Art Basel 2018

In pictures: From treading on taxidermy to sounds from Basel's sewers

Parcours, the Art Basel section for public art projects, is "radically different" from previous editions, says its curator Samuel Leuenberger

Parcours, the section of Art Basel dedicated to free public-art projects, is “quite radically different” in 2018, says Samuel Leuenberger, its curator for the third year running. “Most people are still under the impression that it’s an outdoor sculpture show, but it’s much more than that,” he says. The majority of the 23 commissions are actually displayed indoors, as Parcours ventures beyond the Münsterplatz to new locations around the city. Working indoors enables artists to respond to a building’s history, Leuenberger says, and to weave that history together with their own forms of storytelling. This fits with Telling Stories for the Future, the theme of Parcours this year, which is a way to “give the artists as much [freedom] as possible”, Leuenberger says. The idea has “political potential”, he says, but think politics with a small “p”, from a surreal encounter with robots to a memento mori for the animal world.

Caroline Mesquita, The Machine Room (2018)

Caroline Mesquita

The Machine Room (2018)

Carlier Gebauer

“Caroline Mesquita’s film and sculptural works are integrated with wooden religious objects from the History Museum of Basel’s permanent collection. She uses stop-motion animation in her films, which often portray her and her friends interacting with a new breed of robotic beings that she has sculpted. This strange interaction questions where we stand in our engagement with technology. She is a post-internet-generation artist, but it’s not cynical; it’s quite poetic, how she deals with [technology]. You could imagine a bridge from the 1927 film Metropolis. She’s still asking what it means for our own bodies, having these other bodies in our lives.”

Mark Manders, House with Notional Newspapers (2018)

Mark Manders

Room with Three Dead Birds and Falling Dictionary (1993/2018) and House with Notional Newspapers (2018)

Zeno X Gallery and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

“Mark Manders first submitted a project for Basel’s Natural History Museum called Three Dead Birds and a Falling Dictionary. You walk into a large room with a soft foam floor and somewhere underneath are three taxidermied birds. The mystery is not knowing where they are, so you could potentially step on them. While looking at sites, we walked past a rundown, empty pastor’s flat and Manders fell in love with the space. I told him he could have two projects in Parcours if he was up to the challenge. In the House of Notional Newspapers, sculptural situations point to the fact that somebody is living here. It might be an artist in this flat who is hiding himself from society and just working away.”

Pierre Huyghe, Exomind (Deep Water) (2017) Courtesy of the artist; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; Hauser & Wirth, London; Esther Schipper, Berlin; Chantal Crousel, Paris; Taro Nasu, Tokyo; and The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

Pierre Huyghe

Exomind (Deep Water) (2017)

Marian Goodman Gallery, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Hauser & Wirth, Esther Schipper

“This is a carefully chosen environment with live animals; bees are added to the sculpture at the heart of it. So, it is an expanded idea—more than just a kneeling figure. You can only find it at the end of a long walk through a private garden of the Allgemeine Lesegesellschaft; it’s the only rough, overgrown area in central Basel. You’ll probably hear the bees at work before you see the sculpture. You finally approach the kind of ecosystem that Pierre Huyghe likes to create. There’s a cross-pollination between different living organisms, which of course includes us, as visitors.”

Thomas Struth, Animals (2018)

Thomas Struth

Animals (2018)

Marian Goodman Gallery

“The importance of animals is a recurring theme this year. Thomas Struth is showing a beautiful photographic series of animals that have died of natural causes and are being autopsied by staff at Berlin’s Leibniz Institute for Zoological and Wildlife Research. The photographs vary in size, from a zebra down to a fish or a cat. They are shown in a Modernist church that is being renovated as a rehearsal space for Basel’s symphony orchestra. Struth was blown away by the power of the architecture. It suddenly clicked that he wanted to show the photographs in memento mori style, suspended in mid-air. He is into Modern classical music, so he has also curated a music programme. It’s a perfect example of how Parcours can create something completely unexpected, not just for the audience but for the artist.”

Hannah Weinberger, Down There (2018)

Hannah Weinberger

Down There (2018)

Freedman Fitzpatrick

“Hannah Weinberger is a young Basel-based artist who works with sound and performance. She has installed sound pieces in a half-mile stretch of the city’s sewer system, so this resonance accompanies you as you walk through the city. She is a master of mixing field recordings from her travels and self-composed soundtracks. She plays very poetically with the peripheral sound to which we’re constantly exposed, such as when we walk through the streets. You think you recognise it, but she still brings a melodic quality to it that makes it musical.”

Jessica Stockholder, Three squared on the river bank (2018)

Jessica Stockholder

Three squared on the river bank (2018)

Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Galerie nächst St Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Kavi Gupta Gallery, 1301PE

“Jessica Stockholder flattens the hierarchy between sculpture and painting, between high and low art. She is presenting sculptures, based on her Assist series, that need another environment or object to lean against or wrap around. One is placed on top of a bridge, against a dragon-gargoyle representing the Basilisk. Another is on the riverbank below. She’s throwing a different perspective on the city itself, not picking obvious scenic locations but jolting people from their accustomed way of going about the day. She plays with a bright, colourful palette so the works are not necessarily beautiful—they’re disruptive.”