September 17, 2011
Inspired by the location of the Fondation Beyeler in close communion with nature, Landscapes is a series of interactive works which each explores a different facet of the way we engage the natural world: contemplation, domination, fantasy, imitation, and depiction.
Participants enter the first gallery facing a constructed white wall with a void where a landscape painting might hang. Through this void is a view onto a pedestal of artificial grass on which stands a sculpture of a deer eating an apple. Some viewers enter the sculpture and so become its subject; others contemplate it through a frame, and so become its beholder. Some do both.
In the next gallery are a series of Deer Sculptures based on three-dimensional targets commonly used for archery practice, with skewers of cured raw deer meat standing in for arrows in the “kill zone.” These interactive sculptures ask viewers to both undo the hunter’s domination and consume the fruits of his labor.
In the next gallery, a series of Pissing Gnomes – garden gnomes repurposed into functional sculpture – invite viewers to take a mug off the wall and, by pumping the gnome’s hat, serve themselves a cold glass of beer. The image on the mugs is of the castle where Feldschlosschen, a common Swiss beer made just outside of Basel, is brewed.
After the Pissing Gnomes is Pretzel Tree, a ten-foot-tall version of the tree-like pretzel stand common in Swiss beer halls. It is hung with about 300 large, soft pretzels. The only tree in a show of landscapes, it is an imitation of the natural, a depiction of a tree made from trees.
In the final room are Drinking Paintings. Taking the shape of traditional landscape paintings but seeming to depict nothing, these works require participation in order to exist – landscape, after all, is defined by our view of nature, not nature itself. Each piece contains a different Swiss drink, indicated by the museum wall label next to the work. The small Drinking Paintings are an edition made for the Fondation Beyeler and contain wine from the vineyard on the hill that overlooks the museum.