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Swiss art stretches reality

Motti's US flag caused a bit of a stir

An art exhibition in Manhattan has been showing New Yorkers what Switzerland has to offer in the field of contemporary art.

The show is part of the swisspeaks festival – an eight-week event in the Big Apple celebrating Swiss creativity in the arts, culture and business.

The Swiss Institute of Contemporary Art is displaying 11 exhibits – many of them by Swiss artists.

The exhibition curator, Marc-Olivier Wahler, says the show is all about pushing reality to its limits.

“This show focuses on how many layers we can graft to reality before it collapses. Meaning how elastic is reality – how far can we stretch it,” Wahler told swissinfo.

Hot-pink dogs

One exhibit shows two small, hot-pink robotic dogs attacking each other – they make high-pitched yapping sounds.

Another is of an aluminium fan mounted on a wooden board with four wheels. But there’s no breeze because the fan isn’t plugged in – despite being near a socket.

“I want to plug it in because it’s hot in here, but I’m not sure if I should,” said one visitor.

No one knew quite what to make of a stuffed pig covered in tattoos that looked at the ground, as if it was ready to feed.

Wahler says the exhibit shows that Swiss artists have come of age. “Switzerland has exploded with high quality artists, some of them are real shooting stars,” he says.

Stars and stripes

Perhaps one of the most talked-about works of art is a flag – not the Swiss one, but the Stars and Stripes – which greets visitors as they enter the exhibition.

Some said it looked like the flag planted on the Moon’s surface by US astronaut Neil Armstrong; others said the piece invoked a negative response.

“Well I had no reaction,” said Raphael Shirley. “In fact I went off and looked at other pieces because I don’t want to look at the American flag right now.

“There’s too much pain related to the role of the US in the world.”

On duty

The flag is a work by the Swiss artist Gianni Motti, who had planted another surprise for the opening night in the form of a US naval officer.

He hired a tall, young performance artist to dress up in full navy uniform and drink as many beers as possible.

During the eight-week swisspeaks festival, cultural events, such as art exhibitions, musical recitals and film festivals, have been taking place across New York.

A special installation has also been set up in Grand Central Station, with a Switzerland Shop offering food tasting, and large model trains.

The Swiss Institute of Contemporary Art, 495 Broadway, New York, will host the show, titled “Extra”, until 26 April 2003.

swissinfo, Karin Kamp in New York

Swisspeaks runs until the end of April and aims to show New Yorkers how creative Switzerland is in the arts, culture and business.

More than 100 Swiss shows and events have been taking place in venues ranging from the Lincoln Center to the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The SFr3 million ($2.2 million) budget for swisspeaks is being split between public and private sectors in both Switzerland the US.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR