Co-host with Pro Helvetia (Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council ), Design Society launched an international contemporary photography exhibition "Between Mountains, Hills and Lakes" curated by photography historian He Yining on August 5th, 2020. The exhibition presents an overall 123 pieces of works created by 7 leading Swiss contemporary photographic artists who are active on the global stage, and 2 photographic artists who used to participate in Swiss residency program. These artworks colletively construct abudant visual and narrative perspectives, guiding the viewers through the dichotomy of intricate research and boundless imagination. The display of the fantasia of nature, science, and human composed by cameras expands the boundary for contemporary photography with eclectic arstistic langauge.
As the train departs from Zürich HB, where the iconic Mondaine railway clock hangs above the platform, the passengers are about to enter a world that will awaken their senses and leave them with visual experiences they won’t easily forget. The southbound journey to Lausanne, a city more than 200 kilometers from Zürich, is characterized by the breathtaking view of snowy mountains and crystal lakes—the ever-changing sceneries that make up the unique geographic and cultural landscape of Switzerland.
Between Mountains, Hills and Lakes starts from the curator’s own travel experience and research in Switzerland in the past two years and goes on to examine artworks in photography and related media that explore the society and culture of the country from geographic, mythical, technological, and everyday perspectives. Using geography as a metaphor, the exhibition not only aims to present Switzerland as a melting pot for diverse cultures and complexities, but also hopes to illustrate the uniqueness of contemporary Swiss art. The 9 projects featured in the exhibition come from 7 leading photographers from Switzerland who are active on the global art stage and 2 Chinese photographers who have completed residencies in Switzerland in recent years. These artworks combine to construct a multi-layered visual representation of contemporary Switzerland for the audience to traverse and explore.
Olga Cafiero’s Costiss is rooted in Switzerland’s unique landscape and focuses on the Valle Verzasca, a valley in the Locarno district of the Canton of Ticino; by integrating the mythical nature of the valley and one’s own identity, her work delves deep into the culture of the region. In Janus on the Mountains, Zhu Lanqing sees the Alps not as a symbol of wilderness but as a conquered property for entertainment and consumerism; her work explores the ways human activities have been affecting the local landscape. Similarly, Christoph Oeschger’s 2° explores the complex relationship between climate politics and environmental protection with cutting-edge imaging technologies; in an essay film, he uses different events from the history of climate investigation to discuss how we can understand climate change. In Bubbles, Chen Haishu turns his gaze toward the water, one of the most important natural resources in Switzerland. From large-scale mountain reservoirs to aquatic ecosystems on the micro-level, his work combines various media (including photos, sounds, videos and other existing materials) in a fictional narrative that revolves around “water”, exploring the artificialization of nature and its subsequent re-naturalization.
As one of the core strengths behind Switzerland’s economy and culture, technology has taken on fresh meanings in Catherine Leutenegger’s and Matthieu Gafsou’s works through creative visual languages. In Beauty of Science, Leutenegger visits the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne and spends a year making numerous intricate portraits of science and technology that challenge the boundary between the images she creates and those she discovers and produces, which allows her to capture the present while envisioning the future. On the other hand, Matthieu Gafsou’s H+ presents an ongoing conversation between photography and transhumanism, in which the artist is able to create a detailed map of the transhumanist revolution.
In Malleus Maleficarum, Virginie Rebetez starts a dialogue between history and the present by investigating the phenomenon of mediums and healers, which are common in the catholic region of Fribourg and well-rooted in the culture, and learning about their identity and practice as she places them in the broader historical context of witch-hunting. Thomas Brasey’s Libre revisits the attempts by the people of the Republique et Canton du Jura to fight for their independent identity in the 1960s and 1970s, which remains a unique case in Switzerland's modern history. In Die Winter, Stephane Winter draws inspiration from the story of his own life as an adopted child and approaches the subject with positivity and a sense of humor; through heartwarming photos of everyday life, the artist encourages the viewer to reconsider the definition of the “typical family” and to free oneself from preconceived notions of what it should be.
In addition to the 9 projects featured in the exhibition, Between Mountains, Hills and Lakes will also showcase 29 photography books published in the last 5 years with the support of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. There will be a comprehensive public outreach program accompanying the exhibition that includes online and offline symposiums, artist talks, workshops, and other events, which will focus on the topicality, technicality and artistry of image production in China and Switzerland, as well as the current and future state of the photography industry in both countries.
This exhibition coincides with the 70th anniversary of Sino-Swiss bilateral relations. After opening at the Design Society in Shenzhen, it will travel to Modern Art Base in Shanghai and the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Beijing.