The exhibition Embodiments
enables a discourse between three positions in contemporary art in Switzerland. In their respective media, Ralph Bürgin
(*1980, lives in Basel), Sofía Durrieu
(*1980, lives in Basel and Buenos Aires), and Roman Gysin
(*1984, lives in Zurich) all deal with concepts of corporeality. The title of this exhibition is inspired by the embodiment theory in cognitive science, wherein according to Maurice Merlau-Ponty, there is no hard separation between bodily conduct and intelligent conduct; rather, there is a unity of behavior that expresses the intentionality and hence the meaning of this conduct. In habits, the body adapts to the intended meaning, thus giving itself a form of embodied consciousness. For Merleau-Ponty, then, strictly speaking, we do not have bodies, rather “we are our body,” which is to say, “we are in the world through our body, and insofar as we perceive the world with our body.”
The artists approach this parallelism of bodily and mental intention in different ways: Roman Gysin’s wall-based objects first appear industrial or mechanical but are given a bodily presence by being “dressed” and “disguised” in shiny satin fabric or adorned with ribbons or jewelry-like objects. In Sofía Durrieu’s “sculptures with instructions for action”, the visitor’s body becomes part of the sculpture, as the artist’s instructions bring their bodies into predetermined poses. Here the body is not seen as a category in contrast to spirit and mind, but as the field of manifestation of these aspects. The titles of the works, such as Relaxable, Repentetris or John Wayne (to be brave), imply that these postures often also result in an intended mood or attitude. The body of Ralph Bürgin’s large nude (grey nude, 2021) stretches across three joined canvases. The body adapts – in a free and agile manner as it navigates this unusual picture plane. Bürgin’s paintings of nudes, heads in profile, and fires, express physicality in a different way. His figures and bodies manifest feelings of adaptability, mental as well as physical agility, and a sense of powerlessness in the face of global political and natural events.
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