Anselm Stalder

Helmhaus Zurich

Anselm Stalder’s exhibition is a topography of ideas, a dense network of pictorial, sculptural, architectonic, and urban references. It was publicly initiated with an action at the Zurich Paradeplatz, in the center of the Swiss financial world. Here, Stalder promoted his exhibition for several hours, wearing a sandwich board with the slogan: “Keine Dereguliering fir die Erfindung des Nebels” (No deregulation for the invention of fog). Art, which in the twentieth century went through a sort of deregulation of its own, has the potential to begin formulating rules again—in a kind of countercycle to developments in macroeconomics—even if only for the duration of an exhibition.

In the middle of the Helmhaus’s long entry stairway, Die Opaken Kinder (The opaque children), 2000, hung from a pole running from the steps to the ceiling. This was a grapelike cluster of about three dozen overlapping heads, each approximately the size of a punching bag, suspended on wires from the pole; the vaselike receptacles, bearing the petrified impressions of fingers that handled them fleetingly, aggressively, or tenderly, brought to mind Louise Bourgeois’s Lair, 1986. But while Bourgeois’s use of rubber conveyed a tactile intimacy, these blindingly whiteglazed forms of hygienic ceramic seemed cold. Their shiny surfaces reflected the lights in the room, attracting the gaze only to divert it the next moment. This slippery brightness became an opacity that seemed to have nothing else to hide.

In the large exhibition hall, a similar pole was used as a kind of signpost. On the wall, at about chest height and leaning somewhat, was an elongated mirror with two intersecting lines of text on its surface, writing and mirror writing: 3 and ihre Löcher (3 and its voids), 1998–2000. This slightly canted mirror seemed to push the long room off its otherwise clear axis. One’s gaze wandered between the strong architectonic obstacles and the image of the room reflected between the letters, then to one of the many windows of the Helmhaus and out to the river and the city. And then back to the gallery, perhaps to the sublime Torre di nebbia (Tower of fog), 2000, which, like a second vertical signpost, ran somewhat diagonally to the walls: four rectangular glass surfaces, painted white on the inside, formed a minimal cuboid whose nebulous volumes attract, absorb, and dissolve one’s intrusive gaze.

In his most recent works, Stalder pushes white noise, or the overabundance of images and data, to the point of collapse in minimal forms. In contrast to the purely virtual spaces of digital platforms, in which all data are uniform, identifiable, and immediately accessible, the fog contains all-embracing spaces of potential, from which something unidentifiable might emerge without warning. “The invention of fog” creates regular conditions for the possibility of that which is unregulated.

The same applies to Der Südfusskomplex, (The south foot complex), 1999–2000, a series of 192 serigraphed drawings, which, for the purposes of this exhibition, were displayed closely packed in two rooms one above the other, as if in an imaginary image tower. In groups of four, these sheets are to be posted, in a cycle of three months each, on display walls outside a psychiatric clinic in the part of Switzerland known as Jura Südfuss, until at the end of twelve years every motif will have been used and the work, in accordance with its own logic, will disappear from the public realm.

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.