Montag, 19. Mai 2014

art+argument @ the Trudelhaus, Baden - the results!

We gathered at the Trudelhaus in Baden as a sunny Sunday afternoon drew to a close to celebrate the finissage of Rita Ernst, Clare Goodwin and Silvia Reichwein’s exhibition, and to debate the important issue: Power lies on the periphery! Defending the motion Gregory Hari drew on a friend’s experience. This friend had spent several years in a North American province, far more remote a place than exists in Switzerland, and found it formative. ‘I guess we say ‘in’ and ‘out’ [of the city, said Hari’s friend] because they are the centres where people from all directions come and go. Like the gravity of a sun which causes comets to enter and exit a solar system again and again.’ Hari put it to the audience that artists need the periphery as much as they need the city’s force to work against.

Sandi Paucic countered that history demonstrates how art requires the city to become meaningful. Famous Swiss painters like Henry Fuseli (Johann Heinrich Füssli) and Arnold Böcklin had to travel beyond Switzerland to find success and fame, because Switzerland had no significant cities that could support culture. ‘Only since we have the wonder of Art Basel, which happens since the 1970s, since [Paul] Nizon’s ‘Der Diskurs in der Enge’ stated that Switzerland was still too small to do any cultural production, surprisingly since then, things have blossomed. There was a miracle in the 80s and 90s when the art in Zurich started to become international!’

Claudia Spinelli, defending the motion, was not convinced, and said that there were equally valid examples of artists, such as Vincent van Gogh, who had thrived away from urban centres. She also attacked the so-called virtues of the city – a large audience does not make a well-qualified audience or even good viewing conditions. ‘Let me give you an example: we spent our holidays in Paris, and my seven-year old son had seen the Mona Lisa in some comic, and so he wanted to see the real Mona Lisa. So … we went to the Louvre. It was horrible. You would see more of this painting in a reproduction, because it was covered with glass, and you have half a minute for which you are allowed to be two metres away from it. I think centres are very bad for art.’

Jacqueline Falk was the last to put her opening arguments, against the motion. She spoke of the essential role of the city for the artist, and the artist’s role in the city in turn when it comes to cyclical development and regeneration. Falk compared the city where she works – Zug – to another hub – Qatar. Even if Qatar came late to high culture, it has quickly become an important cultural centre. ‘Our city of Zug is also the centre of a canton, and it is important that the little villages around Zug … support the city and give the money to the city because that’s where everything happens. We have the institutions that provide band rehearsal spaces, concert halls and theatre stages for upcoming and well-established artists to come to our city to perform.’

After these divisive opening gambits, a combative debate ensued. The benefits of the periphery in an internet age were considered, as well as the quality of experience for artists in major urban centres. The market came to the fore frequently, ad did pleas not to consider the market and artistic life as one. There was also discussion as to whether Manifesta – the biennial of the periphery - had got lost or found itself in choosing Zurich as its next site. A close debate ended with a narrow victory for the opposition.

Thanks again to the Trudelhaus, and Sadhyo Niederberger in particular, for the invitation to debate in Baden, and to the participants. Please remember that what was said during the debate does not necessarily accord with the participants’ own opinions! All the debaters were playing assigned roles. If you want to know more about art+argument, please email aoiferosenmeyer(at)