Winterthur, Switzerland

Peter Regli

Kunsthalle Winterthur

“On June 1, 2003, a glass shelf (10 x 15 feet) filled with crystal glass objects was crashed down a set of stairs. In collaboration with the Ensemble für Neue Musik Zürich, the recorded soundscape was transcribed into a composition. On July 11, 2003, the ensemble premiered Reality Hacking Nr. 202 at the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva, Switzerland.” This terse description appears on the website where Peter Regli documents his often anonymous interventions in public space. With the most filigreed clattering—loud, and then, in echo, finely engraved—the multitiered tower of hand-blown crystal collapses onto itself, crashing down the broad front steps, and appears, on the DVD recording, hardly to come to rest. In the same year as this cataract of glass, Regli staged a second sound composition using the sirens and foghorns of seven motorboats and a steamship on the Lake of Zurich (Reality Hacking Nr. 205, April 1, 2003): Following an eight-part score, members of the Ensemble für Neue Musik Zürich sounded the ships’ horns rhythmically with the aid of stopwatches—a new experience for the neighbors of the harbor.

The exhibition at Winterthur referred to those sound pieces as well as other works, with a multilayered installation of scores, video recordings, and photo documentation, none of which claim the status of a work of art. With the exception of specific museum presentations, Regli’s works occur mostly outdoors and without any prior announcement. Reality Hacking Nr. 195: On August 24, 2002, between 8:12 pm and 11:45 pm, the Red Arrow, a legendary railway car, ran through the Swiss railway system. The interior of the car was filled with a luminous green fog. “I saw a green train running through the night” must have been the astounded, slightly dubious reaction of chance witnesses to the silent occurrence, a public that Regli will never meet—consisting perhaps, in this case, of people who happened to step out onto a balcony at night for a cigarette.

Like a hacker on the Web, Regli breaks into carefully selected points in real systems with gentler or rougher interventions, in order to sound out the limits of perception, that difference art introduces into the context of the everyday. By insinuating aesthetic distinctions into real situations, the institutional critique provoked by the readymade is traced back to a broader political frame. Where in public space does the visibility, the unmistakability of art begin? When the primary indicators of pedestal, frame, inscription, and authorship are lacking, artistic intervention exposes itself to the “big-trashday test,” as Thomas Schütte once put it: Is anything added at all?

Regli introduces anomalies of time and space into the landscape. Reality Hacking Nr. 200, 2002, for instance, consisted of an artificially engineered, circular island at a river’s delta on Lake Urn, whose form can be seen only from the surrounding mountains, or from the air, as by the infrequent birds that populate the island as habitat. Who saw, in the exhibition “Tempo” at MoMA QNS in 2000, the two Swiss railway-station clocks that constitute Regli’s Reality Hacking Nr. 147? They stood beside one another, one running clockwise, the other counterclockwise—as if the course of time were suspended by a sheer mirroring in space.

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from German by Diana Reese.