Reading Rämistrasse #21: Leila Peacock on Oops a daisy! at Dietikon Projektraum

Any critical writing collected under the mantle Reading Rämistrasse is as much about its distance from, as proximity to, Zürich’s art establishment. A half-ruined Bauamt (building authority) in the old centre of Dietikon seems a long distance from those clinically well-lit chambers. The interior here is pink and beige, the floor is covered with a linoleum that has the yellowing tinge of nicotine-stained teeth. But the exhibition it contains, bristling with style and conviction, is well worth the train ride.    

Dietikon Projektraum

The building is as much a part of the show’s thought process as the works themselves, a synthesis that the standardised recycleable spaces of art rarely achieve. And most likely this is the only exhibition that will ever take place here as it is slated for imminent redevelopment. Dietikon has something of the undecided atmosphere of a frontier town but it is also largely a construction site right now, as it metamorphoses into another outpost on the slipway of Zürich’s aspirational sprawl.

The title Oops a daisy! (urban management remix) may seem flippant but it contains a satirical edge, celebrating the thorn in the side, or the weed in the cracks, of the developer’s high-gloss vision: Dietikon is part of the proposed infra-structural expansion known as Limmatstadt that will stretch from Zürich to Baden. The exhibition is a collaboration between the Dietikon Projektraum (Lourenço Soares and Kim Anni Bassen) and the TETI group: a interdisciplinary collective who organise exhibitions around trans-industriality and whose interests are broadly represented in this exhibition by books from the Volumes (Zürich’s art book fair) nature/city archive. Appropriately the damp non-museum air of this expropriated off-space is curling the pages of the books with an agency of its own.

Bucher auf einem Tisch / Books open on a table

The works were all selected for their questioning of our conception of nature, rethinking the natural order or natural knowledge that we have constructed to impose a system on the infinite variety of the non-human. The exhibition states its primary interest is a nature vs city divide, but also relevant seems nature vs Nature and city vs forest and human vs non-human and human vs humus – for nature, like culture, grows from the decomposing humus of its forbears. The very idea of «the natural» is a construction within the nexus of Western thinking. And this constructivist approach to natural science is fascinating, though I am not sure that the exhibition’s reference to just «knowledge»  and its construction is helpful without more clarification of what is exactly meant by this expansive and oft-overused term. Here we can assume it refers to the way we have constructed a top-down knowledge of the natural world and then treated that knowledge as though it was itself natural, at the expense of other perspectives or forms of knowing.  

Arbeiten von / Works by Anne-Laure Franchette

Anne-Laure Franchette’s works reimagine the vegetational vestiges of construction sites as jurassic jewels, exhumed and re-entombed so that we might wonder where the line between wasteland and wonderland, urban growth and invasive species really lies. Riikka Tauriainen reimagines the ancient bestiary as a tower of screens that switch through a well of images of non-human beings both real and imagined. This lurid and poetic taxonomy conjures the presence of that contentious yet heroic anachronism: the encyclopedia. 

Riikka Tauriainen Arbeit neben der Eingang / work beside the entrance with a view to the outside

Lourenço Soares also invokes imaginary volumes. Playing upon the expectations of form in his work Books that are in fact bags of cement that are, in turn, also paintings. Each one weighing 40kg which is the legal limit a worker can carry, drawing a neat connection between the human body and the titles of bodies of human scholarship painted carefully on them. Like Tauriainen’s work the encyclopedia is present here as a metaphysical conceit not for what we think we «know» but the very impossibility of conclusively  knowing anything about the world around us.

Arbeit von / work by Monica Ursina Jäger

Lithic Alliance (aka Daniel V. Keller) presents a delphic and alluring film that uses the graphic data forms used by engineers during the extraction of minerals, which it recasts in a narrative of mineral-oriented ontology. Monica Ursina Jäger’s film Forest Tales and Emerald Fictions gives a voice to the show. Its Singapore setting, where lucid cityscapes give way to lush forest canopy, also offers a brief respite from the industrial suburb outside. But the language of the narration, shifting between ecstatic explorer’s travelogue and a local woman’s account of the spirits of the forest, invites thoughts about the subjecthood of a forest, or a suburb, or a satellite city or a bauamt. 

Oops a daisy! Dietikon Projektraum, Untere Reppischstrasse 14 (Altes Bauamt) 
8953 Dietikon

24 October–15 November 2020

Images courtesy Leila Peacock and Dietikon Projektraum

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If art criticism is losing ground, we must act. That’s why we created space for criticism – Reading Rämistrasse – on the Kunsthalle Zürich website and publish reviews of current exhibitions. What is published here does not represent the opinion of the Kunsthalle Zürich. Because criticism has to be independent. Feedback or questions? Email 

13.11.2020