The historical context of the site in which an art exhibition is presented extends the multitude of meanings around the works. To find a place deeply charged with history is an unusual phenomenon, it is just as rare to have a series of artists who would speak precisely of the contested past of a place. The art curators – Kristina Grigorjeva and Camille Regli – of the collective exhibition Radical sources at Krone Couronne in Biel defy such occurrences to present an array of works by Claire Fontaine, Dorota Gawęda & Eglė Kulbokaitė, Laurent Güdel, Jeanne Jacob, Hunter Longe, Lou Masduraud, Sadie Plant, Augustin Rebetez, Jan van Oordt and a text of Antoine Insist on. The Jura, bordering France, has welcomed “libertarian spirits” and “anarchist watchmakers”. The exhibition notice looks at the works of French philosophers Catherine Malabou, Jean-François Lyotard and Jacques Rancière to reinforce the “political role of art”.
Radical sources revisits the history of anarchism in the Jura to distil the socio-political issues, to reflect on the alternative realities of the current societal structure. With this exhibition, the curators hope to draw attention to complementary ways of thinking stemming from these anti-authoritarian movements as a reminder of the history that unfolded there, and which was then shared around the world through magazines, brochures and the development of telecommunications. . The deliberate use of the double meaning of the word ‘source’ as ‘reference’ and ‘water source’ gives the public the opportunity to contemplate the multitude of stories. Indeed, the Suze river originates in the Arc de Jura, passing through St-Imier, and ends its course in Lake Bienne. The curator duo found it significant to link the image of a current in perpetual motion, carrying the echoes of a politically engaged spirit, and to reconfigure their resonance in the world we face today.
In an interview with STIR, the curators Grigorjeva and Regli evoke the diversity of artists whose work is part of the rich history of the Jura: “We started the exhibition with a curiosity for the history of the Jura (located in western part of Switzerland, bordering France and decentralized from the rest of the country), it is known for its watchmaking industry and in a way for its alternative lifestyles, to heal/treat, work and organize, etc. . -Authoritarian Congress took place in St-Imier 150 years ago, in 1872.” The objective of the curators was not to offer another historical exhibition, but rather to draw inspiration from these sources and to open to artistic postures working in the field of contemporary art today.
The artists in the immersive exhibition have been chosen based on the subjects they deal with in their practice and their relevance to socio-political issues, for example with the works of Claire Fontaine, Dorota Gaweda & Egle Kulbokaite, Hunter Longe or Lou Masduraud. But also considering the politically engaged culture of the region, we wanted to include artists who are locally based, like Jeanne Jacob, Augustin Rebetez, Laurent Güdel, Sadie Plant or Jan van Oordt who brought us the subjects in the first place. . For the curators, it was important to be able to address the themes from both a global and regional point of view.
Grigorjeva and Regli inform, “We have invited artists based and active in the Jura region, such as Jan van Oordt who moved to St-Imier from Basel a few years ago to live in a cooperative and has devoted his whole being to what some might still consider an ‘alternative way of life’, but for him it’s ‘just normal.’ His work could be seen as a natural ready-made: a canvas covered in felt from the floor of a nursery abandoned, which served as protection against the different kinds of weeds, yet the weed has taken over, pushing through the protective fabric – giving signals to some suppressed crops that want to get in no matter what. Or like Laurent Güdel, who left his hometown in the Jura in the context of the region’s independence history, and is currently working with archival documents and recordings.In the exhibition we present tones his film direct action, indirect speech based on the archives of anarchist trade union activists in Geneva from 1938, and an audio piece based on the recordings of the day of the vote which led the City of Moutier in the Jura to become independent from the canton of Bern in 2021.”
In addition, the curators have invited British researcher Sadie Plant who has been discovering the area since moving to Biel/Bienne from the UK 15 years ago, and bringing art students to St-Imier to breathe this air which, according to her, must be filled with magic. Hunter Longe also speaks of some sort of magic in the area and has contacted the local dowser to find the source. On the occult, Kratt creatures by artist duo Dorota Gawada & Egle Kulbokaite hang on the walls, evoking the subjects of serfdom and landed property. They reflect an LED piece that features a quote by Silvia Federici from her founding book Caliban and the Witch.
In the post-truth era where history is manipulated and renewed, it is imperative to “unlearn the lessons that history has taught us, Radical sources tries to think about other possible systems of thought, political, social and economic structures as well as different ways of being together and functioning as a society,” say Grigorjeva and Regli.
The art exhibition Radical sources in Krone Couronne, Biel, was on view until October 8, 2022.