The Doors of Perception

January 21 - February 18, 2011
Opening reception: Thursday, January 20, from 7 p.m.

Artists: Sofia Izrael, Arkadiy Nasonov, Sergei Nikokoshev, Cora Piantoni, Maria Pomiansky
Curated by Anca Sinpalean

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“That humanity at large will ever be able to dispense with Artificial Paradise seems very unlikely. Most men and women lead lives at the worst so painful, at the best so monotonous, poor and limited, that the urge to escape, the longing to transcend themselves if only for a few moments, is and has always been one of the principal appetites of the soul. Art and religion, carnivals and saturnalia, dancing and listening to oratory – all these have served, in H.G. Wells' phrase, as Doors in the Wall.” Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception

Under the title “The Doors of Perception” - a clear reference to Aldous Huxley's book bearing the same name – the exhibition investigates notions like unconsciousness, dreams, awakening, desire, fantasy, fears and changes in perception. Using different media and different narratives, the artworks will talk about moments of losing balance and seeking for a new perspective, moments that occur during dreams, panic, as a result of ecstatic experiences, alcohol, drugs, sensual pleasures, or simply by contemplating the Alps, a flower, or drinking a glass of water. The works investigate what happens when we become aware of what we have not been aware before. In those moments, attained by natural or artificial means, we manage to unmask the fictitious, unreal character of our “normal” consciousness, of our “normal” lives.  

It is good and healthy to sometimes question the things we normally take for granted and which present themselves as unquestionable evidence. After all, doubt is a primary tool for gaining knowledge, and we should not be afraid of it. Too much positivism has led humanity to strict rules, false hopes and other kinds of prisons. Everyone should wear, at least once in a life time, some sort of inversion glasses that would show them the world upside-down and thus destabilize their balance. We wear these glasses more often than we think: when we travel, we relocate, we fall in love, we dream, we drink etc. For someone attentive to the world around her, it is in fact hard not to have new perspectives on things every day.

With the exception of artist Cora Piantoni, the show presents a Russian “version” of these moments of escaping the conscious and rational world, Russia itself being seen by the art critic Boris Groys “like a dream, like the time and space of dreaming, but also like a sphere of Lacanian psychoanalysis, a sphere of free combination of signifiers, a practice of Surrealism's automatic script.” (Boris Groys, Russia as the Subconscious of the West). All four Russian artists have strong relationships to Switzerland, two of them living in Zurich for quite a while. The experience of relocation or simply of coming in contact with another culture are also moments of unbalancing one's mind and producing new perspectives - a topic omnipresent in our globalized age.

Arkadiy Nasonov, one of the leading artistic figures in the Russian scene today, is an artist, writer and curator with many exhibitions and projects in Russia and abroad. He was a member of the “Medical Hermeneutics” group, as well as founder of the Cloud Commission group. Exhibiting for the first time in Zurich, the artist will present twelve portraits of different personalities during their visits to Switzerland, drawings made while the artist himself visited the mountain regions of the country. The characters and the places mentioned in the drawings are real, but the substances these personalities are supposed to have been used are fictitious and sometimes “harmless” (for example Hoffmann is depicted "after drinking a glass of water"). Nasonov's project is about the role played by Switzerland in the collective (un)consciousness.

Maria Pomiansky is an artist born in Moscow, who lives and works in Zurich and Tel-Aviv.  She studied in Moscow, Jerusalem and Zurich and participated in numerous international exhibitions and video festivals like the Swiss Short Film Festival (2008), One Minute Festival, Amsterdam (2009), Doc-Aviv Festival, Tel-Aviv (2002), Gwangju Biennale (2002). Within the frame of “The Doors of Perception” exhibition the artist shows paintings and sketches depicting those moments in a housewife's life, when she discoverers that there is much more to life than being a perfect wife, as well as the video “The End of Light”, in which the artist investigates some of our most common or more unusual fears. The artist investigates those moments when one discovers the senses, the pleasure and a whole new “reality” of the fantasy, as well as one's fears. This thematic is a constant topic in Maria's works, whether she questions the “dark” side of desires and of unconsciousness or the shiny one, when investigating the sources of beauty.

Sergei Nikokoshev is a video artist living and working in Zurich. He studied in Moscow and Zurich and participated with his video pieces in events like The Russian Week, Hottingersaal Zürich (2009), Stall 6, Gessnerallee, Zürich (2008), Art as Life, Kunsthalle Bern (2007), tHE SnAkZ in Walcheturm, Zurich, together with Ilya Komarov & Joe Stefano (2006). In the present exhibition Nikokoshev shows a video installation depicting an apparently “classical” and stable architectural structure, which, at a closer look, proves to be unbalanced, conflictual (the combination of styles) and somehow “fake”, duplicitous. One can read in Russian: “Attention, the roof is shaking!” In colloquial Russian, the word “mind” is often replaced by the word “roof”. Thus, losing the stability, losing the “roof”, stands for the beginning of a (dramatic) change of perspective. The artist is also interested in exploring the specific perception changes mediated by the virtual world of technology. A drawing accompanies the video installation.

Cora Piantoni was born in München, she lives and works in München and Zürich. The artist works with photography, installations and video, as well as organizing art projects herself, like the Event Horizon exhibition, Ausstellungsraum Klingental, Basel (2009). Her most recent exhibitions include: Bless my homeland forever. I, too, will try to forget..., Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Wien (2010), Kontrolle/Irrtum, Galerie Royal, München (2010), Underdox. Dokument und Experiment, Weltraum, München (2010), The Stokers, Photomonth, Krakow (2009), Kunstsalon, Berlin (2008), Skype Meetings - Work to Do!, Shedhalle, Zürich (2008). In the present exhibition the artist shows a series of images depicting short-time sleepers who are taking a rest during the day. Piantoni is interested in sleep as a time-out, as an entrance into a world with its own rules,  possibilities and anxieties. She is fascinated by the body as a mediator of this passage, in moments like those when the body is kept still while the mind gets the sense of rapidly falling lower and lower, without ever touching the ground. These intimate moments of “stolen” sleep are projected on the window of the gallery, as a door open into the public realm.

Sofia Izrael is a ceramic artist, who uses this “joyful” medium for dealing with serious subjects. She was born in Moscow, where she presently works and lives. From 2008 she is a member of the “Cloud Comission” group. She exhibited in Moscow, Kiew and Jerusalem, her works showing a constant dose of humor, as well as a certain poetic atmosphere. For instance, her model of the molecule of LSD in ceramics is an aesthetic object, which can easily hide its actual meaning. For “The Doors of Perception” the artist created painted ceramic warming bottles, bearing the portraits of famous neuroscientists. Her work  talks about the physical stimulations, which can create doors in the walls of perception.