By Stan Adard
Idyllically nestled in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland, Kienberg is a small farmer village with 520 inhabitants, some horses and even more cows. It is a green, watery and quiet place with the best air quality and comfortable walking routes.
Digital art and rural idylls seem at first sight to be contrasted, but in fact they complement each other miraculously; Kienberg is only 20 miles southeast of Basel and 30 miles west of Zurich. These two cities are the hotspots of digital art in Switzerland.
The House of Electronic Arts in Basel (www.hek.ch), which was launched in 2011, is already a big name in Switzerland and the surrounding areas of Germany and France. This museum is dedicated to digital culture and the new art forms of the information age. The House of Electronic Arts thereby addresses the pressing issues of twenty-first-century culture and makes an active contribution to their future evolution.
The Museum of Digital Art (MuDA) in Zurich was opened in 2016 (www.muda.co). This museum, the first of its kind in Europe, is virtual and physical, which brings along the cooperation with numerous technology partners (including Microsoft) to bring the ideas of the artists into reality and make them available to a wide audience.
An innovative approach is pursued by the MuDA in the selection of the artists for the (still few) solo exhibitions. The selection is incorruptible; it is made by an algorhythm (AI) called HAL 101. You probably remember Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey? An exciting concept!
These electronic and digital platforms are important because, as a high-tech country with 8.5 million inhabitants, the CERN, the Paul Scherrer Institute, the Crypto Valley (the state of Zug is the first administration to have a citizen ID based on the public block chain network Ethereum), Switzerland has outstanding artists in the field of electronic and digital art. For example, Pipilotti Rist is famous for her video art that she started back in the mid-1990s, and nowadays she is a globally recognized artist.
The emerging virtual art is dependent on intermediaries who are able to present these special art forms on adequate platforms. Classical museums and galleries are often unprepared for the presentation of digital art, not least because the curators still think in the narrow masks of classical fine art in the form of (static) paintings, sculptures, installations and photographs. I experienced this myself during the search for a suitable gallery for the exhibition of the breathing pictures in New York. As one of a few galleries, Agora Gallery in NYC was willing to take the challenge with The Breath Experience, an installation with different breathing patterns shown on framed TV monitor displays.
Let’s go back to Kienberg, where the breathing pictures are created. It is a big and fascinating experiment for me to translate the relaxed vibe of this nature paradise into abstract, calmly flowing and breathing images. This gets possible by adding the dimension of time to the world of shapes and colors. The real representation of something like time is indeed possible thanks to the digital approach, while also allowing us to spread the joy of conscious breathing around the world!