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Reading Rämistrasse #75: Aoife Rosenmeyer on All That You Touch, You Change, Helmhaus - Akademie - Kunsthalle Zürich

Reading Rämistrasse #75: Aoife Rosenmeyer on All That You Touch, You Change, Helmhaus

I’m trying to decipher what the vibrating ramp I’m sitting on is saying, when I hear a clang of cowbells – below me, someone has just walloped a punchbag. The sound comes from a work by Lucas Erin: Hochet, 2021, that invites visitors to let off steam in a bright, white room. The former piece is Constantina Zavitsanos’ Call to Post, 2019, and accompanying All The Time, 2019. I read that some people can understand the modulated speech, which has become vibrations I can feel and hear, while not really comprehending where my one sense begins and another ends. Occasionally the text I’m missing is beamed on the wall, a conversation on dimension and space. To be honest, I don’t really take it in, distracted as I am by trying to decode the other sensory input.

In this exhibition, curated by the collective Wages For Wages Against, access to the work is a formative element of the work itself. This is an obvious statement, for how can you look at a picture if you can’t see it, yet until we remark that our abilities to see, feel, hear, smell or touch a work, let alone walk up to it, are compromised, we generally take it as a given. If a work is on display, it must be accessible.

Well, clearly not.

One after another, the works here conspire to unsettle our exhibition habits and reveal disconcerting ignorance. Some invite you in: Shannon Finnegan celebrates pausing to sit. There are pleasingly gruesome works: Sabrina Röthlisberger Belkacem’s flying Fortuna scatters chocolate francs, munificence that doesn’t let you forget the heft of Swiss banking. Criptonite/Edwin Ramirez and Nina Mühlemann’s contribution seems to project an empty stage, but the space is filled with an oral and textual description of the scenery that a lazy look just glances over, revealing how poor a fleeting observation can be. There are elements that exclude too: Ramaya Tegegne makes part of her space out of bounds.

The exhibition title, from Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, comes from a novel in which a country’s weak and unjust order disintegrates, and efforts are made to rebuild it in a more socially just form. Intrinsic to the curatorial work by Wages For Wages Against is a proposal for a fairer and more accessible institution. Even in a municipal art space with free entrance, there is room for improvement. I hope that All That You Touch, You Change has altered me. And again, one would wish this of any exhibition, but this show pierced beyond the range within which works can be appreciated or rejected, yet nonetheless allow the viewer to remain at a safe distance. May care and consideration remain elements in my expectations for any exhibition.

I am happy to report that I missed part of the show. Although I visited twice, it never occurred to me that I might need to take the lift to get up the stairs, so I didn’t see Shannon Finnegan’s vinyl work Naturally Occuring Anti-Stairs Club Lounge, 2021. Thank you.

Alles, was ihr berührt, ändert ihr/All That You Touch, You Change, 3 December 2021-23 January 2022, Helmhaus, Limmatquai 31

Images: L'Ordre Sacrée, 2021, Sabrina Röthlisberger Belkacem, (detail, author's photograph); Lucas Erin, Hochet (Deux cloches), 2021 (© Lucas Erin); Fortuna, 2021, Sabrina Röthlisberger Belkacem, (detail, author's photograph).

Reading Rämistrasse

If art criticism is losing ground, we must act. That’s why we created space for criticism – Reading Rämistrasse – on the Kunsthalle Zürich website and publish reviews of current exhibitions in Zürich. What is published here does not represent the opinion of the Kunsthalle Zürich. Because criticism has to be independent.

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