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Lauryn Youden – The Descent - Akademie - Kunsthalle Zürich

Lauryn Youden – The Descent

Lauryn Youden – The Descent
With works by Aidan Pontarini, Julia Scher and Gili Tal
May 18—July 2, 2023

Opening with performance:
May 17, 2023, 8pm

“As I stood” “in a station” “looking into” “the tunnel,”
“I saw” “disembodied” “lights” “coming towards us” “Then I realized”
“a black train” “a solid black train” “was arriving” “at the station”
“It stopped” “The doors opened” “I entered, & sat down” “& then”

“a voice announced:” “This particular” “train” “will leave the subway”
“for another,” “deeper,” “unilluminated place,” “where all is”
“uncharted” “If you want” “to travel with us,” “listen first:”
“The sides” “of the train,” “the train’s form will” “fall away”

– Alice Notley, The Descent of Alette (1992)

Beneath most cities stretches a network of traffic tunnels and stations, filled with rushing trains and emptied figures — for everything here only exists on the way from one point to another. It is a space of waiting, but also of confrontation with social realities. From diving into the below-ground to re-emergence into the city bustle, people from different backgrounds share a common place and condition. In Alice Notley’s novel-length poem The Descent of Alette (1992) the context of riding the subway is seen like a journey into the underworld, a subterranean transit zone of diverse lost souls that exists beneath the patriarchally shaped megastructures of the (big) city, that forces authentic forms of life, cross-class encounters and a retreat from capitalist constraints into the underground.

In Zürich there is no subway – plans for a ‘Tiefbahn’ were rejected by the majority of its citizens in a referendum in 1973. For Backrooms, in collaboration with artist and poet Lauryn Youden, a subway station has been constructed in the basement of Kunsthalle Zürich. This site-specific installation, which includes artworks by Aidan Pontarini, Julia Scher and Gili Tal, will serve as a stage for the performance The Descent by Lauryn Youden on May 17, 2023.

After the opening event, visitors are welcome to view the space by appointment until 02 July. We ask for a timely request to visit via backrooms [​at​] kunsthallezurich.ch.

Kunsthalle Zürich, basement

Image: Lauryn Youden, 2023



A whisper behind a hand, a hatched plan, an embarrassing slip of the tongue, unexpected inspiration: these happen in the gaps, corridors and brief interactions on the way to other activities. In these liminal spaces — places as well as states — emerge zones of reverie with a psychological and social threshold character. They are marginal areas of ambiguous limbo where back doors are left open and free spaces unconstrained, thus generating potential for experimentation as well as for failure. 

Under the title Backrooms, a programme of events, readings, performances, screenings, concerts and other artistic formats will take place, organised by Otto Bonnen. The Löwenbräukunst offers various architectural and social spaces that Backrooms will engage with. Hidden, unoccupied spaces and informal break out rooms provide physical and structural spaces as well as collaborations that go beyond our walls with collectives or extra-institutional locations.

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