Picnic in the Heart of Urals
3 December 2015 – 28 February 2016
Supported by Pro Helvetia, the PERMM Museum of Contemporary Art has opened an exhibit of the Swiss artists Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger entitled «Picnic». This is the first ever total installation in Russia which occupies the territory of the whole museum.
The Steiner & Lenzlinger duo visited Russia in 2009 when they presented their large installation during the 3rd Moscow Biennale. This year, the Swiss artists decided to explore the country even deeper in one of the biggest cities of Urals.
The focus area of these artists is called site-specific. The main feature of this method is the organic relation between the piece of art and its surrounding space. For that reason, Gerda and Jörg visited Perm in February 2015 when they started the project. The artists got introduced to the places and people; observed what the city and the region look like in the winter; soaked up their impressions, and based on those, they came up with an idea of total installation entitled «Picnic» which should occupy the whole museum.
For them, Picnic is the metaphor of artistic happiness. The artists savor the state of a person at rest when he or she can contemplate nature and is synchronized with its rhythms; when he is philosophical and not too ashamed of being gaudy, when she acknowledges her own triviality on Earth.
The total installation approach exploited by the artists is meant to occupy all three floors of the museum and to deny the classical distance between the audience and the piece of art. The viewers cannot be outside of the artwork. They are not only the co-authors and the force of the artistic process (according to the artists’ idea, the visitors will keep the installation «growing» during the exhibition), they are also an integral part of the piece, the engines which make the sophisticated mechanisms of the artistic senses move.
Here is what the artists and the curator say about their project:
Gerda Steiner: «This exhibit results from the «Swiss Made in Russia» programme and is deeply related to the nature and history of Perm Region. «Picnic» includes three parts. The first part worships the original, dense, and diverse beauty of life. You enter the dark room where video projection highlights certain elements. In the corner of the room you will spot the saline chancel. Salt symbolizes friendship in many cultures around the globe.»
Jörg Lenzlinger: «On the second floor the audience gets to enjoy the picnic. This is the place where people meet, eat and observe. The audience is surrounded with the panoramas from the windows as well as the bright and light art pieces in the hall. The third part of the installation is the place for winter hibernation. The participants can put on the costume of a bear and choose any den to sleep and then record their «bear» dreams.»
Nailya Allakhverdiyeva, art director of PERMM Museum: «It was important for us to invite artists who practice the unique method which allows the audience to see their own life from aside. The site specific technology turns the museum into something bigger. This method is very close to our own concept. We want our visitors to feel comfortable in the museum space. The Picnic has a deep social meaning as it represents the image of a private comforting communication. We are talking about transforming the museum into a place where you can come with your friends not to observe the pieces of art but to be among them. This should be an amazing fairy tale experience when visitors themselves create the artistic space and become its integral part.»