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The mad artist of the Engadine

Vital has made a political statement with his snow cannon sculpture


The Lower Engadine has always had its share of characters equally as colourful as Karl August Lingner. Today, it is artist Alesch Vital.

Vital, who is also an organic farmer, considers himself an "agrartist" - turning discarded farm elements into whimsical sculptures, which are at the same time warnings against putting too much faith in technology.

Vital walks around one of his sculptures. It's a small cart made with abandoned wagon wheels and a motorcycle helmet. "He's on wheels, but there is nothing under the helmet," says Vital. "Just like the modern human being."

Rebellious nature

If it wasn't for Vital's playful smile, his unruly and bearded appearance combined with his rebellious nature could be downright threatening.

The next piece of art littering the front of his farmhouse above the resort of Scuol is a wooden bottomless barrel propped up on a stand and cocked at a 30-degree angle.

Artful snow

"It's a snow cannon," he says, and explains that he built it for public display in Scuol as his way of protesting the use of artificial snow in the resort.

"My cannon makes snow when the clouds are in a good mood and the temperature is right," he smiles. "And two days after it was unveiled, we had 40 centimetres of new snow. It works very well."

Vital then pops a helmet on his head, made from discarded strips of sheet metal. It's full of holes.

"It's not for keeping my head dry," he explains, "but to protect against harmful rays from mobile phones."

Many of Vital's sculptures, from doorknobs transformed into mosquitoes to swans with door hinges for wings, can be admired or purchased at the Hotel Traube in Scuol.

swissinfo/Dale Bechtel

Key facts

Alesch Vital lives on his organic farm above Scuol.
Many of his small and large sculptures are on display in the Hotel Traube in Scuol, where they can also be purchased.

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