Swiss artists take to the slopes

Gstaad hosts Wild Art show by Olaf Breuning, Pipilotti Rist and Thomas Hirschhorn
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Mürrischer Schnee (2014) by Thomas Hirschhorn, photo by Stefan Altenburger
Mürrischer Schnee (2014) by Thomas Hirschhorn, photo by Stefan Altenburger

"Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace - and what did that produce?" said Orson Welles' character Harry Lime, in the 1949 film The Third Man, contrasting warlike Renaissance Italy with Swiss culture, "The cuckoo clock."

Many have since pointed out that the cuckoo clock is a German invention. Fewer have noted that the Swiss have, in fact have a pretty amazing arts scene, as the current Elevation 1049 festival, taking place in and around the tiny alpine village of Gstaad, makes clear.

 

Snow Drawing 2014 - Olaf Breuning, photo by Stefan Altenburger
Snow Drawing 2014 - Olaf Breuning, photo by Stefan Altenburger

This series of site-specific exhibitions has been made exclusively by Swiss artists. Most of the works are created outside and react to or comment on the mountainous climate.

We were particularly taken with Thomas Hirschhorn's Mürrischer Schnee or 'Grumpy Snow' - one of the artist's protest-style encampments, not unlike last summer's Gramsci Monument. Look out for snowmen holding placards proclaiming 'lebens freude' or 'joy for life', among other slogans.

 

Bollywood goes to Gstaad 2013 - Christian Marclay,  photo by Stefan Altenburger
Bollywood goes to Gstaad 2013 - Christian Marclay, photo by Stefan Altenburger

Guests in Gstaad's Hotel Olden, meanwhile, may inadvertently take in Pipilotti Rist's installation, Sugarplums. This video projection, onto the drinks shelved behind the bar creates the illusion of an apparition, appearing "out of the mists of a bottle about to be drunk or perhaps already partially consumed."

Fans of Peter Fischli and David Weiss can pick through a garage filled with their old objects. Eine Ansammlung von Gegenständen, 1984-2013 ('A Group of Objects 1984 - 2013') at the post-office bus station Oberdorf, Mättelistrasse 3, Saanen, includes many pieces gallery goers may recognise from the pair's sculptures and films. "Out of the perfectly calibrated mess emerges a portrait, as precise in its description of an era as it is a state of mind or being," explains the festival's organisers.

 

Sugarplums (Independent cousin of The Blue Fairy in the Valley) 2014 - Pipilotti Rist, photo by Stefan Altenburger
Sugarplums (Independent cousin of The Blue Fairy in the Valley) 2014 - Pipilotti Rist, photo by Stefan Altenburger

Olaf Breunning's Snow Drawing, meanwhile, requires very little specialist knowledge. The artist, known for his coloured smoke displays, lights up the piste beside mountain station Eggli each morning, by scattering pigments into the snow.

Christian Marclay continues his movie collage work, with Bollywood goes to Gstaad, a 17-minute film bringing together scenes from Indian films shot in the Swiss mountains during the 1980s and 90s. This is on view at both the Ciné Théatre Gstaad and on a smaller screen installed in the Gondelbahn Glacier 3000 cablecar.

 

Untitled 2014 - Urs Fischer, photo by Stefan Altenburger
Untitled 2014 - Urs Fischer, photo by Stefan Altenburger

Meanwhile, in the centre of Gstaad, visitors can take in one of Urs Fischer's simple, low-fi sculptures, originally rendered in clay, but recast in bronze for this show. Another great reason to get out to the mountains this winter. Orson could not be more wrong.

Find out more about it here. For more on these artists, consider our Fischli and Weiss book, our Christian Marclay book, our Pipilotti Rist book and our Thomas Hirschhorn book, and also take a look at our newly revised Wolfgang Tillman's book, which features an interview conducted by Elevation 1049's curator, Neville Wakefield. Buy them all from the people who made them, here.


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