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The aims of the research project “Exhibited Cinema” are twofold. First, based on archival research, it seeks to identify the status of film and of the moving image in the field of contemporary art in French-speaking Switzerland; second, it aims at assessing the influence of exhibition contexts on a multiplicity of film practices (on their temporal aspects, the multiplication of surfaces of projection, the reception by a mobile spectator) through workshops conducted by filmmakers and visual artists and conferences by curators and moving image practitioners.

Context of the project

Since the 1990-2000’s, the sites of production and circulation of independent film have migrated from the spheres of cinephilia and “alternative spaces” to the contemporary art scene. This shift has triggered a renewal of film practices, filmmakers having appropriated the conventions and constraints from the arts or used them in novel ways. The public reception of these works and the critical and theoretical discourses surrounding them are subject to a similar redefinition, on the level of their meaning and of their frame of reference.

Nevertheless, this absorption of independent cinema is not unprecedented. Indeed, it is part of a wider history which is currently being reconstructed on an international level through diverse research projects, publications and study programs. Switzerland has played a pioneering role in the relationships between independent cinema, the visual arts and the performing arts. Since the late 1970’s, diverse structures and institutions, in close collaboration with artists, have been active in the production, exhibition and conservation of artists’ films and videos, in parallel to the work of American independent filmmakers cooperatives (active in the USA from 1962 and triggering homologous movements in Europe, including Switzerland which saw the creation of Film Forum in 1966).

This project seeks to map modalities of exhibiting artists’ film and video in French-speaking Switzerland through the analysis of major contemporary art events and film festivals since the late 1960’s. Exhibited Cinema and the issues it raises articulates the theoretical and methodological tools developed in the fields of curatorial studies and exhibition history developed in the past ten years on an international level with the history of experimental film and its exhibition contexts. Through the analysis of specific events (biennales, festivals, art fairs and exhibitions), it highlights the role of Switzerland in the circulation and exhibition of artists’ films and videos, as well as examines punctual exchanges with experimental cinema, an autonomous field until the 1980’s. The emergence of curators of moving image in French-speaking Switzerland dates back to the 1970’s and helps shed new light on the divergences between different exhibition and presentation paradigms, that is between museums, galleries, art centres, festivals, independent theatres and spaces dedicated to alternative culture and parties.

In Latin Switzerland, events dedicated to the moving-image have mostly taken place in three cities: Geneva, Lausanne and Locarno. In its academic dimension, the aim of this research project is to map festivals, exhibitions and film programs which took place in these cities, based on archival research. This corpus has never been systematically studied, despite the American anchorage of the exhibition curated by the art critic Annette Michelson (New Forms in Film, Montreux) and the status of a research laboratory of the VideoArt Festival (Locarno) initiated by René Berger, and the Semaine International de la video/Biennale de l’image en mouvement (International Video Week/Moving Image Biennale, Geneva), founded by André Iten.

Work schedule

The scientific part of the project is led by François Bovier, professor and researcher in the Cinema department of ECAL, and Adeena Mey, research fellow (and PhD researcher at the University of Lausanne). The academic part of Exhibited Cinema is articulated with two workshops conducted by artists/filmmakers (for film students of ECAL), as well as a workshop organised by professors and artists Luc Andrié, Philippe Decrauzat and Denis Savary (for visual arts students of ECAL). These workshops are undertaken under the supervision of François Bovier who introduces the stakes of the research and their relationships with artistic practice.

The first workshop is conducted by Hannes Schüpbach. It questions the issue of the spatiality of the film apparatus, between experimental cinema and installation art. Hannes Schüpbach works in film curating and publishing (with the editorial structure Filmdirekt). He explores with students different spaces and temporalities produced by the film apparatus (the black box) and by the exhibition space (the white cube). Using film practice (shooting in 16mm and making an exhibition based on films) opens a debate around the production of space, the texture of the image and filmic duration as they relate to film in exhibition contexts.

The second workshop is conducted by Christian Marclay and focuses on the interactions between sound and moving image. Christian Marclay addresses audio-visual material and physical mediations of sound through the lens of sculpture and introduces students to practices of appropriation and “détournement”. By contesting boundaries between mass culture (blockbusters, nursery rhymes) and counter-culture (for example punk culture) and avant-garde movements (such as Fluxus and improvised music), students are drawn to transfer into the domain of installation art questions implied by the practice of sampling sounds.

A third workshop supervised by Luc Andrié, Philippe Decrauzat and Denis Savary (professors in the Visual Arts Department of ECAL) articulates contemporary art with “historical” art works by introducing students to unfilmed screenplays, filming instructions, plans for film installations or video works, and the re-enactment of “séances” of expanded cinema. The work in archives is activated or reactualised within the frame of this workshop which consists in remaking lost historical pieces as well as shooting unrealized projects, resulting in a group exhibition.

Finally, series of talks delivered by curators, artists, performers and experimental filmmakers enable a dialogue between scientific methodologies and contemporary artistic production, both on the levels of filmic and visual art practice and that of curatorial work.

  Major exhibition structures of the moving image
in French-speaking Switzerland

I. Lausanne
Impact Gallery, an art space ran by Jean-Claude Schauenberger, Henri Barbier and Jean Scheurer from 1968 to 1975 hosted several shows which included video, film, installations and performance. It is also one of the spaces around which the Swiss video art scene originated (Muriel Olesen, Gérald Minkoff, René Bauermeister, Janos Urban and Jean Otth known as the “five musketeers of the invisible”, a label coined by René Berger).

Main international artists exhibited
Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Christian Boltanski, Peter Campus, Fred Forest, Frank Gillette, Joan Jonas, Jonas Mekas, Allan Kaprow, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Nam June Paik, Yvonne Rainer, Richard Serra, Keith Sonnier, Bill Viola, William Wegman.

Swiss Artists Exhibited
René Bauermeister, Gérald Minkoff, Muriel Olesen, Jean Otth, Janos Urban.
Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne (Lausanne Museum of Fine Arts). Director René Berger, 1962-1981. Omnipresence of video art in the exhibitions he curated.

Main international artists exhibited
Gary Hill, Bruce Nauman, Nam June Paik, Richard Serra, Bill Viola.

Swiss Artists Exhibited
René Bauermeister, Gérald Minkoff, Muriel Olesen, Jean Otth, Pipilotti Rist, Janos Urban.

II. Montreux
New Forms in Film, film exhibition curated by Annette Michelson in the congress hall of Montreux, 1974. This series of film programmes represents one of the first international manifestations devoted to American structuralist and minimalist cinema.

Main international artists exhibited
Bruce Baillie, Stan Brakhage, Robert Breer, Hollis Frampton, Barry Gerson, Ernie Gehr, Ken Jacobs, Peter Kubelka, George Landow, Jonas Mekas, Yvonne Rainer, Paul Sharits, Harry Smith, Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland.

III. Locarno
VideoArt Festival, organised by René Berger, Vittorio Fagone, Rinaldo Bianda, in Locarno, from 1980 to 1999 : exhibitions, video installations, distribution of artists’ videos and experimental films.

Main international artists exhibited
Marina Abramovic, David Askevold, Jean-Christophe Averty, Dominique Belloir, Dara Birnbaum, Robert Cahen, James Coleman, Gérard Courant, Jean-Paul Fargier, Paolo Gioli, Gary Hill, Gordon Matta-Clark, Avi Mograbi, Hermann Nitsch, Orlan, Nam June Paik, Giani Totti, Woody et Steina Vasulka, Bill Viola.

Swiss Artists Exhibited
Hanspeter Ammann, René Bauermeister, Marie-José Burki, Sylvie et Chérif Defraoui, Enrique Fontanilles, Jean-Luc Godard, Alexander Hahn, Eric Lanz, Dieter Meier, Gérald Minkoff, Muriel Olesen, Jean Otth, René Pulfer, Pipilotti Rist, Janos Urban.

IV. Genève
La Semaine internationale de la vidéo (International Video Week – SIV, 1985-1997), which becomes the Biennale de l’image en mouvement (Moving Image Biennale - BIM, 1999-2007), founded and directed by André Iten. This biennale specialised in video art (1985-1997), before integrating film (1999-2007), takes part in a larger international network made visible through the web portal New Media Encyclopaedia (l’Encyclopédie des nouveaux medias) which brings together collections from the Centre pour l’image contemporaine (Saint-Gervais Geneva), the Centre Pompidou (Paris), and the Museum Ludwig (Cologne) as well as the Constant VZW (Brussels).

Main international artists exhibited
Marina Abramovic, John Baldessari, Stan Brakhage, Robert Cahen, Pedro Costa, Robert Filliou, Joe Gibbons, Gary Hill, Philippe Garrel, Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, Steina et Woody Vasulka, Andy Warhol, William Wegman.

Swiss Artists Exhibited
Hanspeter Ammann, Emmanuelle Antille, René Bauermeister, Yan Duyvendak, Nicolas Fernandez, Peter Fischli et David Weiss, Enrique Fontanilles, Alexander Hahn, Eric Lanz, Peter Liechti, Jean Otth, Roman Signer, Hannes Schüpbach.

Salle Patino / Centre d’art contemporain, founded in 1974 and directed until 1991 by Adelina von Fürstenberg: the Centre d’art contemporain played a pioneering role in exhibiting film and moving image.

Main artists exhibited
Joseph Beuys, Gilbert & George, Maurizio Cattelan, Nan Goldin, Dan Graham, Joan Jonas, On Kawara, William Kentridge, Sol Lewitt, Tony Oursler, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Sarkis, Cindy Sherman, Santiago Sierra, Rosemarie Trockel, Andy Warhol, Lawrence Weiner, Ingrid Wildi.

Swiss Artists Exhibited
Olaf Breuning, Valentin Carron, Sylvie et Chérif Defraoui, Philippe Decrauzat, KLAT, Frederic Moser et Philippe Schwinger, Olivier Mosset, Pipilotti Rist, Ugo Rondinone.

The Ecart Gallery, founded in 1972 by John Armleder, Patrick Luchhini and Claude Rychner. The Ecart Group, formed in 1969 following the spirit of Fluxus produced several performances and events, regularly using photography and Super 8 film. Until 1982, the gallery published catalogues, artists’ books, multiples and was active in Mail Art.

Main artists represented
George Brecht, John Cage, Hervé Fischer, Ken Friedman, Dick Higgins, Dan Graham, Anthony McCall, Raul Marroquin, Annette Messager, Endre Tòt, Ben Vautier, Wolf Vostell, David Zack.

Swiss Artists Exhibited
John M. Armleder, Patrick Lucchini, Gérald Minkoff, Olivier Mosset, Jean Otth, Daniel Spoerri, Günther Ruch, Claude Rychner, Ruedi Schill, David Zack.


Principal applicant: University of Art and Design Lausanne (ECAL)
François Bovier (head)
Tristant Lavoyer (assistant)

Students of Bachelor's Visual Arts
and Cinema in ECAL

Partners: JRP|Ringier, Cinémathèque suisse

Graphic design: Pierrick Brégeon

Duration: In progress, since september 2012

  Project supported by the strategic
reserve of the HES-SO