Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Andrea Büttner, Dorothy Iannone, Reto Pulfer, Dieter Roth
This exhibition developed out of a conversation with Reto Pulfer about what inspires and influences his work. ‘Life itself’ was his initial response, followed by a list of artists with whom he feels an affinity, in terms of artistic attitude and conceptual concerns. These artists share an interest in the crossover between life and art, and art and life—where one informs or transforms into the other, as when life becomes material for artworks, or when art-making shapes reality. At times these practises also critically examine notions of authenticity, reflecting on different modes of presentation and expanding our understanding of what counts as art.
Pulfer creates installations incorporating fabric, plants, drawing, painting and a variety of found objects. In some recent work, Pulfer replaced studio-based art-making with working outdoors, gathering plants from the garden and goods from the kitchen to use as natural dyes. A self-taught artist, Pulfer is also a storyteller and has written a novel in the style of a post-apocalyptic science fiction, in which the protagonist Gina has the ability to enter into timelessness. In a similar manner, Pulfer’s installation environments often possess scents and tactility, encouraging the viewer to expand their sense of time and place.
Dorothy Iannone is also a storyteller and self-taught artist, who weaves personal and imaginative narratives into her work in the form of images and texts. Iannone’s etching titled Lions For Dieter Rot The Present Lion Master (1971) originated as a bedtime story she told to Dieter Roth, her partner at the time, who asked to see the story in visual form. In the etching, the story is written around the edges of the drawing. Further expanding the original story are lyrics from a song written by Iannone celebrating matriarchal times, which weave themselves through the imagery.
Dieter Roth’s work from his Tischmatten [table mats] series also melds quotidian life and art. In the 1970s, Roth began covering the work surfaces of studios with large sheets of cardboard and allowed them to accumulate smears, stains and scraps from everyday activities. Sometimes joined by his son Björn Roth, he continued to produce these table mat works until his death in 1998, building up a body of records, or tokens, that carry the traces of the abundance of life.
Andrea Büttner’s work often questions perceptions around authorship and authenticity in art. In the sound piece Roth Reading (2006), Büttner reads out entries in Dieter Roth’s diary, projecting his words on shame and embarrassment through her own voice. The digital slideshow All Weavings on Contemporary Art Daily 2009–2019 (2019) compiles all images of artworks with woven elements posted on the titular website between 2009–2019. This systematic method was devised as a means to investigate her observation that textile and woven works have had increasing prevalence in contemporary exhibitions, suggesting a renewed cultural interest in craft. Her inquiry through the lens of Contemporary Art Daily generates a juxtaposition between the material density of the woven works, and our supposed need for a slow mode in the parameters of the digital reception of art.
Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s film Studies on the Ecology of Drama (2014) asks how we can depict or convey the world of other species. It proposes imagination and fiction as tools with which humans can grasp otherness. Considering technical instruments that augment human senses as aids in this pursuit, Ahtila’s work examines presentation, imaging and mediation in the context of the moving image. Performers in the film imitate the gestures and poses of other beings as a means to glean their perceptions of the world, testing out fiction as a communicative force and an opener of the world.
Eija-Liisa Ahtila (b. 1959, Hämeenlinna, Finland; lives and works in Helsinki, Finland) is a contemporary visual artist and filmmaker. Her work is conceptually organised around the construction of image, language, narrative and space, and she has often probed the boundaries of the subject in relation to the external world. She has exhibited internationally, including solo institutional exhibitions at Guggenheim Bilbao; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Art Institute of Chicago.
Andrea Büttner (b. 1972, Stuttgart, Germany; lives and works in Berlin, Germany) creates work and exhibitions that connect art history with social or ethical issues, such as poverty, work, community and belief. Her work is based on extensive research into specific areas or situations, articulated through a range of formats, including woodcuts, stained glass, weaving, videos and photography. She was nominated for the 2017 Tuner Prize and has exhibited internationally, including solo exhibitions at Bergen Kunsthalle; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Walker Art Gallery, Minneapolis; Tate Britain, London; and Museum Ludwig, Cologne.
Dorothy Iannone (b.1933, Boston, US; lives and works in Berlin, Germany) creates paintings, drawings, prints and objects depicting bodies in physical union amid vibrant backgrounds. The imagery and texts in Iannone’s work often narrates intimate details from her own life. Solo exhibitions of her work have been held at Berlinische Galerie, Berlin; Migros Museum, Zurich; Camden Arts Centre, London; and New Museum, New York.
Reto Pulfer (b.1981, Bern, Switzerland; lives and works in Uckermark, Germany) creates installations that combine drawing, painting, writing, music and found materials such as textile, food and plants. His installations are often immersive, synaesthetic environments that conjure various mental and conceptual states. His site-specific works have been shown most recently at Art Basel Parcours; Centre culture suisse, Paris; Spike Island, Bristol; and Centre d’art contemporain Genève.
Dieter Roth (b. 1930, Hanover, Germany; d. 1998, Basel, Switzerland), also known as Dieter Rot, is best known for his sculptures, prints, artist’s books and work made of found materials. Blurring the line between process and product, Roth embraced accidents, mutation and mutability in his finished work. In the later years of his life, he collaborated extensively with his son, Björn Roth. He represented Switzerland at the 1992 Venice Biennale, and solo exhibitions and retrospectives of his work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; and Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona.Reto Pulfer, Madder Matter, 2019, acrylic and pencil on cotton dyed with madder, 45 x 34 x 3 cm