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09 Jun 2015

Luc Mattenberger at ROTWAND, Zurich

Installation view, Rotwand, Zurich, 2015
Photo credit: Alexander Hana

Luc Mattenberger - No Meeting No Standing No Sitting


May 28 - July 11, 2015 Opening hours:
Wed-Fri 2-6pm, Sat 11am-4pm ARTIST TALK: Sunday, June 14, 2015, 12.30pm,
Rotwand, Zurich

Sabina Kohler & Bettina Meier-Bickel
+41 (0)44 240 30 55
+41 (0)44 240 30 56

Rotwand GmbH / Sabina Kohler & Bettina Meier-Bickel
Lutherstrasse 34
8004 Zurich

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Rotwand is very pleased to present new works by Luc Mattenberger (*1980, Geneva) in the artist's second solo exhibition with the gallery.

Art critic and curator Aoife Rosenmeyer in conversation with Luc Mattenberger about his second exhibition at Rotwand and his project 'Pickup' for AAA: Art Altstetten Albisrieden.

Luc Mattenberger @ Duttweiler Platz, Zürich (curated by Christoph Doswald)
June 13 - Sept 13, 2015

Entering the exhibition, one first encounters an installation recalling the remnants of rooms used for sanitary purposes. Perfect white tiles immediately call to mind elements of washrooms, for example a shower, laundry, or even a freshly cleaned slaughterhouse. A black rubber hose joins two metal fixtures on the wall. Upon close examination it becomes clear that water comes out of the wall through one end and enters the room through the nozzle on the other. Is this a real functioning object or a decoy? Walking through the exhibition space, one finds this structure a total of three times in slight variation, and the dynamic of the presentation is structured around the repetition of these three similar works. In addition to these three bas-reliefs, one finds four flags in the non-colors of black and white and also a video work, the soundtrack of which lends the exhibition its unique quality, while fusing together the different works presented.
No Meeting, No Standing, No Sitting I, II and III is the title of the three bas-reliefs as well as the exhibition. The artist describes these works as conveying images of the cleanliness and orderliness of large sanitary complexes in hospitals, nursing institutions, or prisons. What one initially perceives as pristine and pure white poses a contrast to all these implied sites. This ambivalence (between a mockup and utilitarian setting) is inherent to the work in terms of its form and content, and it is an effect intended by the artist. As a visitor to the exhibition, who does not feel tempted to find out what is behind this installation? Those familiar with the Luc Mattenberger's oeuvre will most likely expect the work to have a performative or participatory component. Are we being presented with a washroom or a torture chamber, or is this simply a playful water-sculpture? These questions remain unanswered, and the title of the work also underscores a sense of the theater of the absurd à la Beckett.
Inserted between the tiled reliefs are four flags bearing simple designs. Installed on the wall and hanging in the space, they form the second repetitive element of the exhibition. The white flag with the double 'X' hanging at the entrance to the office recalls the first known alphabet of cuneiform writing. It generally references the universal vocabulary of the language of signs and symbols, in this case bearing a code that can also communicate the presence of anti-tank obstacles. In the passageway to the second room hangs a black flag with simple white shapes indicating similarly universal tools, as here for example manual worker tools, signs of a guild. In the back section of the gallery is a flag with a rhomb on a white ground, 'Black Diamond.' In this work Mattenberger plays on the shifting signage of the Red Cross, the history of geometric painting (which has a particularly long and important tradition in the French-speaking regions of Switzerland), and also the significance of the white, peaceful flag of surrender. Also the large, black flag with tiny white triangles references the historical painting context mentioned above as well as American Minimal Art. As always, flags function as a symbol of belonging and a representation of power.
In contrast to these works, the video Pinto Canyon stems from a three-month trip by the artist to the US in 2014. A few years ago, he discovered the playlist of the music used at the prison of Guantanamo, which has become infamous for the atrocities committed there. As reported in the media, inmates were tortured with high-volume, non-stop music, including the trivial songs of stars such as Britney Spears. Until his American trip, the playlist had remained in his artistic archive, until the opportunity arose to engage with this important aspect of America's history in terms of its exercise of power and interpretation of law. Over the course of his entire stay in America, he played these songs constantly on his car radio. In addition, during the last month of his stay he would take his car down Pinto Canyon Road just before sunset, driving until darkness fell and the pavement came to an end. For a long time this road was an important route alone the Mexican border, and today it is patrolled by police and border guards because of raging street wars. The personal road movie that he performed on a daily basis is tainted and taken to a point of absurdity through the facts surrounding the incriminating soundtrack of Guantanamo. These are songs that everyone knows, Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA, a song criticizing the Vietnam War, or the more recent White America by Eminem. The ordinariness that they convey is even able to override the absurdity of Guantanamo, know as a point of political contention between the US and Cuba, for scenes of torture, and for perpetrated injustices. With the use of this kind of music at Guantanamo representing a primary violation and misappropriation, the artist produces an addition inversion and reinterpretation through his 'road movie,' which does not present the American landscape and thus the associated American Dream in an idealized manner but simply shows straight-forward shots of the radio and the rapidly passing sky. Once again, the element of repetition experienced at the very beginning of the exhibition plays an important role, in which the artist makes this drive day after day, exposing himself to the perpetual sequence of these same songs.
Ultimately, it becomes clear that the persistence of images and sound are central to the exhibition, and they underscore the political dimension of this work. Despite their minimalist and abstract quality, the flags generate a visual context familiar to us from the world outside. The songs function in a similar manner, having been played for years on the hit parades—burned into our memories. Some visitors will leave the exhibition with one of these not so innocent songs in their heads, finding it difficult to shake the sense of unease accompanying the tune.
Text Alexandra Blättler (English translation Laura Schleussner)