Langmatt Summer Guest 2013
Ursula Palla, DIE FÜNFTE JAHRESZEIT, videos and installations
19 April to 30 November 2013 at the Museum Langmatt, Baden
Ursula Palla, sunflowers, 2013
Ursula Palla, apples, 2013
THE FIFTH SEASON
In her exhibition entitled Die fünfte Jahreszeit (The Fifth Season), the internationally renowned Swiss artist Ursula Palla (born 1961) explores questions revolving around nature and technology by means of ten videos and installations created especially for the Villa Langmatt. The title of the exhibition evokes those brief moments “between the seasons,” when nature is bathed in a particularly intense light at the end of the summer and we sense that the splendid floral displays are about to come to an end. This is also the theme of the installation entitled “sunflowers,” which occupies a key role in the exhibition. Beamers equipped with light-sensitive sensors project silhouettes of flowers that bloom or wither depending on the intensity of the incidence of light. This reflects Ursula Palla’s wish to simulate or feign naturalness with the aid of technology, and to use light as an artistic device. The possibility created by the advent of electricity to simulate daylight with a synthetic light source is also a reference to the origins of the Brown Boveri & Cie. engineering works (today’s ABB), which was founded in Baden by Sidney Brown’s brother Charles E.L. Brown and Walter Boveri in 1891. The quest for a paradise far from the noisy machinery halls is the subject of another installation, entitled “landscapes,” which refers to the frequent trips to the French capital undertaken by the Browns. Hanging in one of the living rooms, the idealised landscape portrayed in a French tapestry dating from the 16th century is used as a symbol for an imaginary paradisiacal world. Ursula Palla links motifs from this tapestry with images taken on a journey through modern France to Paris. Pictures by Camille Corot and Pierre-Auguste Renoir of the environs of the French capital complete the ensemble.
The “apples” installation on display in the villa’s former dining room, surrounded by still-life paintings of apples by Paul Cézanne, also has close links to the collection of impressionist works in the Villa Langmatt. By making objects – apples, plates, knives – real again, Ursula Palla brings them back from the world of the artificial into the realm of the natural. The apples are overtaken by decay, a process which, unlike in painting, can be captured on video. The fact that serenely idyllic situations can rapidly become threatening scenarios, caused by a false move or an ill-judged decision, can be experienced with “flowers” – the viewer’s intervention causes a magnificent bouquet of flowers to explode. Two other works can be found in the original interiors of the Villa Langmatt, built by the well-known architect Karl Moser: “globe” in the library and “landscape 2” in the large picture gallery. The latter work is a response to a picture by Claude Monet, in which a threatening ice drift on a river is bathed in the transfiguring light of evening, while “globe” invites viewers to take an investigative look at the interior of the earth. Visitors will do well to be prepared for all sorts of surprises – whether strange creatures unexpectedly gazing at them from the display case of porcelain birds or the observation that, in spite of all obstacles, the passage of time continues.
Outdoors, under the open sky, Ursula Palla also confidently masters the dichotomy between naturalness and artificiality. At first glance, the park around the stately Villa Langmatt and the impressionist landscape paintings acquired by its inhabitants, Sidney and Jenny Brown, convey the image of immediate, self-evident natural surroundings, whose artificiality is revealed only on closer inspection. “do robots like flowers?” asks the automatic lawnmower as it mows the meadow, and provides the answer itself by leaving grass uncut to create the image of a flower. “flowers 4” explores an extreme case of artificial naturalness. The images show flowers being dyed by being dipped into containers; when the dye is scraped off they are used to paint the surrounding walls. This work has found an appropriate setting in the conservatory, where orange trees and other delicate plants were formerly overwintered.
The nocturnal birds that are frightened away by the light in the bathing house complete the link to the “sunflowers”, whose existence is exhausted in the light that gives them that very existence.
The exhibition in the villa, built in Baden by the industrialists and art collectors Sidney and Jenny Brown in 1901, is highly appropriate to Ursula Palla’s artistic working methods. The Museum Langmatt is not a white cube or a blank sheet of paper waiting to be written on, but an historic ensemble. In accordance with the concept of the Summer Guest exhibitions in the Villa Langmatt, the artist has thoroughly explored the history of the family, the house and the park, and her works have a precise relationship with the place in which they are exhibited. With her impressive installations at the Villa Langmatt, Ursula Palla has demonstrated once again that she has developed a highly independent and coherent visual idiom, not only on a technical level, but also in terms of concept and content.
A catalogue of the exhibition with a text by Juri Steiner will be published by Scheidegger & Spiess, Zurich.
Book launch with a discussion between Juri Steiner and Ursula Palla, Tuesday 12 September 2013, 7 p.m.
Contact: Dr. Lukas Gloor, Curator (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A FAMILY OF LIVE WIRES
It is now a good two decades since the Villa Langmatt opened its doors to the public. Since then, thousands of people have visited the museum, built by Karl Moser in 1900/01 in the English country house style, and its exquisite art collections. After the exhibition of 1998, which was primarily devoted to the history of the collection of paintings, Meet the Browns focuses on the Brown-Sulzer family — Sidney William and Jenny Brown-Sulzer, as well as their three sons Sidney Hamlet, John Alfred and Harry Frank Brown.
Visitors will thus be guests of the Brown household, receiving access to the family’s former living quarters, workspaces and bedrooms. During the tour they will become better acquainted with the members of the family, who are presented to them from different perspectives. Records (letters, photographs, diaries as well as other documents and objects) preserved in the Langmatt archives, as well as loaned exhibits, will offer direct and at times surprising insights into the life of an important family of Swiss industrialists. In addition, contemporaries and scholars will provide an outside view of the Brown family in the form of video interviews featuring reminiscences and interpretations.
Founded in 1891, Brown, Boveri & Cie. — Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) since 1987— was the largest mechanical engineering company in Switzerland from 1910. Thanks to its technological prowess and world-class innovations in electrical engineering, the company grew rapidly and was able to gain a foothold in the most important industrialised nations in Europe before the First World War. As a partner, technical manager and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors, Sidney W. Brown made a decisive contribution to BBC’s success.
His wife, Jenny Brown-Sulzer, daughter of the senior manager of the Winterthur company Gebrüder Sulzer, also came from a prominent family of industrialists. She and her husband developed a passion for German and French painting, antique silver and historic porcelain as well as oriental art, which they cultivated for many years.
All three of their sons completed law degrees and thus did not follow in their father’s footsteps as engineers: the eldest, Sidney H. Brown, was active as a delegate of the International Red Cross during the 1935/36 Italo-Ethiopian War; he became Secretary-General of BBC in 1948. As the last surviving member of the family, John A. Brown bequeathed the property with its collections to the City of Baden, which established the Langmatt Sidney and Jenny Brown Foundation in 1987. John A. Brown was mainly interested in fine art and lived from his youth in Paris. Harry F. Brown also spent most of his life in the Ville Lumière as a composer, and maintained close links with Clara Haskil and Dinu Lipatti. Above all, however, he supported young musicians with his exceedingly discreet patronage.
In a parallel exhibition, the Baden Museum of History will be bringing to life the stories of families involved in the industrialisation of Baden: while some families adopted a paternalistic factory culture, others consciously distanced themselves from it. Both exhibitions show that family histories always move between opposite poles — the continuation of traditions on the one hand and the orientation towards new role models and ways of life on the other.
Exhibition 1.4.-25.11.2012 also to be visited in 2013.