 in Hong Kong) embodies – in a highly condensed form – his enduring interest in the book as a medium and in the visual and textual systems of signs that give it meaning. At the same time it also demonstrates a subtle understanding of the book’s dialectical contradictions and differences even during the current digital shift. Volumes was created by means of a process that involves dismantling, destroying, superimposing and re-ordering: 1,005 books that Chan found at home, in charity shops or simply anywhere have all had their pages ripped out. Having pressed the covers flat and rotated them through ninety degrees, Chan then painted rectangles onto them – some smaller, some larger. Their colours range from grey-blue to black; on some it is possible to make out the outlines of imaginary landscapes. These painted book covers create a multi-layered grid and raise the question of the meaning of the book both as a repository of knowledge and information and as a metaphor for the preservation and transmission of culture at the end of the Gutenberg galaxy. Volumes was shown at documenta 13 (2012) in Kassel in a version with around six hundred book covers; all 1,005 covers were presented together for the first time in 2014 in the exhibition ‘Paul Chan – Selected Works’ at Schaulager. Whereas, in the past exhibition, the books were hung along a single wall, here they are displayed in a more densely formulated context, reminiscent of a library, with several tightly packed bookshelves.

Gary Hill

Dervish 1995, video installation

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Gary Hill, Dervish, 1995, © 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich, photo: Richard A. Stoner, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

In his video installation Dervish, Gary Hill (*1951 in USA) takes an experimental approach to the medium of video with true aplomb. The installation consists of two modified video projectors with integrated stroboscopes that cast images onto a fast-spinning mirrored box. In turn, the reflection of these images on the wall looks like a whirling dervish. In the midst of these gyrating, fractured images, accompanied by various fragments of sound and tone, the images themselves lose their clarity of reference. The motion and reflections make them blurred. Conventional ways of seeing are thrown out of balance and the viewer is forced to adopt a new form of perception in which the images themselves are generated out of apparent meaninglessness. Within this framework, the installation also references the singularity of the way images are generated through the medium of video. Unlike photography, which fixes an image and conveys it in full, video has an inherently more open and processual form of continuous imaging.

Steve McQueen

Static 2009, video installation

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Steve McQueen, Static, 2009, © Steve McQueen

In this film by Steve McQueen (*1969 in Great Britain) a helicopter circles New York’s Statue of Liberty for seven minutes. However, the free-floating aircraft never comes into view. All we hear is the noise of its engine and blades swelling and receding again. Depending on one’s own experience the sound of the helicopter may well have menacing associations. Like a merry-go-round revolving around a central point, the camera cuts viewers loose from any sense of certainty as they find themselves caught up in a form of perpetual motion. The focus remains firmly on the colossal statue, designed to appear monumental even from far away although, from close to, patches of rust and areas of damage are visible. However, even the Statue of Liberty has lost its stable base. The jerky movements of the helicopter make it appear as though the statue were taking flight. Documentary fact and poetic fiction merge seamlessly into one. The historical and symbolic sculpture, standing for the freedom of the New World and greeting new arrivals, appears somehow to be adrift, instable and yet animated, all at the same time. The question arises as to whether and how freedom might be depicted today.

Jean-Frédéric Schnyder

Wanderung 1992, 119 paintings, oil on canvas

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Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Wanderung 1-119/35, 16.4.92, © Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Foto: Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel, Martin P. Bühler

The work of the Swiss artist Jean-Frédéric Schnyder (*1945 in Switzerland) engages humorously with traditional genres and techniques in the history of art that he appropriates for himself and re-interprets. His small-format paintings are often grouped into extensive series that expand upon a single, initial concept. In the case of Wanderung (Hike) Schnyder refers back to classical plein-air landscape painting – to the tradition of working from an easel in the open air. For this 119-part series Schnyder went – stage by stage and mainly on foot – to selected motorway bridges over the A1 that runs right across Switzerland from St. Margrethen to Geneva, and painted numerous views of the same road from different sites. The installation was displayed in the Swiss Pavilion at the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993 and entered the collection one year later.

Mark Wallinger

The Importance of Being Earnest in Esperanto 1996, video installation, 100 chairs

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Mark Wallinger, The Importance of Being Earnest in Esperanto, 1996, © Mark Wallinger, photo: Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel, Martin P. Bühler

The installation The Importance of Being Earnest in Esperanto by Mark Wallinger (*1959 in Great Britain) combines themes that run throughout his œuvre: social issues and differences, nationalism and religious faith, all mixed with a generous portion of British humour. The video in the installation shows a theatre performance of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (premiered in 1895), translated into Esperanto. The play was performed by amateur actors as part of the British Esperanto Jubilee celebrating the 100th anniversary of the universal language’s invention by the Polish linguist Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof in 1887. In Wallinger’s installation the play is performed to an ‘audience’ of 100 empty chairs, whereby the various chairs – each pertaining to a different epoch or culture – take on the role of a mixed but cohesive audience. In addition, the various design classics among the chairs pit the utopian project of a universal language against the no less idealistic project of Modernism.

Matthew Barney

Cremaster Cycle 1994–2002, (Cremaster 1–5, five films and associated acrylic vitrines; Cremaster 1: Goodyear Field, sculpture)

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Matthew Barney, Cremaster 1: Goodyear Field, 1996 (detail), © Matthew Barney, photo: Michael James O'Brien, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Cremaster Cycle by Matthew Barney (*1967 in USA) comprises five films, sculptures, large-scale installations, photographs and drawings. It is a monumental body of work of enormous density, complexity and sensually visual intensity. The title of the work refers to the ‘musculus cremaster’ – a tiny muscle that plays an important role in raising and lowering the testicles, making it crucial to self-preservation, procreation and the development of an organism. In Cremaster Cycle, Barney creates an analogy between the biological process of intra-uterine gender differentiation and the creative genesis of an idea and its development into a sculptural form. In this cycle, Barney circumscribes five stages of a creative process: the still immature moment of initial inspiration, the state of creative resistance, the narcissistic moment when the artist falls in love with the idea, the conflicted situation of physical implementation and, finally, the moment of articulation. Leitmotivs include a number of contemporaries who appear in the films, as does Barney himself, and various locations: Cremaster 1 was filmed in the Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho, the visual power of Cremaster 2 was derived from the contrasting landscapes of the Utah salt flats and the Canadian Rockies, Cremaster 3 used the Chrysler Building and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York as backdrops, Cremaster 4 was set on the Isle of Man and Cremaster 5 in Budapest. The films are presented in the exhibition space on a circle of monitors presented in the form of a 5-armed chandelier. All the films run simultaneously, enveloping the viewer in a cacophony of diverse references that become evident through this unusual form of presentation.

Cremaster 1: Goodyear Field is a large-scale sculpture based on the setting of Cremaster 1 – the Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho, famed for its blue Astroturf. In the film, two Zeppelins hover above the football pitch. Inside each of them there are four, seemingly bored stewardesses, seated at a table with mounds of green and blue grapes. Unnoticed by the stewardesses, the silk-lingerie-clad Miss Goodyear, who is present simultaneously in both airships – is arranging the grapes into geometric patterns from beneath the table. On the level of the playing field, these formations are reiterated by a troupe of dancing girls in fantasy costumes. The patterns change organically in time with the music and form a variety of symbols from the contexts of sport and cell-division. The sculptural installation Goodyear Field reprises the suspended potential of sexual indifference, as illustrated by the two ovary-shaped objects on the table. The sculptures that Barney created for his films, for which he used such typical materials as petroleum jelly and innovative plastics, have an autonomous status. They are not props from his films but were created independently of them and, as such, accompany his films as sculptural extensions.

Paul Chan

1st Light 2005, video projection

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Paul Chan, 1st Light, 2005, © Paul Chan, photo: Jean Vong

In the video installation 1st Light by Paul Chan (*1973 in Hong Kong) the floor forms a screen for the projection of a large-format image distorted into a trapezoid, recalling the light that comes in through a window. On the other side of the imagined window everyday things seem to drift apart: the achievements of contemporary civilisation seen as silhouettes – iPods, mobile phones, glasses, bicycles, cars, trains – float upwards in a serene, meditative atmosphere, while shadows that echo the shape of human beings plunge down from above, as if pulled by another force. The work is part of the series The 7 Lights, in which each of the six video projections – the seventh part being a score for the final video projection – is made up of a cycle of day and night, the latter indicated only by the use of pure colour. The seven works also recall the seven days of Creation – the difference being that, in Chan’s cycle, the world appears to be disintegrating. In the early works of The 7 Lights, silhouettes of objects can be deciphered but the later Lights are more abstract. The recognisable and namable figurative elements increasingly give way to non-figurative shadows.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss

Plötzlich diese Übersicht 1981/2000, installation

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Peter Fischli / David Weiss, sculptures from the series ‘Plötzlich diese Übersicht’, 1981/2000, © Peter Fischli / David Weiss, photo: Jason Klimatsas

In the installation Plötzlich diese Übersicht (Suddenly This Overview) by Peter Fischli (*1952 in Switzerland) and David Weiss (1946–2012) countless small, unfired-clay sculptures on plinths seem to have been distributed in the exhibition space almost at random. These roughly formed clay figures depict a wide variety of scenes from daily life. There are, however, also seminal moments from the history of science, religion and culture, as well as scenes from the world of work, from fairy tales and leisure pursuits. The focus is often on seemingly inconsequential moments, as in the sculpture of a sleeping couple, with the title Mr and Mrs Einstein shortly after the conception of their son, the genius Albert. Images of events that have become part of world history rub shoulders with others that are only of local significance. One group of sculptures depicts ordinary, everyday situations or ‘popular contrasts’ or suggests absurd anecdotes, such as Phoenician A visits Phoenician B with a draft of the ABC. Wandering through the installation it is as though one were a time traveller exploring the labyrinth of history. The banal and the metaphysical converge in unexpected and often amusing ways.

Ilya Kabakov

Mutter und Sohn. «Das Album meiner Mutter» 1993, installation

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Ilya Kabakov, Mutter und Sohn. ‘Das Album meiner Mutter’, 1993, © 2015, ProLitteris, photo: Bisig & Bayer, Basel

Visitors entering the installation Mutter und Sohn. ‘Das Album meiner Mutter’ (Mother and Son. ‘My Mother’s Album’) by Ilya Kabakov (*1933 in the Ukraine) are given torches to light their way through the dark, dusty, attic-like space. As they go, light falls on panels on the walls showing collages of photographs from magazines from the 1950s and short autobiographical texts from the memoirs of Ilya Kabakov’s mother. The happy faces on the photos contrast with the mother’s story whose life in the Soviet Union was marked by adversity and suffering and by hopes that were constantly dashed. Various small objects with labels bearing fragments of texts dangle from lines strung across the room. These texts range from sayings, banal questions and demands to reflections on artistic work in general and on Kabakov’s own concept of the ‘total installation’ in particular. The two parts – the panels from My Mothers Album and the ‘washing lines’ stretching across the space – create a composite experience and trigger a dialogue between the very different private worlds of the mother and her son. The subdued lighting and the voice of the artist humming Russian folksongs all underline the melancholic atmosphere.

Anri Sala

Long Sorrow 2005, video installation

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Anri Sala, Long Sorrow, 2005, © 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich

For the video Long Sorrow, Anri Sala (*1974 in Albania) filmed in a high-rise block of flats on the Berlin housing estate ‘Märkisches Viertel’, dubbed ‘Langer Jammer’ (Long Sorrow) by residents. The name refers not only to the vertiginous height of the building but also to the tristesse of the surrounding housing estate which was originally built in the spirit of a modernist, forward-looking vision. The video begins with a glimpse into an empty flat on the eighteenth floor of the building. The sound of free jazz being played on a saxophone filters through the window and, as the camera zooms in, the viewer realises that the soloist (Jemeel Moondoc) is playing outside. The flowers in his hair create a visual link to the park far below and, at the same time, trigger a sense of vertigo. The camera then focuses on the improvising musician amid this unstable situation and captures the emotions, tensions and reflections that pass across his face. Time seems suspended in this thirteen-minute exposure of intensely perceived presence in which the saxophonist enters a sphere far removed from all speech, architecture and space.

Bill Viola

Five Angels for the Millennium 2001, Videoinstallation

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Bill Viola, Five Angels for the Millennium, 2001 (detail: I. Departing Angel), © Bill Viola, photo: Kira Perov

The meaning and forms of human existence, birth and death, the relationship between man, nature and the elements – all of these find expression in the symbolically laden imagery of the video installation Five Angels for the Millennium by Bill Viola (*1951 in USA). Five different views of or into water at different times of day and in varying colour moods are projected onto the four walls of a darkened room. Each projection is accompanied by its own soundtrack – rustling, splashing, bubbling, as well as bird song, metallic clangs and animal calls. Sound and image swell at irregular intervals to a suddenly menacing volume, exploding in light and noise as a luminous human-like figure – an angel – breaks the surface of the water. Through the use of sequences played backwards, different perspectives and positions of flight, acceleration and deceleration, each angel is accorded an individual identity or attribute: Departing Angel, Birth Angel, Fire Angel, Ascending Angel, Creation Angel. Viola shot the extremely decelerated sequences at the high recording frequency of 300 frames per second, then played them back at the normal rate of twenty-four frames per second to achieve fluid movements of the highest resolution.

Jane & Louise Wilson

Gamma 1999, video installation

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Jane & Louise Wilson, Gamma, 1999, © Jane & Louise Willson; courtesy Lisson Gallery, photo: Dave Morgan

For their video installation Gamma, the twin sisters Jane and Louise Wilson (*1967 in Great Britain) shot footage of the former American air force base at Greenham Common in Berkshire, England. In 1979 NATO stationed ninety-six cruise missiles there. In protest, a group of women set up a peace camp that was maintained for almost twenty years. In 1991, with the end of the Cold War, the air force base was disbanded. The installation Gamma explores the abandoned corridors, offices and storage areas of the base. Here and there women in uniform can be seen on patrol, played by the two artists themselves. Their slow and cautious exploration of the base allows the camera to capture the remaining traces of a political history, charged with an atmosphere of paranoia and surveillance. Through effects such as perspectival shifts, mirroring and the pronounced exaggeration of sounds these socio-political aspects become merged, in addition, with a reflection on the filmic medium itself and the stylistic features of film noir in particular.