press release

Not Neutral: Contemporary Swiss Photography presents the work of nine artists, including better-known figures such as Annelies ·trba and Ugo Rondinone. Also featured are emerging photographers such as Daniele Buetti, Hans Danuser, Katrin Freisager, Claudio Moser, Cat Tuong Nguyen, Marco Poloni, and Peter Tillessen. Curated by Urs Stahel of the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Not Neutral introduces New York audiences to the vital Swiss photographic art scene, and is on view at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery from April 15 through July 19, 2003. Recalling the work of Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss, as well as more distant figures such as the Zurich Dadaists, Meret Oppenheim, and Jean Tinguely, the photographers in Not Neutral challenge the stereotype of Switzerland as a country of chocolate, cheese, and chalets. The medium of photography occupied the center of heated debates in the Swiss art community well into the 1980s. The Swiss tradition of photo-reportage, represented by key figures such as Robert Frank and Werner Bischof, provided a challenge for younger generations. One faction advocated upholding the documentary tradition, while the other wished to expand the boundaries of this artistic form. According to Urs Stahel, these sharply polarized positions created a tense situation. The 1990s, however, witnessed a dramatic shift. Sweeping technological advances, along with a blurring of boundaries between artistic media, altered priorities and brought an end to the critical impasse. This diversity of photographic expression reflects the situation of the international contemporary art scene. Within a fast-changing European landscape, Switzerland occupies a prominent position in the art world, due its geographic centrality, trilingual tradition, and economic vitality. ·trba—best known for her series of photographs chronicling her own family—will present video stills depicting Berlin and New York.  Shot from the air, the cityscapes appear as if viewed through an X-ray machine that reveals the skeletons of these vibrant metropolises. In his series I Don't Live Here Anymore, Rondinone deconstructs high-fashion clothing, cosmetics, poses, and attitudes in order to situate his own self-portrait within an invented series of “fashion glossies.” Beginning in 1995, he digitally placed images of his own head onto the bodies of figures found in various media sources. Freisager explores the gap between the flawless perfection of mass-produced media-generated body images and feelings of alienation in her series To Be Like You. Here, close-ups of hands and feet are juxtaposed with full-body shots of faceless, androgenous young girls who, clad only in their underwear, seem to float in space.  Buetti has addressed advertising’s commodification of the self by literally inscribing the names of corporate institutions onto photographs of fashion models. In Not Neutral, Buetti’s over-scaled light box rests on crude sawhorses and displays images from fashion magazines, which he has pierced to spell out phrases such as “Is life really worth living?” Danuser employs photography as a means to discover physical aspects of science’s taboo zones.  His large prints in Frozen Embryo Series III confront viewers with abstracted but potent images.  Tillessen, in a series titled Gold, explores the relationship between real, illusory, and simulated versions of this precious metal, which bears loaded implications for the Swiss. He is attracted to disconnected relationships between appearance and content as well as the myriad of choices we face everyday, for example, buying groceries in supermarkets. Moser, in his series Nowhere Near Far Enough, takes pictures of ambiguous urban landscapes where little is clearly formulated. In his work, Nguyen, born in Vietnam but living in Zurich, focuses on city life, portraits of his wife, and images of snow-covered mountains beside landscapes altered by development.  His blurred, luminous images reveal how vision is inevitably mediated.  Finally, in Shadowing the Invisible Man, Poloni creates a photo script for a film he never intended to make. The 54 photos comprising a shooting script, along with captions, construct a narrative for a fictional documentary history of an asylum-seeker in Bari, Italy, near the Swiss border, a situation not at all uncommon as more and more immigrants from Turkey, Africa, and Eastern Europe are infiltrating the once much more homogenous country located in the heart of Western Europe.  This talented group of artists reveals the strength and diversity of Swiss photography at this moment in time and was initially shown together in Zeitgenössische Fotokunst Aus Der Schweiz, an exhibition commissioned by Alexander Tolnay of the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, which traveled to three other German museums last year. Not Neutral is organized by the Grey Art Gallery at New York University, in conjunction with the Fotomuseum Winterthur, and is part of swisspeaks—a festival initiated by the government of Switzerland—taking place in New York in Spring 2003. The Grey Art Gallery presentation is made possible in part by the swisspeaksFESTIVAL, the Pro Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland, and the Abby Weed Grey Trust.

The swisspeaksFESTIVAL is a first-of-its-kind celebration of all things Swiss.  For eight weeks beginning February 27, Switzerland will share its creative talents, diverse culture and pioneering spirit with the United States and commemorate the centuries-old relationship with its “Sister Republic.” During the Festival, New York City and many of its premier institutions are joining Swiss partners to host more than 100 events ranging from design exhibitions to avant-garde theater, from global investment seminars to cultural exchange programs, and to plant the seeds for collaboration by future generations.  Pressetext

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Not Neutral: Contemporary Swiss Photography
mit Daniele Buetti , Katrin Freisager, Annelies Strba, Ugo Rondinone, Hans Danuser, Claudio Moser, Cat Tuong Nguyen, Peter Tillessen, Marco Poloni