Stopping the Stoppage

Tenzing Barshee on the exhibition Slice A Slanted Arc Into Dry Paper Sky by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian


This exhibition isn’t fit for the Internet. It's too bulky, tightly staged, inviting you to discover something in every corner. Generosity as a program. Generosity as a currency. Maybe as a signifier of a human element. Who knows. These very familiar halls that have seen many shows before and now suddenly seem to have cast a spirit of otherness. Something is definitely different. It feels like this institution has been stripped of its identity. Somehow it is shifting. As if it were dipped into something, like a very special sauce. This is noticeable when you realize that the walls almost disappear behind all this art on display. Is this harmless? Or controversial? The art isn't just fitted into the architecture. It's not just tamed within a building. Instead many little worlds unfold, continuously and breathlessly, stimulating your imagination here and crumbling over there. What you see isn't built for forever. It isn't an attack on any sort of aesthetics. The paraded diversity lacks the positivism of a Benetton advertisement. This paraded diversity establishes an Unübersichtlichkeit which is terribly refreshing. This creates a scene of gulping overpowerment. Almost like a velvet revolution. To what end? To create one overlapping and multilayered stage for one modest spectacle. As in one big theatre. As in a dramatization: it is as funny as it is political. You wonder about the intention of the artist. Except this is not one position. This is not one representation of identity. Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian work independently as artists and sometimes together but not as a collective. What's the difference? The propagated form of collaboration doesn't suppress individualism. In his opening speech as director of Kunsthalle Zürich, Daniel Baumann doesn't make claims about internationalism or networks. Instead he asks us to rethink the local and the provincial. Does this really work here? In this building institutional ambition and market efficiency have proven to be very productive neighbours. We deal daily with the dialectic between the global and the local, he says. The artists, all of them Iranians living in exile, import an otherness to Zurich. Another world. Other worlds. Worlds made by exhibiting their own work next to the work of friends, teachers, and respected artists. Slogans of the Guerilla Girls climb to the top of a corner like poison ivy creeping up a building’s facade. The human body is overtly present. Exploring sexualities. Between the public and the private. This isn't simple polemics. The complications of representation are embraced. In some cases they are distorted. With means of the grotesque or the satirical. A sensibility that doesn't object to display of vulnerability. Perhaps exhibitions like this offer alternatives in a world dominated by consumer capitalism. Here, this conglomeration of things actually asks us to look at what is in front of us. Demanding time for contemplation. Assembling the periphery at the center. Not just scanning through content but actually engaging with it. It is almost suspicious how invigorating this all feels. As if there were an exit. To slow down the speed of things. Stopping the stoppage. A Kunsthalle not as a dream destination but a point of departure. No detachment upon arrival. Actually getting things moving. Not fit for the Internet, nor the market. But then again, doesn’t the market eat up everything? And what happens once this new wave is established? It’ll keep the makers of these great claims on their toes. And generally, to the new look of the place? Nobody can snake their way through life without shedding their skin every so often.

Installation view Kunsthalle Zürich, 2015

Installation view Kunsthalle Zürich, 2015 / Photo: Gunnar Meier Photography

This is a revised version of an article, originally published in Spike Art Quarterly #43, Vienna/Berlin 2015.