At a point in history where uncertainty, negativity and pessimism seem all-pervasive, Gerda Steiner e Jörg Lenzlinger are having none of it and have embarked upon an enchanted, almost dreamlike exploration of beauty. Perhaps to remind us that it’s really too soon to start getting too het up. Too early to panic is a journey into the world and artistic career of these two extraordinary designers, who have thrown open worlds hovering somewhere between nature and artifice.
These two artists have been creating luxuriant worlds that are a mix of natural elements and man-made objects since 1997. Their immersive and experiential installations are based on themes surrounding beauty and fertility, transformation and metamorphosis, evolution and death.
Their latest project, at the Tinguely Museum in Basel until 23rd September, is a spatial and temporal labyrinth-laboratory awash with multi-coloured landscapes, offering visitors a chance to take part in bizarre experiments, reawaken long-lost feelings and even shed a tear.
The exhibition opens with a choice of three doors: Past, Present and Future. Each entrance leads to a different chapter in Steiner and Lenzlinger’s professional career, which then unfolds in a multitude of potential directions, split into stations. The visitor finds him or herself in a forest of tangled branches, sitting on a seesaw, shedding a tear for scientific purposes, indulging in physical activity or relaxing beneath a floating meteorite.
The door into the Past leads into the artists’ earliest creations. Everything is ordered, rational and well organised. The visitor then passes through a gardener’s hut crammed with tools, most of them eclectic, and into the collections accumulated by the artists over the years, including a precious collection of seeds and roots. The seed represents both fertility and the primary energy from which the story of humanity springs. Further on is a hypnotic video of The Logic of Beauty (2010), its highly mesmeric colours and patterns suggestive of the essence of beauty.
Behind the door to the Present, the space is split into a number of little theatres with actors and props creating different situations, in which the visitor takes the leading role by bringing life to the set. Inside each space there is an experiment linked to a concept of beauty, encompassing science, humour and philosophy. There is no room for shyness here, simply trust in the people one meets along the way: a secretary, a collector of tears, a personal trainer.
In the Future, however, uncertainty, chaos and incompleteness reign. The final rooms are overhung with a majestic, lush and extremely dense forest. A suspended web of branches, crammed with flowers and leaves, along with artificial and synthetic objects and materials, evokes the confused and chaotic foment of life. Aerial labyrinths and multi-coloured shapes are the catalysers of dreams and imagination. It all requires a great deal of effort. Amply repaid, however, with a fitness room containing specially equipped machines to train the mind as well as the body for what lies ahead.
Too early to panic. Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger
Paul Sacher-Anlage 1
6th June - 23rd September 2018
Tuesday to Sunday: 11 am - 6 pm