Mountaintop Install - “Elevation 1049,” Gstaad, Switzerland

Neville Wakefield
Jan 24, 2014 4:11PM

With art now firmly established as international currency, you might well be forgiven for not knowing whether you are in London, Shanghai, New York, Dubai, or anywhere else where the trading floors of art fairs and markets come walled in expansive horizons, featureless white, and designer concrete. These are spaces that stand testament to our search for the perfect commodity—free-floating, detached, and circulating, a world on which the sun never sets.

In contrast, the aim of Elevation 1049: Between Heaven and Hell is to create a type of installation that speaks to the specifics of place—a show that functions as an antidote to the white-walled hegemony of art-fair circuit. Taking place in the Swiss Alps around the celebrated village of Gstaad, it consists site specific works by 28 Swiss artists. Nearly all of the works in the show grew out of a particular context and are situated outside in nature. Some will melt, others will disappear but they all, in one way or another, speak to mankind’s relationship to terrain—to the ground beneath our feet and the sky above. What we see below and above us is the heaven and hell of the subtitle. In his most famous song Roger Water’s of Pink Floyd—who spent time in Gstaad—wrote the lyrics, “So you think you can tell Heaven from hell, blue skies from pain.” The song was Wish you Were Here.

With Elevation 1049, opening in a few days, it seemed fitting to show a few of the works not as finished entities but in a state of becoming in a landscape where change is the only constant:

Thomas Hirschhorn’s installation Mürrischer Schnee (loose translation “Cranky Snow”) extends the artists interest unstable and ephemeral, such as cardboard and packing tape, into nature and the attempt to create a camp or refuge out of material, which, like the weather itself, often refuses to co-operate. Hirschhorn’s project is continually evolving, subject to local conditions as his local collaborators. Olivier Mosset’s pair of ice Toblerones are also indices of temperature and conditions at the extremes of elevation. One, situated in an underground parking lot, marks the lowest point in the show—a place where the ambient heat of the cars promised to do to the solitary block of ice much as global warming has done to the glacier high above. Today, a helicopter lifted the other to its resting place on the very highest peak in the region, where at 3000 meters above sea-level it will remain unchanged throughout the duration of the show. After a few weeks shrouded in scaffolding, the covers came off Ugo Rondinone’s The Morning of the Poem. Emerging for the first time from the plastic chrysalis in which it had been encased, the single blue note sung out across the first clear day in recent weeks. Ten kilometers away Not Vital’s Leading the Way, a 7-meter stainless steel staff is casually leant against an isolated barn. Up close its scale belongs to that of some folkloric giant, but here against the backdrop of the mountains all efforts pale into insignificance.

All of the works will be documented on the Elevation 1049 website, here.

Neville Wakefield