“Art is always explosive”

Conceptual artist Roman Signer made bottles dance weightlessly in the HSG main auditorium. And he designed exploding clay packets for attendees of the public lectures. On November 28, his artistic campaign rounded off the five-part lecture series “Whom does the city belong to?”

29 November 2011. Six glass bottles are swinging on long, hardly visible plastic string next to the speaker’s desk in the HSG main auditorium. Steel fans are whirring under rice wine, vodka and other distillates. The small wind machines make the bottles circle slowly, like a perpetuum mobile, one meter above the ground. The designer of this installation is known for his virtuoso blasting campaigns. On the occasion of the Gotthard Tunnel breakthrough for example, he blew up one hundred yellow building-site helmets (Swiss Television, October 15).

City Councilor Nino Cozzio is glad that Signer’s work makes for heated debates about the nature of art in St.Gallen, as well. Art controversies invigorate cultural events in a city, said Peter Nobel. In his lecture, the dedicated art collector mused about the development of the notion of art. Throughout history, art in the public space has sparked debates, he said. He added that the St.Gallen region provides several examples, including Roman Signer’s fountain in St.Gallen’s city center and the Calatrava bus stop shelter on the market place.

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Nobel said that an interested, sometimes self-appointed elite, whose task it is to maintain a democratic culture, decides what will actually be selected and received as art. “Not every exploding bottle is art”, said Nobel. But every form of art is explosive, because it causes an emotionally charged dispute about taste.

After the lecture, Signer provided the explosive conclusion in front of the university’s main building. He made six “clay packets” arranged in a circle explode – a fireworks display in a matter of seconds, followed by puffs of smoke. What, that was it? All this work for such a brief moment? The clay packets lie on the floor like open flowers, inside there’s a yawning void (sanktgallentv, 30 November).

Curiously, the visitors look at the packets after the blast. Is it enigmatic, Signer’s time sculpture? Peter Nobel anticipated the experience theoretically in his lecture: “Art is always avant-garde and also opaque. The discussion about it, however, is a benchmark of democratic culture.”

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