“By making skins from her childhood home, Bucher wasn’t just asking how we inhabit spaces but how they inhabit us; how we carry them with us, even after we have left them. The notion of ‘home’ is not something that can be so easily shrugged off.”
Heidi Bucher remains best known for objects involving latex created in the last two decades of her life. Educated at the School for the Applied Arts in Zurich, the artist left Switzerland in 1969 with her husband Carl and two sons, travelling first to Canada, then to the United States. Following her return to Switzerland in 1973, she separated from her husband and established her own studio in the basement of a former butcher shop in Zurich. It was there that, in 1976, she created Borg, the first of her Häutungen, or ‘skinnings’, taking a latex cast of the entrance door and wall to the butcher shop’s refrigeration room.
“Herrenzimmer (1977-79), Bucher’s first major “Raumhaut” (room skin), is a molding of the master bedroom of her parents’ Winterthur house. The room’s heavy, ornate décor and familial history are literally lifted up by the hanging process and the work’s ghostly transluscence”
“The skin often takes something with it: not just the impression of a door or room, but flakes of paint or vanish, a residue of dust, the imprint of splinters, cracks or nails. Sometimes the fabric is perfectly untouched, producing an extremely pale and spectral effect; sometimes a little paint is used, so that one wall glows, while the wall and door to the freezing unit in the old butcher’s premises where Bucher had a studio, in Zurich, is like a faded theatre set, with a faint sheen of pearly light. These are never just casts, pure and simple.”
Herrenzimmer, on display in MUZEUM SUSCH, marks Bucher’s first large Raumhaut, or ‘room skin’. Sheets of gauze, covered in layers of latex and painted with mother-of-pearl, were peeled off producing a negative of the interior of the ‘gentlemen’s study’ at the house of the artist’s parents in Winterthur. Bucher thus described the painstaking process of a ‘skinning’: ‘We paste the rooms and then listen. We observe the surface and coat it. We wrap and unwrap. The lived, the past, become entangled in the cloth and remains fixed there. Slowly we loosen the layers of rubber, the skin, and drag yesterday into today’.
Bucher’s highly personal ‘room skins’ are paradoxical works: being both instances of frozen time as well as frail and brittle objects ready to crumble away to nothing. They can be seen to speak as much about preserving and presenting as about re-working and shedding, leaving things behind and breaking the mould.
“There’s something odd, however, about the relationship of this monumental sculpture to the gallery space; echoing the girders above and sitting deferentially in one corner of the immense room, “Tower” modestly refers you to the surrounding architecture instead of flaunting its own aesthetic of ruined modernism.”
Muzeum Susch app
For more detailed information about the artists and works included in the show, please download our application Muzeum Susch, available from 29 December 2018.