Matthias Liechti

Symbols and Symbolisms - forming mind shaped communities consisting of holes, blanks and ways out. Clocks that could let us know when exactly we are and when exactly we have to be. Gates and portals whose passageways could let us know where we are and how we have to be. Cinema chairs for 6-year-olds which could let them know in which direction they can look and think and in which direction they have to think and look. Coffee grounds that show Margarita‘s future and colorful insects whose colorfulness becomes their doom. A, b, c lessons in the park with kids and crows and without teachers. Objects that could be used right or wrong or otherwise, and repetitive, incessantly dripping water that overrides everything else, resembling the constant ticking of a clock - thunder, birdsong and a short screech of a goose. All synthetically produced, everything guaranteed unnatural and everything exactly like nature.

ML, 2021

Holes, Blanks, Ways Out (framed exhibition poster), offset print, 70 x 96 cm, 2020 | photo: Moritz Schermbach

Holes, Blanks, Ways Out (garage doors), pasted offset prints, installation dimensions variable, 2020 | Kunsthaus Baselland, photo: Gina Folly

Exhibition view: This happened or maybe it did not. The time is long past and much is forgot., 2020 | Silicon Malley, Prilly, photo: Guadalupe Ruiz

Used Cinema Chairs for 6-Year-Olds, velour, polyester fiberglass laminate, aluminum, car paint, 100 x 55 x 70 cm, 2020 | photo: Claude Barrault

Exhibition view: This happened or maybe it did not. The time is long past and much is forgot., 2020 | Silicon Malley, Prilly, photo: Claude Barrault

Another Time by Clémence White, randomly layouted text, pasted laser prints, 21 x 29.7 cm each, 2020 | photo: Guadalupe Ruiz

Exhibition view: This happened or maybe it did not. The time is long past and much is forgot., 2020 | Silicon Malley, Prilly, photo: Guadalupe Ruiz

ABC, mono wav-file, 15’, 2020 | photo: Claude Barrault

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Holes, Blanks, Ways Out (picket fence), pasted offset prints, installation dimensions variable, 2020 | Silicon Malley, photo: Guadalupe Ruiz

Another Time

All of the leaves on every gingko tree in New York City fall on the same night. Every year, I take cold late-night walks to try to catch the shedding. Every year, I miss it.

This morning, I woke to find the streets already carpeted by the golden fans. I’m turning ninety-nine this year. It seems increasingly unlikely that I will ever witness the ginkgo leaf drop.

Back in 2035, after the decades of escalating climate distress, the two-hundred-million year-old ginkgo biloba species went extinct in the wild, but somehow, miraculously, continued to survive in our city. Although some complain about the putrid, rotting odor of the fruit dropped by female trees in the autumn, I don’t mind. They are my favorite trees. We have both lived through so much.

I am not very nostalgic about the past but I also don’t avoid talking about it like some of the other elders. I am grateful to be old today. It was much harder and lonelier for elders when I was a child. I used to visit my grandmother in her apartment on the thirtieth floor of a skyscraper that only the elderly lived in. It was the sole tall building for miles, right next to the highway. I still think about her: alone in her chair, crouched over, terrible posture like mine, a fragile old woman perched amidst the clouds. Each time I visited, I would go down to the brightly lit, overpriced convenience store in the basement of her building to pick up the inedible packaged caramels that she liked. Everything there cost double what it would at another store. We turned that tall building into a vertical greenhouse.

We felt like we were living through the end times. And we blamed the generations that came before us for the perpetual crisis in which we found ourselves.

My neighbors bickered yesterday when one of them refused to take home any of the romanescos grown in this year’s harvest. Conflicts still arise. Our fragile egos have endured so much change: we have long repressed the miserliness that we practiced in order to survive in our former society and we still don’t always know how to handle the surplus in our current one. So my neighbors accuse one another of being overly selfless by not taking more than their share of the bountiful harvest. No one wants to waste.

I’m falling into my old ways of thinking. I spent my youth participating in weekly therapy sessions and still draw on psychoanalytic tools even though that is now so dated. I look for underlying motives, repressed wounds, attachment styles, all of the concepts explained to me week after week by a middle-aged brunette woman whose profession was to opine on my inner life or, oftentimes, to just sit in silence while I talked about it. I never found out anything about her own life but I always looked for clues. We endowed our therapists with endless authority; the power to help us understand ourselves and shape our decisions. A friend of mine moved in with his therapist. Another friend of ours, also a psychoanalyst, was appalled. Personally I just envied the presumably perfect psyche of my friend whose therapist had chosen him as a roommate. In any case, our rents were too expensive to justify outrage about the ethics of this type of cohabitation configuration.

I briefly considered becoming a therapist myself but couldn’t afford the schooling. In order to be certified, you had to be able to pay for the expensive degree. A select few received financial awards to cover the costs, as though the small symbolic gesture of a handful of scholarships could alleviate the deeper inequalities of our society.

In my twenties, I got into a driving accident with my then-girlfriend. She was a terrible driver; anxious and always out of sync with the speed of surrounding cars. We both had bruises, visible cuts, bone fractures. And yet I begged the ambulance drivers to not take us to the hospital. My medical costs were covered by the insurance plan paid for by my employer but we spent over a year soliciting small contributions from friends and family to cover my girlfriend’s hospital bills. We often relied on collective networks to meet our needs.

I am surprised by the things that I do miss. I remember the warm, stale breeze just before the metro-plane arrived—our overcrowded, inefficient, and polluting system of mass aviation transit. One evening, my vehicle broke down above the Manhattan Bridge, suspended over the river for five hours, panic mounting amongst the passengers while the sky rewarded our patience with a radiant sunset. Although we relied on our mass transit systems, each ride was expensive, so those of us with unlimited monthly metrocards often swiped in fellow riders on the way out.

For years I kept one of my plastic metrocards. A yellow and blue artifact of my younger life. The production of plastic is, of course, long discontinued and most of those alive today do not know what the material looks like beyond the tiny, compact ping-pong ball into which much of the world’s existing plastic has been compressed. The ball is held, with all other objects of historic significance, in our collective possession, accessible for all to study and understand the society from which we came. Each year, any recently contributed plastics are added to it. I sent in my own little metrocard over a decade ago.

Clémence White, 2020

Kaltes klares Wasser (invitation card), 2020 | photo: Moritz Schermbach

Exhibition view: Kaltes klares Wasser, 2019 | Villa Wenkenhof, Riehen, Basel, photo: Claude Barrault

Cold Lights, chandelier, LED candles (6500k), dimensions variable, 2019 | photo: Claude Barrault

One Afternoon, physical modeling & additive synthesis, 5.1 Dolby-Surround audio installation, 28‘ loop, 2019 | photo: Claude Barrault

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Cold Lights, chandelier, LED candles (6500k), dimensions variable, 2019 | photo: Claude Barrault

Exhibition view: Kaltes klares Wasser, 2019 | Villa Wenkenhof, Riehen, Basel, photo: Claude Barrault

Cinema Chairs for 6-Year-Olds, velour, polyester fiberglass laminate, aluminum, car paint, 200 x 55 x 70 cm, 2019 | photo: Claude Barrault

Exhibition view: Kaltes klares Wasser, 2019 | Villa Wenkenhof, Riehen, Basel, photo: Claude Barrault

00:32, pencil on paper, white aluminum frame, white aluminum stand, drawing: 90 x 63 cm, stand: 80 x 30 x 195 cm, 2019 | photo: Claude Barrault

Cinema Chair for 6-Year-Olds, velour, polyester fiberglass laminate, aluminum, car paint, 50 x 55 x 70 cm, 2019 | photo: Claude Barrault

12 Cinema Chairs for 6-Year-Olds, chipboard, car paint, velour, 175 x 165 x 45 cm, 2019 | Centre d‘Art Yverdon-les-Bains, photo: Claude Cortinovis, Nico Müller

The sculpture 12 Cinema Chairs for 6-Year-Olds quotes the cinema as a heterotopia par excellence: another space, a counterpoint or even a realized utopia. As an individual ‚enchanting machine‘ it is able to concentrate disparate spaces simultaneously in a single location and put things in relation to each other without them having anything to do with each other. Connections are created where there aren‘t actually any. At the same time, the cinema acts as a social space. It gathers an audience in the here and now and forms a mixture of different perspectives, which first collide and then are adjusted and rescaled into an order. If one imagines Matthias Liechti‘s sculpture not only as an abstract modular structure, but as a real arrangement into which (fictitiously) 6-year-old children could be squeezed, it loses its original lightness. The logical relationships between children and cinema chairs and the numbers ‚6‘ and ‚12‘, implied by the title, reinforce the latent uncanny: Connections are created where there are none. The transformational and at the same time organizing and normalizing potential of cinema-like structures could - when combined - become dangerous. In Matthias Liechti‘s armada of red velvet chairs, however, the threat is not obviously presented, but merely sounds like a possibility.

Based on our temporally condensed and spatially layered present, Liechti creates model-like scenarios and deviant topoi that invite viewers to a thought experiment. As fantastic catalysts, they lead into a world in which the usual perspective can hardly be applied and in which the boundaries between reality and fiction are dissolved.

Deborah Müller, 2019

Gate (Schillerndes Warenhaus), galvanized steel, glued, 460 x 280 x 13cm (installation dimensions variable), 2018 | Kunsthalle Bern, photo: David Aebi

21:17, pencil on paper, white aluminum frame, 90 x 63 cm, 2018 | photo: Valentina Suter

12:20, pencil on paper, white aluminum frame, 90 x 63 cm, 2017 | photo: Valentina Suter

11:45, pencil on paper, white aluminum frame, 90 x 63 cm, 2017 | photo: Valentina Suter

12:00, pencil on paper, white aluminum frame, 90 x 63 cm, 2017 | photo: Valentina Suter

10:10, pencil on paper, white aluminum frame, 90 x 63 cm, 2017 | photo: Valentina Suter

05:59, pencil on paper, white aluminum frame, 90 x 63 cm, 2017 | photo: Valentina Suter

18:00, pencil on paper, white aluminum frame, 90 x 63 cm, 2017 | photo: Valentina Suter

01:23, pencil on paper, white aluminum frame, 90 x 63 cm, 2017 | photo: Valentina Suter

00:00, pencil on paper, white aluminum frame, 90 x 63 cm, 2017 | photo: Valentina Suter

Exhibition view: 不着边际 I Cannot See, duo show with LIAO Fei, curated by YAO Mengxi, 2016 | V Space, Shanghai

Gate (R), galvanized steel, welded, 350 x 280 x 7 cm, 2016

Exhibition view: 不着边际 I Cannot See, duo show with LIAO Fei, curated by YAO Mengxi, 2016 | V Space, Shanghai

Gate (W), bright steel, welded, oiled, 260 x 280 x 4 cm, 2016

Gesetz, turned cherry wood, pressed and rusty Orangina can, white stone, dimensions variable, 2016

Dear Margarita, coffee grounds, margarita cocktail glass, 12 x 12 x 17 cm, 2016

Dear Margarita, coffee grounds, margarita cocktail glass, core hole, LED light, glass: 12 x 12 x 17 cm core hole: 35 x 35 x 75 cm, 2016 | photo: Tomáš Souček

Exhibition view: Better Ideas for Life, 2016 | Karlin Studios, Prague, photo: Tomáš Souček

I told you!, concrete, glass, polybothris sumptuosa gema, glass object: 22 x 22 x 28 cm each, concrete pillars: 35 x 35 x 150 cm each, insect: 4 x 2 x 1.5 cm, 2016 | Ausstellungsraum Klingental, Basel, photo: Karin Borer