Laure Genillard is pleased to present its third solo show of works by Swiss artist Peter Wüthrich. Known for his poetic transformations of the ‘book’, Wüthrich takes the ‘book’ as readymade to create minimalist sculpture, photography, video and major architectural installations. Disassociated from their original purpose and systematically freed from their role as containers for language, their materials and fragile bindings – linen, cloth, velum, board, lettering, fonts and paper – are brought together by the artist to circumvent the hierarchies of language and become rich metaphors for the world of ideas, emotion and experience.
In this exhibition, which the artist titles Two Books Wüthrich engages the language of the monochrome and our experience of colour through the materiality of the book to frame his continued exploration of metaphysical dualities and his narrative of struggle or “hard love” as instigator of our unfolding human drama. On the ground floor, we present a video piece, Two Books, Video, consisting of a series of 308 duo-chromatic reliefs. These he has photographed and edited together using stop frame animation, permitting each image to be visible for less than 1/10th of a second. The technique together with the video’s soundtrack of Electronica Nu Jazz produces a flicker effect where seemingly discordant geometries produce an indeterminate flux and flow of images, an orgy of colour whose effect is subliminal. Books are transformed to become the naïve protagonists in a narrative defined by conflict and uncertainty, yet for Wüthrich, a narrative whose defining quality is love.
The lower gallery features a series of these duochromatic works, displayed as wall furnishings, each formed from two juxtaposing monochrome linen books. Books, paintings or reliefs? Placed one on top of the other, their status is uncertain. Are they complimentary or are they at war? They suggest a settling of an event which may have previously unfolded in the video piece. Yet their juxtaposition continues a narrative where opposite or contrary forces are experienced as both conflicting yet harmonious, separate yet interconnected, distinct while interdependent. These duochromes oscillate between unity and duality, suggesting a third reality which is the inevitable creation through this struggle of opposing forces. To use Wüthrich’s aphorism, “Out of 2 comes 3”. As in numerology or mathematics, the conjunction of two, produces a third reality to form a dynamic system of interrelations in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts.
Though not alone in crafting sculpture and installation from the book, unique to Wüthrich’s approach is his simultaneous reference to, and rejection of, the book, a self-referential act that while pointing to itself, erases the book’s value as sign. Inherent in his work is a semiotic critique that obliterates one code – that of language -- to examine that of another, the codes of art itself. Books become the stand in for ideas deeply embedded within consciousness. They acquire a meaning that is no longer sign. One book mounted upon another anthropomorphises into an act of coital embrace as in his Imago variations of 1990, while books become rectilinear skyscrapers shooting through the clouds in his 2003 photographic series, Literary Towers. No longer sign. Their lineage broken. To recollect the words of Charles Sanders Pierce, 'Nothing is a sign unless it is interpreted as a sign'. Wüthrich plays on the idea that anything can be a sign as long as someone interprets it as 'signifying' something - referring to or standing for something other than itself. We interpret things as signs largely unconsciously by relating them to familiar systems of conventions. What Wüthrich does is make us aware of this largely unconscious process. Through Wüthrich’s transformation of their material, two books comes to represent a world of simulacra, reflections of emotional life and ideas, and events, those which have passed, those which might be imagined and those which may yet come to pass. Books lose their character as ideological containers to expose their truth as the Baudrillardian world of simulacra.”