BASEL.- Kunsthaus Baselland presents a solo exhibitions by Javier Téllez, Michael Bauer and Hagar Schmidhalter and one facade project by Basim Magdy on the occassion of Art Basel.
Javier Téllez is one of the most internationally reputed contemporary artists: his work has been shown at many exhibitions, including Manifesta 7 in Trento, last year's Whitney Biennial and the Sydney Biennials in 2004 and 2008. Kunsthaus Baselland presents three significant works of recent years in their full scope. This is only the second time that his most recent film, Caligari and the Sleepwalker, is presented in an installation since it was first introduced in November 2008. The film is a kind of collage from staged dialogues and documentary interviews with patients of the Vivantes Klinik in Berlin. As in almost all his films, Téllez pursues his long-standing interest in psychiatric institutions and the issues of allegedly normal and pathological behaviour. In a dialogue with the carefully casted lay actors, Téllez forges Caligari and the Sleepwalker into a cinematographic reference to the famous silent movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari by Robert Wiene (1920). Wiene's film is considered a milestone of expressionist filmmaking. In the film, a man tells his interlocutor the story of Dr. Caligari and his sleepwalking assistant Cesare, who is abused by his master for his murderous plans. At the end of the film it turns out, however, that the narrator is a patient at a psychiatric hospital and the presumed murderer is a doctor. The story, initially presented as serious fact, changes character and turns out to be hallucinatory. Téllez picks up on the doubts Wiene's film arouses about which level of the story is reality and enhances them in his own version which is set against the backdrop of Erich Mendelsohn's legendary Einstein Tower in Potsdam. Also shown in the exhibition: La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (Rozelle Hospital), 2004 and One Flew Over the Void, 2005.
'Anthem' is the first institutional exhibition of Michael Bauer in Switzerland. With the title, the artist already suggests that music has a great influence on his paintings, sculptures and drawings. At first glance Michael Bauer's works give the impression of stemming from imaginary worlds where phantasms, psychedelic elements and various moods meet and merge into temporary form. His compositions often look as though some of the ramifications might have taken another route; there is so much movement inherent in the works that the next move is already palpable. Graphic or geometric forms, circles and framing elements appear on mud-coloured ground with condensed areas and isolated swashes. Recognisable elements often appear within the overall composition. An eye here, or even a face, a hat there, a shower head discharging colours, testicles and penises, suggested harlequins, cigarettes, pipes and, repeatedly, table-tennis bats or lines that might have been taken from the green surface of a ping-pong table. Like teasers, individual shapes attract the viewer's eye and immediately direct it to the muddy or shady mélée of grey-brown areas, where it would get lost but for the geometric, clearly structured elements. Michael Bauer compares his paintings with movie trailers: 'The thing that the mind does when it fills in the blanks of a film that one only knows fragments of. (…) This teasing can very well be used in painting. Attractants, red herrings, a false sense of security.'
Hagar Schmidhalter presents her first institutional solo show at Kunsthaus Baselland featuring works produced especially for the exhibition space. After graduating from HGK Basel the artist who also spent time abroad on study visits in Edinburgh, London and New York, has repeatedly attracted attention in recent years for the work displayed at regional group exhibitions. With the title of her exhibition set against a blue sky with clouds and water Schmidhalter draws an imaginary picture which could also serve as a description of the images she uses for her paintings. Photographs from magazines, books or the internet which she likes for their composition, style or motif, are used by the artist for her interventions, which include over-painting in part or in toto, as well as other types of appropriation and integration in her installations or exhibition contexts. A photograph from the shooting of Wild at Heart, for instance, is used in an installation with violet painting. Schmidhalter soaked a canvas in metallised varnish and the slowly drying paint made the texture of the plastic foil underneath stand out, which in turn corresponded with the leather jacket of the actor on the photograph from the film set. The experimental creative process informs the surface appearance of the painting: the amount of paint that leaks through, the drying process and the transformation into the surface structure of the underlying foil - these are the elements that control the character of the painting.
Basim Magdy, whose artistic record includes numerous shows at galleries, exhibition spaces and museums in Egypt, the US, Spain and Switzerland, was invited by Kunsthaus Baselland to design a new facade project. Under the title 'Last Good Deed' (2009), Magdy developed a photographic scenario that takes up the theme of human mortality with a touch of black humour. Taking his inspiration from the location of Kunsthaus Baselland, which is situated in an urban-industrial fringe area subject to constant structural changes, the artist developed a motif that addresses the ephemeral and transitory character of human existence. In this scenario, a man is standing on a car, his face turned upwards to the sky. Stretching out a hand on a kind of extended artificial limb, he tries to tickle the sky. The text above the picture explains that the protagonist is aware of his mortality: 'Knowing he could die the next day', he responds in a strange manner – by trying to get in touch with heaven. His action is accompanied by questions about what happens after death and whether higher forces can be manipulated. Is there a superior power in heaven? What is the role of religion? May heaven be placated by tickling? What does heaven generally feel like? If the heavens are in a good mood, will this have a positive impact on the afterlife? Basim Magdy makes his figure ask these questions on our behalf, showing the man in the picture in a comical pose: he has taken off his right hand and stuck it on the tip of a yardstick which he uses as an extension of his arm.