7th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition Biel

Andreas Meier

What Can a Sculpture Exhibition Do for Children?

The question may evoke memories of the previous Sculpture Exhibition: for three months, the "Grosser Boss" (Big Boss) by Bernhard Luginbühl was a great children's attraction; as was Ivan Pestalozzi's "Lozziwurm" (Lozzi Dragon), now to be admired in the Stadtpark(Municipal Park).

Admirers of traditional "plinth art" will consider these playful, hands and feet-on sculptures with some scepticism, their best reaction likely, "I suppose one should probably do something for children." If all goes well, such works may even satisfy traditional adult expectations and in the art world, the category of "walk-in sculptures" has been created for them.

However, this is not the full answer to the initial question. Consider this simple fact: half of all the sculptures that the city of Biel, for example, has acquired over the past thirty years is located in schools and school grounds. A good part of each Sculpture Exhibition should therefore be dedicated to children and young people, who could take this opportunity to discuss their ideas and wishes with the artists, placing commissions and making new acquisitions. However, children should not be made to merely copy adults.

1950s figurative sculpture was largely about the endeavour to create a link between art and children/school; art committees and architects were motivated by the same intention to select sculptures such as "Werdegang des Lebens" (Evolution of Life), "La ronde" (Roundabout), "Der Zirkus" (The Circus), the head of a girl, the portrait of a boy, animals of all kinds – a goat, a little bear, a turkey, a cockerel and a hen. I would not like to pretend that this kind of art is particularly well suited for children; nor is my list a plea for the renaissance of figurative sculpture. It does seem, however, that abstract art has become even more of an expert subject, with works selected by adults to suit their adult taste, albeit guided by pedagogical concepts perhaps. A dialogue between children and artists seldom occurs. On rare occasions, a wall painting may be realised in an act of cooperation between artist and pupils. However, I would really not want to restrict our artists to creations incorporating slides, wading pools and climbing structures. I even believe that such play objects – if they are to fulfil their actual function – do not necessarily have to be designed according to aesthetic criteria. I do, however, think that artists should more often consider children as partners whose specific perception needs to be taken into account.

In 1950s "garden architecture", sculptures largely played a decorative role that had no bearing on the architecture of any specific school. As real estate grew increasingly scarce and areas were ever more densely built-up, sculptures came to be more integrated, for example to subdivide buildings and break up façades. This is relevant to children as their perception is less selective than that of adults. Children find their bearings according to spontaneous spatial impressions rather than functional criteria. Younger children who have difficulty coping with spatial dimensions will perceive such fixed points, e.g. the column at the centre of the recreation area; the iron relief that divides a concrete façade; the round shape and warm material of a wooden sculpture that contrasts with the sober exposed concrete surface of an interior wall; the column of stainless steel, which stands a little to the side of an expanse of lawn – a magic object that reflects the viewer and the green grass. Art will provide emotional points of reference in a space that the adult mind would primarily perceive for its functional purpose. Such focal points will make it easier for children to find their bearings, and might even make them feel more comfortable. Sculptures are more child-friendly than two-dimensional museum art. They can be walked around, hidden behind, touched; they can often be sat on without causing damage; and they belong to everyone. A seven-year-old child is very capable of consciously perceiving and responding to art objects, and of expressing his or her thoughts or feelings – all it takes is some stimulus from an adult.

In the examples given above I have been thinking of the Sahligut School in Biel, with its sculptures by Raffael Benazzi, Willi Weber, Franz Eggenschwiler, Michel Engel and  André Ramseyer. It seems to me to be a successful example of a rich selection of architectural forms, shapes and materials of the most diverse kind, which render locations unmistakeable to the pupils, helping them to find their bearings. If, nonetheless, there is something missing here, it is the continuous dialogue that should begin well before the finished works are set in their final locations. This, by the way, is equally true for school buildings where the interplay of architecture and art goes a great deal further. The identity of the authors of the beautifully shaped, strange, mysterious and possibly scary objects usually remains a mystery. The school is completed, the architect and artist have done their job; the pupils move in.

There may be good reasons to keep artists away from the world of education. Our society holds a number of prejudices against the artist and his role, the most persistent one being that of the artist as a privileged, enviable person who is free to pursue his own ideas, insights, playfulness and desire to create. Such freedom and whoever incarnates it are not entirely harmless. The artist is a kind of messenger of man liberated from certain societal constraints. His art is driven by innovation and change, which does not, however, mean that change essentially occurs only in and through art.

However, there are some encouraging examples for approaches to art that have emerged from a process between artists and children without relegating the artist to being a mere builder of climbing towers. It would be ideal if artists could be in continuous contact with the respective school as they pursue their own artistic objectives; and if this contact with active artistic creation could give pupils more impulses to nurture and unfold their own creativity. This might mitigate a great deal of the currently existing alienation between artists and their audiences.
Andreas Meier


 © Translation from German, August 2008: Margret Powell-Joss

  • Reflexion über die Gegen-Stände, Grossert Michaël, expo 1980
    Reflexion über die Gegen-Stände
  • Projet Bienne II 1980, Huber Hans Rudolf, expo 1980
    Projet Bienne II 1980
  • Komposition, Teucher Otto, expo 1980
  • PARADISE LOST, Siegenthaler Albert, expo 1980
  • Figur I, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1980
    Figur I
  • Entelechie 1 + 2, Stocker Ludwig, expo 1980
    Entelechie 1 + 2
  • Wiesenfloss (Projektskizze), Stocker Norbert, expo 1980
    Wiesenfloss (Projektskizze)
  • Objekt I, Streiff Matthias, expo 1980
    Objekt I
  • Ohne Titel, Raboud André, expo 1980
    Ohne Titel
  • Wiesenfloss (3 Aufnahmen), Stocker Norbert, expo 1980
    Wiesenfloss (3 Aufnahmen)
  • F. Y. 26 – 1979, Bolomey Roger, expo 1980
    F. Y. 26 – 1979
  • Schiff, Sigrist Richard, expo 1980
  • 10/78, Niederer Heinz, expo 1980
  • Grosse Mondleiter, Küng René, expo 1980
    Grosse Mondleiter
  • Vitrine mit 10 Zinkblechmodellen, Burger Walter, expo 1980
    Vitrine mit 10 Zinkblechmodellen
  • Elément en 3 pièces, Emile Angéloz, expo 1980
    Elément en 3 pièces
  • Standortbestimmung, Brand Heinz, expo 1980
  • Licht/Schatten Objekte, Nyffenegger Samuel, expo 1980
    Licht/Schatten Objekte
  • La concièrge, Polliand Daniel, expo 1980
    La concièrge
  • Microcosme New York III, De Montaigu Charles, expo 1980
    Microcosme New York III
  • Sans titre, Bonnot François, expo 1980
    Sans titre
  • Gruppenbild, Engel Michel, expo 1980
  • Figure debout, Ferrario Aldo, expo 1980
    Figure debout
  • Paravent, Suter Hugo, expo 1980
  • Wasserspiel 37, Fontana Annemie, expo 1980
    Wasserspiel 37
  • Aktionsplastik, Lüchinger Roland, expo 1980
  • Der leere Raum, Blättler Rudolf, expo 1980
    Der leere Raum
  • Weibliches Idol, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1980
    Weibliches Idol
  • Ein Schatten zwischen Sein und Schein, Schwarz Martin, expo 1980
    Ein Schatten zwischen Sein und Schein
  • Drei Obeliske aus dem Pentagondodekaëder, Storrer Peter, expo 1980
    Drei Obeliske aus dem Pentagondodekaëder
  • 2 Trees, Gruber-Stieger Jaqueline, expo 1980
    2 Trees
  • Mère et enfant, Ferrario Aldo, expo 1980
    Mère et enfant
  • Déméter, Perrin Fred, expo 1980
  • Figur III, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1980
    Figur III
  • Sans titre, Bonnot François, expo 1980
    Sans titre
  • Schwebendes Ringpendel, Witschi Werner, expo 1980
    Schwebendes Ringpendel
  • Agression, Mariotti Yves, expo 1980
  • Fils, Winteler Anna, expo 1980
  • Kelch symmetrisch, Schneider Jimmy Fred, expo 1980
    Kelch symmetrisch
  • Flugkörper, Pedretti Erica, expo 1980
  • Poetree, Buchwalder Ernst, expo 1980
  • Raumplastik, Mattioli Silvio, expo 1980
  • Die Weisen, Weber Bruno, expo 1980
    Die Weisen
  • Teatraedre, Ischi Pierre, expo 1980
  • Don Quichotte III, Zeller André-Paul, expo 1980
    Don Quichotte III
  • Kleines Bronzerelief VI – 1976, Rehmann Erwin, expo 1980
    Kleines Bronzerelief VI – 1976
  • Licht/Schatten Objekte, Nyffenegger Samuel, expo 1980
    Licht/Schatten Objekte
  • Mondaffe, Eggenschwiler Franz, expo 1980
  • Ohne Titel, Blättler Rudolf, expo 1980
    Ohne Titel
  • Objekt III, Streiff Matthias, expo 1980
    Objekt III
  • Borg, Bucher Heidi, expo 1980
  • Projekt Zeitraum, Sigrist Kurt, expo 1980
    Projekt Zeitraum
  • Olymp, Metzler Kurt Laurenz, expo 1980
  • Kreis-Stele I, Engler Jakob, expo 1980
    Kreis-Stele I
  • Zeichen, Büchi René, expo 1980
  • Rasterteppich, Bauer Heiner, expo 1980
  • See Stück, Ruenzi Fritz, expo 1980
    See Stück
  • Baum und Welt, Aeberli Matthias, expo 1980
    Baum und Welt
  • Euphorium, Kocher Lis, expo 1980
  • L’Uomo nel Tempo, Paolucci Flavio, expo 1980
    L’Uomo nel Tempo
  • Entwicklungsreihe (6 Steine), Grunder Mariann, expo 1980
    Entwicklungsreihe (6 Steine)
  • Grab, Brodwolf Jürgen, expo 1980
  • Arbeit III, Baviera Michael, expo 1980
    Arbeit III
  • Eisenplastik geschmiedet, Odermatt Josef Maria, expo 1980
    Eisenplastik geschmiedet
  • Zentrum, Büchi René, expo 1980
  • Nombre 58 = Esther, Hess Esther, expo 1980
    Nombre 58 = Esther
  • Schlafwandler, Pfenninger Kaspar, expo 1980
  • Die Baumfee und ihre Tänzerin, Balmer Hans, expo 1980
    Die Baumfee und ihre Tänzerin
  • Ferienlandschaft, Buchli Rudolf, expo 1980
  • Baalbek, Bucher Carl, expo 1980
  • Fig. XIX A, Presset Henri, expo 1980
    Fig. XIX A
  • Rencontre XXX, Torres Manuel, expo 1980
    Rencontre XXX
  • Modell für eine Plastik, Megert Christian, expo 1980
    Modell für eine Plastik
  • Sculpture 76 J, Wiggli Oskar, expo 1980
    Sculpture 76 J
  • Figur II, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1980
    Figur II
  • Stahl-Konstruktion XIIX, Altherr Jürg, expo 1980
    Stahl-Konstruktion XIIX
  • Seelenführer Anubis, Conne Louis, expo 1980
    Seelenführer Anubis
  • 79/30, Mauboulès Jean, expo 1980
  • Lächelnd sah er aufs Meer hinaus, Meier Dieter, expo 1980
    Lächelnd sah er aufs Meer hinaus
  • Boden – Raum – Schnittpunkt I, Haldemann Walter, expo 1980
    Boden – Raum – Schnittpunkt I
  • La fleur du mal, Gerstner Karl, expo 1980
    La fleur du mal
  • Der Papalagi, Seibt Dieter, expo 1980
    Der Papalagi
  • Traktor und div. Materialien, Tinguely Jean, expo 1980
    Traktor und div. Materialien
  • Béatrice, Schwarz Heinz, expo 1980
  • Werk Nr. 04.07.79 B. 1979, Mattes Rudolf, expo 1980
    Werk Nr. 04.07.79 B. 1979
  • Figur I, Wimpheimer Willy, expo 1980
    Figur I
  • Kardinal, Luginbühl Bernhard, expo 1980
  • „Laa mi nöd gheiä“, Arbi (Bechtler Ruedi), expo 1980
    „Laa mi nöd gheiä“
  • Komposition, Teucher Otto, expo 1980
  • Vertschaupet, Hutter Schang, expo 1980
  • Quebec, Ischi Pierre, expo 1980
  • Totenschlitten, Sigrist Kurt, expo 1980
  • Annabello, Kohlbrenner Beat, expo 1980
  • Liber, Werro Roland, expo 1980
  • Explosion, Wirz Tobias, expo 1980
  • Objekt II, Streiff Matthias, expo 1980
    Objekt II
  • Projet Dimension Uniques, Transmutation Forme et Terre, Camesi Gianfredo, expo 1980
    Projet Dimension Uniques, Transmutation Forme et Terre
  • Zusammenarbeit Urs Suter, Vögeli Walter, expo 1980
    Zusammenarbeit Urs Suter
  • Venus Asylstrasse 21, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1980
    Venus Asylstrasse 21
  • Microcosme New York IV B, De Montaigu Charles, expo 1980
    Microcosme New York IV B
  • Espace Nord-Sud, Fontana Dominique, expo 1980
    Espace Nord-Sud
  • Arbre, Candolfi Serge, expo 1980
  • 9/78, Niederer Heinz, expo 1980
  • Figur I, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1980
    Figur I
  • Windrad Esche, Küng René, expo 1980
    Windrad Esche
  • JURA, Berger Ueli, expo 1980
  • Environnement mit Performance, Gfeller Reinhard, expo 1980
    Environnement mit Performance
  • Wandplastik, Mattioli Silvio, expo 1980
  • F. Y 3 – 1976, Bolomey Roger, expo 1980
    F. Y 3 – 1976
  • Eisenplastik geschmiedet, Odermatt Josef Maria, expo 1980
    Eisenplastik geschmiedet
  • Rutschbahn, Weber Bruno, expo 1980
  • Kunstauktion im Marzilibad Bern, Jordi Ernst Kretz Walter Schneider Jimmy Fred Vögeli Walter Suter Urs, expo 1980
    Kunstauktion im Marzilibad Bern
  • L’Ile aux oiseaux, Camesi Gianfredo, expo 1980
    L’Ile aux oiseaux
  • Profil eines Fluges, Egloff Anton, expo 1980
    Profil eines Fluges
  • E 1 P, Duarte Angel, expo 1980
    E 1 P
  • Stille Stelle, Fischli Hans, expo 1980
    Stille Stelle
  • Pavillonskulptur aus 6 Rundhölzern, Bill Max, expo 1980
    Pavillonskulptur aus 6 Rundhölzern
  • Scheiterhaufen, Hächler Peter, expo 1980
  • Les 12 signes du zodiaque, Aeppli Eva, expo 1980
    Les 12 signes du zodiaque
  • Sculpture 77 D, Wiggli Oskar, expo 1980
    Sculpture 77 D
  • Ouverture sur rencontre, Torres Manuel, expo 1980
    Ouverture sur rencontre
  • Video blind piece, Minkoff Gérald, expo 1980
    Video blind piece
  • Der Rezipient als Bestandteil, Eberle Urs, expo 1980
    Der Rezipient als Bestandteil
  • Marmor-Block, Meister Peter, expo 1980
  • Fanfan II, Schwarz Heinz, expo 1980
    Fanfan II
  • Homo-Sapiens, Hotz Roland, expo 1980
  • Accumulation no 792, Delieutraz Edouard, expo 1980
    Accumulation no 792
  • Elch, Weiss Max, expo 1980
  • PARADISE LOST, Siegenthaler Albert, expo 1980
  • see, Weber Willy, expo 1980
  • Phönix, Moser René, expo 1980
  • Chromstahl, Talman Paul, expo 1980
  • Biel Luminis, Fucktory Biel, expo 1980
    Biel Luminis
  • Feuer, Wiedmer Paul, expo 1980
  • Autoportrait, Berthoud Francis, expo 1980
  • Figur I, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1980
    Figur I
  • Objekt in der Schüss, Signer Roman, expo 1980
    Objekt in der Schüss
  • Weiblicher Toso, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1980
    Weiblicher Toso
  • Sky-Lab II: ein Environnement, Etcetera Ateliergemeinschaft, expo 1980
    Sky-Lab II: ein Environnement
  • Figur II, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1980
    Figur II
  • Venus de Six-Fours, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1980
    Venus de Six-Fours
  • Fût no 793, Delieutraz Edouard, expo 1980
    Fût no 793
  • Licht – Bild – Raum, Fricker Hansruedi, expo 1980
    Licht – Bild – Raum
  • Allee, Häckel Wolfgang, expo 1980
  • 5 Bielerrugel, Benazzi Raffael, expo 1980
    5 Bielerrugel
  • Poisson femme, Polliand Daniel, expo 1980
    Poisson femme
  • Kopf aus Hauterive, Kunz Peter, expo 1980
    Kopf aus Hauterive
  • Biel Luminis, Fucktory Biel, expo 1980
    Biel Luminis
  • La Perception visuelle en tant qu’art, Fischer Walter, expo 1980
    La Perception visuelle en tant qu’art
  • Diagonale Faltung, Staub Josef, expo 1980
    Diagonale Faltung
  • Rostiges Eisen um Farbkreuz, Bürkler David, expo 1980
    Rostiges Eisen um Farbkreuz