RaebervonStenglin presents a new site-specific project by Raphael Hefti. The young Swiss artist is fascinated with industrial pro-cesses, repurposing these to pursue unconventional ends and pushing both his processes and materials to the max. His work frequently involves collaborators and questions the historical concept of the artist. For Art Basel Statements 2015, Hefti will bring a CNC milling machine to the booth — the kind of state-of-the-art technology that is used in the fabrication of many of today’s most valuable sculptures — to be operating for the duration of the fair, gradually carving X tonnes of aluminium into nothing.
The action taking place inside the mill will be screened live on two accompanying video screens, making visible a process that otherwise goes unseen. The programmed choreography of robotic parts forms a kind of non-human performance, and the preposterous conclusion of Hefti’s project — the precision carving to an end point of nothing left — places his emphasis firmly on process over product. Proposing an industry interjection into the rarefied atmosphere of an art fair, Hefti’s work is a meditation on the work of art in the current age of mechanical reproduction: an age in which it is possible not merely to replicate an object in two dimensions, but as a physical three-dimensional reality. It reveals the cleverness and grace of machines, their futuristic abilities that underlie many of the achievements of current sculptural production.
Hefti is interested in exploring the mechanism of the art market, in blurring the distinction between the non-industrial and the ‘industrial’ (which he claims is ubiquitous and ‘really used as a referent to scale’), and in ‘desublimating’ the artistic process. Aura, in Hefti’s intervention, becomes the low-level constant hum of the machine and its internal balletics. His project is quintessentially Duchampian, answering the artist’s famous remark to Brancusi in 1912 ‘Who could do better than this propeller?’ with an absurdist contemporary riposte. Yet Hefti’s art is more than merely conceptual proposal, borrowing from other disciplines and technologies to ever broaden the attention and poetics of the art object.