27 / 05 / 2020, 19:00-20:00

The exhibition Swiss Media Art: knowbotiq, Alan Bogana, Félicien Goguey can finally take place. HeK would like to invite you to an online vernissage on May 27th 2020. The exhibition will open its real, physical doors on May 27th at 12 am. All rules of distance and hygiene are guaranteed.

The exhibition presents works by the winners of the Pax Art Awards 2019 comprised in three parallel solo shows at HeK. From the artist duo knowbotiq’s postcolonial fabulations through Félicien Goguey’s exploration of mobile phone networks and surveillance systems to Alan Bogana’s poetic and conceptual installations related to our perception of light, the three Swiss artists explore themes as diverse as they are relevant to our understanding of current dynamics in the evolution of technology and their impact on society.

The visually striking installations of knowbotiq (Yvonne Wilhelm, Christian Huebler) intertwine stories related to postcolonial violence, algorithmic governmentality and techno-ecological issues. Their latest multimedia work Swiss Psychotropic Gold, the Molecular Refinery (2020) extends the artists’ research into the origins, refinery and retail of gold. Swiss Psychotropic Gold is a series that investigates the socio-political realities and ecological impact of gold mining, gold refinery and gold trading, highlighting Switzerland’s significant role of in the industry.

The work premiered at HeK turns to gold as a consumer product, and turns toward the material’s alleged psychotropic potential, which according to alchemical tradition can purify one’s guilt. Also on display is Amazonian Flesh, how to hang in trees during strike (2018-2019), an immersive installation of enmeshed cables, bots and digital artefacts. Invited to take on the roles of employees in global companies, visitors can engage in collective idleness by sitting or sleeping in hammocks strung throughout the installation, while the complicit voices of bots responsible for the automation of labour, call them to abandon wage labour for good.

With Thulhu thu thu, before the sun harms you (2019–2020) knowbotiq presents a long-term project about Scotland’s Flow Country, a large area in the Highlands where the soil has been destroyed by centuries of cultivation, extraction, exploitation and profit accumulation. Following a number of workshops with artists, musicians, researchers, and political activists who shared their explorations on the area, knowbotiq draws threads together in the creation of a performative sculpture braided from raffia fibre as a form of collaborative memorial for land protection.

Light and its plural manifestations as a natural phenomenon is the leitmotiv of Alan Bogana’s multidisciplinary art. One of his newest installations, Journeys of Light (2020), uses laser projections to depict past and future reconstructions of the celestial sphere. The collage Polarising Times (2020), composed of found images of laser beams collected by the artist, further explores the iconography of laser light.

Bogana’s new film Ionize ionize ! (2020), shot in a scintillation detector factory in Utrecht, examines the unique properties of the translucent materials and crystals employed in X-ray detectors, medical and scientific research facilities. In Sensible Spectrum VR (2017), visitors can seat themselves in a swivel chair to interactively experience a selection of 360° films sourced from online platforms.

The VR headset not only immerses viewers in virtual environments, but also, as they move their heads in exploration of their individual experiences, simultaneously projects a film on the surrounding exhibition environment to the rest of the public, through a head-mounted projector. Although the two films are not identical, they are synced through a programme to create a digital dialogue between the spectators’ virtual reality and their surrounding audience.

Félicien Goguey’s recent work examines the omnipresence and impact of mobile communication on our lives, while providing means of protest. The work Masquerade (2015-2016) provides exhibition viewers with a tool developed by the artist to disarm mass surveillance by means of obfuscation. Small devices composed of microcontrollers called “masqs” connect to the internet to automatically send messages to other devices.

These messages are made of a series of words known to alert the existing online surveillance systems. When enough devices are online, the transmission of these messages disrupts surveillance systems by overwhelming them.

Goguey’s video 900 MHz (2019) draws attention to the frequency bands of mobile telephone communication that constantly fill our private and public spaces with data, which we ordinarily are unable to perceive. Complementing his previous works, Bloc Balloon (2020) is a large inflatable unit, which creates a disruptive system similar to Masquerade. In this case, Goguey targets the Global System for Mobile Communications by obfuscating IMSI (international mobile subscriber identity) catchers by showing fake IMSIs in a given area.

The Pax Art Awards were first presented during Art Basel 2018. The prizes are dedicated to Swiss media artists whose works use media technologies or reflect on their effects. Half of the prize money is allocated to purchase a work for the Art Foundation Pax collection, the other half supports the recipient artists in developing new work, which is then shown as part of a comprehensive exhibition in the spring of the following year.

The Art Foundation Pax is an independent foundation for the promotion of digital and media-based art in Switzerland and is financially supported by Pax. With the Pax Art Awards, ground-breaking prizes for digital art, the Art Foundation Pax in collaboration with HeK, honours and promotes media-specific practices of Swiss artists whose works use media technologies or reflect on their effects.

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive educational programme as well as regular guided tours in English, French and German.

Curator: Boris Magrini