6th Swiss Scultpure Exhibition Biel
Any society's intellectual tendencies and aesthetics can be deciphered from its environment. If we could look back from the future to the present time – what would the traces look like that we have left on the world around us? Would it be legitimate to speak of a visual era? Of an environment shaped by visually sensitive people?
Looking, visual apprehension – which I would like to distinguish from mere visual registration – do not seem to stand in very high regard these days; they are not qualities that are being particularly nurtured. Neither at school nor in the workplace, and only very rarely in their own homes, do our contemporaries attribute great significance to such categories. It looks as though there was little demand for artistic expression.
It is true that artists are tolerated: usually as decorators, and as entertainers; in the public consciousness, their works are commonly regarded as objects of luxury.
But is it not the very artist who – thanks to his education, his experience, his sensitivity – is an expert in visual affairs? If this were so, his expertise would absolutely have to be acknowledged as such and he would have to be involved in the shaping of our environment.
Concluding a five-year hiatus, Biel again has occasion to present a great overview of Swiss sculptural art. The Jury have selected some 160 sculptures, objects and projects from among almost 800 registered works submitted by approximately 250 artists. Our focus has been on large to monumental sculptures that are particularly well suited for open-air display, works that have been created for a location which is accessible to the public. It seemed to us that it would make sense to present the sculptures in an urban setting, in the everyday world of the population of Biel. The medieval town of Biel has been integrated into the exhibition – not as an exhibition "gallery" but rather as an exhibit: with its well-proportioned squares and sculptural spaces, this medieval town can well be considered an artistic "object" in its own right.
In Biel we have made two attempts that shall demonstrate how we envisage the involvement of the artist in the shaping of our environment. Artists, architects and various other experts came together to create large-scale environments – we call them "Atmospheres" (Klimas). The two experiments were made on two construction projects whose regular budgets already contained an item called "artistic design". As is customary, the artists' projects had to be approved by various committees. New briefs (integration of the artist at all stages of construction; endeavour to create "art in the public realm"), and the trust placed in the artists by everyone involved have produced new solutions.
One project – concerning Biel Teacher Training School (Seminare Biel) – has virtually reached completion. With regard to the second project, only the blueprints and models for the outdoor spaces of the Vocational School (Gewerbeschule) will be available when our Exhibition opens. This part will be complemented by a documentation of further projects and realisations throughout Switzerland.
Another important part of our Exhibition consists in various events, most of which will be organised together with existing institutions from Biel.
As a special "trailer" to the 6th Sculpture Exhibition, we would like to present a small selection of fifteen works from the 1st Swiss Open-Air Sculpture Exhibition held in 1954 in the grounds of Rittermatten school. The special exhibition pays homage to Marcel Joray, the founder, and organiser of the previous five exhibitions.
© Translation from German, July 2008: Margret Powell-Joss