Vue d’installation, Wiese (Pré), 2005/2010, Courtesy Galerie Nicolas Krupp, Basel; Hotel Vue des Alpes, 2000 ff.
Monica Studer / Christoph van den Berg8.12.2010 – 21.1.2011
The activity of the artist couple Monica Studer (b. 1960, Zurich) and Christoph van den Berg (b. 1962, Basel) focuses on their much-acclaimed Internet project, Hotel Vue des Alpes. This continually developed project provides an opportunity to spend virtual holidays on the Internet – but far from the usual public character and hectic communication on the Web, as the artists reinvestigate it as a (non)place and its potentials for cyberspace travel. The Alpine landscape we as registered hotel guests explore from image to image may seem very real, yet it is actually completely fictitious and, on closer scrutiny, recognizably digitally constructed. Still, it appears entirely familiar – and obviously located in the Swiss Alps. The fact that, in contrast to the medium employed, the visual language of Vue des Alpes looks somewhat old-fashioned – its architecture and design recalling the 1960s and 70s – lies in the fundamental principle underlying Studer / van den Berg’s art, that of memory or recollection. In building their individual, computer-generated motifs they rely not on photographic originals but on their childhood memories of vacations in the Alps. Things actually seen inexorably blend with images from art and the mediated world of holiday catalogues and posters, whose strategies of seduction the artists both adopt and undermine. Studer / van den Berg address in a playful way both the nature of our perception and the media’s influence on our visual habits, while at the same time critically investigating the media employed.
The installation at the Fondation Beyeler combines two offline stations of the hotel with two further autonomous works and a site-specific installation, all of which are connected with Vue des Alpes. In Gleissenhorn Livecam (2003), which is based on the currently most common form of panorama, viewers can inform themselves, so to speak in “real time”, about weather conditions on Gleissenhorn (the mountain station of Vue des Alpes) – be it on the present day, five years in the future, or 100 years ago. Thousands of computer-generated weather images are mixed, and a fresh image of the weather situation appears every ten minutes. A very similar functional principle underlies the 3D animation Wiese (Meadow, 2005/10, on view in a new, specially adapted version): a computer-generated array of plants, grasses, twigs, etc. are continually and randomly recombined. In contrast to the distant views of Gleissenhorn Livecam, however, we are unable to look beyond the stream of aerial views of the idyllic Alpine meadow. Yet this is compensated by the overview to be had from a mountain created especially for the Fondation Beyeler installation, a peak based for the first time on a pure geometric form and executed without a realistic surface treatment.