SPA History / 2000 /

TRANSFERT Art in urban space, 10th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition  Biel 2000        17th June – 30th August 2000


Marc-Oliver Wahler

The very concept of what constitutes an art venue has become unclear. Art can just as well take place in a museum or classic Kunsthalle as in a kitchen, on a beach, in a supermarket, a crater, a railway wagon, a farm, barracks, a space station, an answering machine, a golf course, on the Internet, or at the bottom of the deep blue sea... or in a city. Artists no longer draw their references from an art system which had always managed to offer a pleasant rest area, an offshore platform where the world’s din breaks down into a rustle, controlled like conditioned air. Their references are urban. They are organized in flows which criss-cross streets, peripheral areas, and passages – hybrid, permeable zones in a state of constant flux, uninterrupted movement of transfer. The various urban zones thus appear to be the most appropriate and stimulating setting for such structures.

TRANSFERT  is the 10th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition to be held in Bienne. The first exhibition in this series – pioneering in its determination to show art in the public place – dates back to 1954, the last one to 1991. 39 artists (Europe, USA, Thailand) sneak into the city’s infrastructures and question art’s ability to work its way into our everyday lives. A poster programme (carte blanche to four international artists) will be on view simultaneously in the streets of the following cities : Basel, Berlin, Bern, Bienne, Dijon, Geneva, Hamburg, London, Neuchâtel and Paris.


TRANSFERT  focuses on the concepts of graft and injection, over and above the idea of addition and supplement. Thus the artists proposes a prevailing consideration of the city’s existing infrastructures (roofs, balustrades, street lamps, tarmac, shops, façades, posters, vehicles, ventilation ducts, newspapers, TV, etc) with the keen desire to push the logical systems behind each infrastructure to their uttermost, not to say absurd, limits. Some artists, to give an example, propose a fire scheduled to happen three times a day, a sneezing dustbin, choreographies performed by bikers, hints for making products vanish, and hints for camouflage in one’s own home, an Angst tree, a security zone for the Conference Centre, a dam for the Suze canal, ventilation ducts for a motorway tunnel, a robot for tossing bread to birds, giant aquaria, a space for the future, an unbearable Jazz Band playing the loveliest music in the world, pills for turning blond, Protestant or artist... Present-day art is no longer set facing the world the better to study and describe it. It sneaks inside the world, plying the host of networks being woven by our reality day in day out. It operates more within a logic of movement and speed than in a logic of representation. By distorting the rules of visibility, today’s artists are formulating an actual aesthetics of stealth.


Paying particular attention to the exhibition concept, TRANSFERT delimits a zone lying between three major geographical points, and, through a dynamic system of linkages, encourages a dialogue between the works and consequently between the works and their context of inclusion. The work is no longer on its own vis-à-vis the city. Visitors no longer scour the streets in search of the works. They find themselves at the hub of a zone scanned by space-time phenomena that are forever changing. A visit to an exhibition is not approached the same way as a walk in the city. A fluctuation is inevitably created between the state of mind suited to the discovery of an exhibition and the state of mind that we experience on a daily basis when we walk around a city. This constant fluctuation is essential here. Above all else, it represents a vehicle of energy. While artistic practices are handled through their user value, it is crucial to introduce them into the very place of exchange and energy represented by the city.






ACKNOWLEDGMENTS In spite of budgetary restraints, the Town of Bienne and the Canton of Bern had always believed it possible to set up the 10th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition. Their contributions had been a determining factor, as well as the invaluable support of Pro Helvetia, W. Gassmann AG, the Federal Office of Culture, the Stanley T. Johnson Foundation, the AFAA, the Migros Kulturprozent, the French Embassy in Switzerland, the British Council and the CTS. We would also like to thank the cities coproducing the poster programme: Basel (Ressort Kultur), Bern (Kultur Stadt), Dijon (FRAC Bourgogne), Geneva (Fonds cantonal de décoration), London (Window 42) and Neuchâtel (Affaires culturelles). And many thanks to the companies and individuals whose donations and collaboration made this exhibition possible.