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29.04.2021 – 05.06.2021

Christine & Irene Hohenbüchler u.a. /// Step Out of Your Body, Enter New Ones

Galerie Peter Kilchmann
Zahnradstrasse 21, CH-8005 Zürich
Rämistrasse 33, CH-8001 Zürich

Eventbild für Christine & Irene Hohenbüchler u.a. /// Step Out of Your Body, Enter New Ones

Group exhibition with artists Igshaan Adams, Christine & Irene Hohenbüchler, Corita Kent, João Modé, Teresa Margolles, Sabine Schlatter, Buhlebezwe Siwani. 
Curated by Dr. Raphael Gygax

Opening: Thursday, April 29, 5 - 8 pm
Finissage: Saturday, June 5, 11 am - 5 pm,
with a guided tour throughout the exhibition held by the curator Dr. Raphael Gygax on Saturday, June 5 at 3 pm

The exhibition Step Out of Your Body, Enter New Ones turns the spotlight on art that grapples with questions of community and spirituality. Seven artists of different generations probe concerns in which community and spirituality become tangible as ideas that are of immediate relevance to society and inform each other. Rather than conceiving spirituality as an individual practice divorced from the concrete realities of the world, the show reflects on its social and political potentials.

New Age, hiking the Way of St. James, angelology: the personal quest for spiritual experiences is the form into which contemporary society casts religious yearnings. That is one key hypothesis in the sociologist Hubert Knoblauch’s study Populäre Religion (2009). It is a quest that is driven by a deep-seated desire for unconventional experiences of transcendence, experiences that are cultivated outside the purview of traditional religious institutions and that have filtered deep into everyday culture. The turn toward spirituality in post-industrial societies has been observed since the second half of the twentieth century and reflects a fundamental transformation of religious life. Most recently, the restrictions on social contact due to the covid-19 pandemic have lent new energy to this privatization of the spiritual; economists have documented strong growth in the market for spiritual coaching.

The sociologist Émile Durkheim’s (1858–1917) study The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912) locates man’s social nature at the center of its subject. Isolating the universal features of religion, Durkheim concludes with the insight that the holy or sacred that humans worship is not a divinity, metaphysical power, or distinctive experience as such: the essence of the sacred, what allows the individual to “transcend” himself or herself, is society. It follows that spiritual and transcendent experiences cannot be conceived as a purely subjective phenomenon, though they have often been portrayed as a form of ecstasy; they are essentially a social fact. To understand transcendence, one must examine its qualities as a process. As suggested by the Latin root, “transcendere,” it denotes an act of rising above or moving beyond, but it does not presuppose an unambiguous distinction between two defined realms between which religious experience moves. This insight underscores the significance of connection and the blurring of distinctions rather than disjunction: the overcoming of what may appear as a boundary or difference emerges as pivotal. The dynamic that transports the individual above and beyond the mundane can be closely bound up with the faculties of self-observation and self-reflection, which enable him or her to cross potential boundaries without necessarily drawing new ones. “Transcendence,” in this sense, should be defined as an activity that is performed afresh in each instance and thus actively thwarts processes of normalization.

The positions on view in the exhibition converge in their engagement with this productive dynamic and process of “transcendence.” The works are not merely visual interpretations of transcendence, not just documentation of transcendental experiences. Each in its own way, they instead harness the momentum of transport across boundaries as a creative principle. They exemplify artistic strategies that, in exploring aspects of spirituality, bring a broad social context into focus, though without letting themselves be led astray by the fatuities of pseudo-religion. The emphasis is instead on attempts to defy the tendencies toward hyper-individualization and relentless self-improvement, on efforts to comprehend the individual in his or her social context. The positions on display, that is to say, champion a conception of society informed by a dense and variegated web of interrelations and the work with and on those relations, counteracting the idolization of individuality.

Far from being at the mercy of larger structures, humans are woven into them and can actively shape them. The works chart this weblike nature of social reality also through their own facture. The artists dedicate themselves to manual crafts such as knotting, weaving, or knitting that look back on centuries-long histories and have traditionally often served as sources of communal identity, as well as techniques like silkscreen printing or drawing that can be practiced individually or in groups without requiring overly complex infrastructures. In their literal as well as figurative dimensions, then, the works uncover the intertwined strands of our collective existence. They read as storehouses of knowledge and vessels preserving recollections of the quintessence of communal life and dialogue. They tell stories of the organic growth in which forms of collective making are rooted, and, in their objective presence, hark back to the ancient tradition of the contact relic.

For further information please contact Fabio Pink: fabio[at]peterkilchmann.com.

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