Kunsthalle Basel presents the 22nd edition of the Regionale exhibition
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Kunsthalle Basel presents the 22nd edition of the Regionale exhibition
Installation view, Regionale 22, … von möglichen Welten, Kunsthalle Basel, 2021, view on Remy Erismann, Breakdancer, 2021 (front); Tatjana Stürmer, Bread of Dreams, 2020 (left) and Escaping Contours, 2020 (right). Photo: Philipp Hänger / Kunsthalle Basel.

BASEL.- Artists are often credited with world-building, or at least with helping to change our views of the contemporary world. Using a variety of strategies and approaches, they create visible evidence that there is more than one way of understanding and thus shaping our complex present. The twenty-four artists selected for this 22nd edition of the Regionale exhibition work in varied genres—drawing, installation, painting, photography, sculpture, and video. They make use of readymade images or construct narratives from memory. They send us on treasure hunts or trace fraught histories. They find sense in abstraction or zero in on societal clichés. In short, they draw from the external world as well as from their own internal worlds.

… von möglichen Welten (… of possible worlds) already starts on the street, with a map by Fabio Sonego painted on the entrance door. For some time, he has been designing oversized “treasure maps,” which playfully address human desire and the search for meaning. Karen Amanda Moser contributes two conceptual artworks that also operate outside the exhibition space. The first, a rubber stamp available at the reception desk, imprints a text on the skin of willing visitors. The text is an adaptation of the typical artwork label, pointing out that iden- tity is a construction that can be shaped. Moser also installed a text-based work in the restrooms, legible through reflection in the mirrors. Taking the form of dialogues, it focuses on stereotypical identity attributions in our society.

The digital sphere increasingly dominates our perception of the world, despite being subverted by commercial interests and controls. The art in the first rooms responds to this situation. The two small-format paintings in black and white by Mattania Bösiger feature a photo-realistically rendered luxury car, ablaze, partially covered with the computer-screen symbol for muted audio. It is a critical reminder that we often choose to tune out, even when the world in front of us is on fire. Samuel Haitz has covered in price stickers a publicity image of an idealized young man with his torso exposed, literalizing the commodification of desire. Repeatedly, Anita Kuratle’s wall relief declares, “I was here.” Her reference to everyday graffiti, in a form reminiscent of raised scars, pinpoints the essential need to leave traces of one’s presence. Remy Erismann’s dark, glittering sculptures, made of layers of materials, are inspired by an amusement park ride, linking sharp edges and security belts–possibly to point out the danger of venal pleasure? Paula Santomé’s drawing, more than ten meters long, depicts scenes sourced from the internet of young women “misbehaving” in a forest landscape—drinking, partying, peeing, vomiting. Opposite it, two printed curtains by Tatjana Stürmer hang. The motifs are drawn from an early medieval manuscript, the Book of Kells, woven into dense imagery whose symbolism combines the medieval with the contemporary, the natural with the digi- tal. Basil Ikum’s paintings, depicting and even propped up on quotidian commodities, humorously dismantle the consumer world’s exaggerated representational strategies.

In room 2, Jodok Wehrli’s work is a collage of material from commercial image databases and self-optimization slogans that expose their profit-oriented agendas. Mattania Bösiger’s meticulously painted images show small and large domestic dramas, to demonstrate how constructed—and influenced by the digital—our spaces of experience are. Cléo Garcia Leroy’s paintings, with their details of deconstructed human bodies, illustrate how frag- mented human perception can be.

Olivia Abächerli’s wallpaper piece in room 3 artistically negotiates Switzerland’s supposed neutrality by mapping colonial-era connections that persist today. In the adjacent screening room, six short videos are presented, lasting roughly an hour overall and tracing a conflicted world: Ruth Baettig’s poetic piece overlays an Ingmar Bergman film classic with the act of painting to address remembrance and forgetting. Marian Mayland’s film is likewise a journey down memory lane, this one focusing on male actors of films from the 1990s—what has become of them and the stereotypes they repre- sented. Jodok Wehrli’s film feeds off a digital image bank and uses documentary and staged footage to show how porous such categories are when images become commodities. Işık Kaya and Thomas Georg Blank turn their camera on oil pumps in urban and rural areas of the United States, aesthetically documenting the seemingly endless exploitation of natural resources. Anna Wiget tackles the notion of truth by mixing the documentary and the fictional with quotations from Friedrich Nietzsche, in which masculine pronouns have been replaced with feminine ones. Tatjana Stürmer’s video, loosely based on a story by Margaret Atwood, follows a female protagonist who suddenly and inexplicably dies—a cinematic exploration of clichés related to dissolution, disappearance, and transformation.

In room 4, Mélusine Brosse’s dark and enchanted drawings address transformation. Her titles refer to a stage of metamorphosis from cater- pillars to butterflies, while her images reflect the artist’s inner states and conflicts in the creative process. The paintings of Eva Gadient use bold color, scribbled text, and gestural marks to express emotional inner worlds. Marie Do Linh has painted on a large scrap of linoleum from her parents’ home to create abstracted fantasy creatures on it. In the center of the room are sculptures by Anna Maria Balint that, like strangely biomorphic signposts, struggle for balance and become projection screens for our imagination.

Entering the final room, one encounters Samuel Haitz’s pasted photocopies of pages from the 1974 Essay on Puberty by Hubert Fichte. To see the artist’s markings, along with the paperclipped photographs and other material he had inserted in his personal copy, unveils one reading of this once-scandalous publication about the longings of a young gay man. In an installation with an audio component, Kaltrinë Rrustemi evokes her mother’s childhood house in Kosovo. The fragmentary reconstruction reflects on home, war, displacement, and its consequences. Scattered throughout the space, Yvonne Roth’s sculptures instrumentalize everyday objects to provoke shifts in our percep- tion through enlargement and reconfiguration. More treasure maps by Fabio Sonego filled with scenes from life remind us that the hunt for treasure—of whatever type—can be winding and elusive. Pablo Stahl’s prints, lined with photographs of stately houses, repeat the line: “She was not there.” They are documents of a conceptual and also imaginary search for a woman who has left her well-kept home without explanation or apparent reason. The exhibition ends with Marie Do Linh’s paintings comprised of gestures layered on discarded packing mate- rial marked with traces of their former life. And with her sketchbooks, she allows us to glimpse still further possible worlds born from the chan- neling of fantastical visions into abstract forms.

In the field of logic, the concept of possible worlds is used to qualify statements: a possibility statement is considered true if it is possible in one world, but a necessity statement is only considered true if it is fulfilled in all possible worlds. Therein lies a critical potential: What would it mean if artistic creation could provide us with the appropriate tools not only to perceive and think of possible worlds (von möglichen Welten), but also to help them to become necessary?

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