29 December 2022 – May 2023
Curated by Madeleine Schuppli & Yasmin Afschar
In winter/spring 2023, the Muzeum Susch will present a comprehensive survey exhibition of the Swiss artist Hannah Villiger (1951-1997). This is the largest presentation in over 20 years.
The exhibition offers the opportunity to rediscover or get to know the artist for the first time through an extensive selection of works. An arc is drawn from her sculptural works created in the 1970s to the black-and-white photographs and the works with the Polaroid camera that Villiger created beginning in the 1980s. These fragmentary close-ups of her own body were enlarged via an internegative and mounted on aluminium, either individually or assembled into room-sized blocks.
On display are vintage prints, existing blocks, and examples of these large-format works, produced for the first time for the exhibition in Susch. Further discoveries are drawings and paper objects from the estate. In addition to the body-related works, Hannah Villiger also created a series of Polaroid-based city views. The immediate view from her work and living space of the urban environment in Paris or Basel inspired these.
The timing for the planned exhibition is ideal. Especially in recent times, there has been a renewed interest in this celebrated international success during her short life but faded into the background after her early death in 1997. For a younger generation, in particular, Hannah Villiger's work contains numerous highly topical themes.
The exhibition aims to open a broader view of the artist's oeuvre and introduce new themes and questions. Hannah Villiger is thus situated in the contemporary discourse. Therefore, the representation of the female body, the foreign and self-perspective on the physique, the classification in the media discourse, questions of surface, space and body and the objectification of the body are taken into focus. Moreover, in Hannah Villiger's work, the skin - where the human being enters a dialogue with the environment - forms the setting for explosive questions of gender, ethnicity, and woundedness/healing. She radically breaks with what Griselda Pollock describes as "the bodily grammar of western classical sculptures' vision of the female body." The body forms Villiger's material; it is abstracted or deconstructed; it can be human but also of plant or artificial origin. It is fluid and breaks conventional boundaries.
Hannah Villiger's work will be juxtaposed with that of three contemporary artists. Their work will be integrated into the exhibition tour. As a kind of inverted time capsule, they refer to younger, current art production. Hannah Villiger is thus re-read through the lens of the present that surrounds us, and exciting contemporary artists who today are dealing with issues comparable to those that Hannah Villiger addressed in the 1970s to 1990s are presented.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication that presents the current state of research on Hannah Villiger's work. The fact that Hannah Villiger is an artists' artist is taken into account in statements by artists who knew her. In addition, spatial views of the works, some of which are being installed for the first time, are published. With texts by national and international authors. To be published in March 2023, the book launch will be integrated into an interdisciplinary conference.
The project can be realized thanks to the valuable collegial support of Hannah Villiger's (Basel) estate.
Hannah Villiger (b. 1951, Cham, Switzerland; d. 1997, Auw, Switzerland) studied sculpture with Anton Egloff at the School of Applied Arts in Lucerne from 1972 to 1974. In 1974 she received the Swiss Federal Art Scholarship and a scholarship for the Istituto Svizzero in Rome. She lived in Rome until 1977, first at the Istituto Svizzero and then in the Trastevere neighborhood. After that, she moved to Montefalco, Italy, before returning to Switzerland. Starting in 1986 she lived in Paris, and between 1992 and 1996 she held a teaching position at the Basel School of Design. In 1997, she died in Auw (CH) after a long illness.
Hannah Villiger’s artistic work is recognized in Switzerland and internationally. In 1975 she represented Switzerland at the 9th Biennale de Paris alongside John Armleder and Martin Disler, among others. In 1981 she took part of the group exhibition Künstler aus Basel (Artists from Basel) at Kunsthalle Basel, followed by the solo exhibition Neid (Envy) in 1985, curated by Jean-Christophe Ammann. Institutional exhibitions have taken place at Centre culturel suisse, Paris (1986); Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel (1988); Kunstverein Frankfurt (1991); and the 22nd Bienal de São Paulo (1994), where she presented her work in the Swiss Pavilion together with Pipilotti Rist. Posthumous solo exhibitions have taken place at Kunsthalle Basel (2001); Kunsthalle Bonn (2001); nGbK Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin (2002); MAMCO Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva (2007); Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel (2008); and Centre culturel suisse, Paris (2012). In 2020 and 2021, Villiger’s work was included in group exhibitions at Kolumba, Cologne, and the Museum zu Allerheiligen, Schaffhausen.
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