Human Valley

the other side of contemporary history


HUMAN VALLEY ist ein Projekt von Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster und Tristan Bera für die Kunsthalle Zürich im Museum Bärengasse.

13.06 – 14.08.2011: Summer: «Balzac Nouvelle Vague», Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster & Tristan Bera

26.08 – 30.10.2011: Autumn: «l'amour en a majeur», Jean-Michel Wicker, Heike-Karin Föll & Gregorio Magnani

12.11.2011 – 15.01.2012: Winter: «The Money Plot», Egija Inzule, Tobias Kaspar & Hannes Loichinger

28.01. – 9.04.2012 Spring: «Microlima Zurich Tropical», Pablo León de la Barra

21.04 – 17. 06. 2012 Midsummer: «Back To Nature»

Summer: «Balzac Nouvelle Vague»

The French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (born in 1965, lives and works in Paris) is known for her film projects, photographs, room installations, collaborations with other artists, scenographies and display situations. Her room installations describe particular moments, evoke atmospheres through memories and projections and enable the emergence of transitory locations. The relationship of the individual to his or her “environment” – between the physical and spiritual “interior” and the “exterior” – is the focus of attention here.

The Kunsthalle Zürich invited Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster to create an area for lingering on the ground floor of the Museum Bärengasse. Working in cooperation with Tristan Bera (born in 1984, lives and works in Paris), they created a hybrid space containing books, films and display cases which are continually open to new uses and the contents of which change according to the different projects being, herald a fictitious and real programme.

Reminiscent the entrance of a small cine-club but also a Godard domestic scenotope (Une femme mariée, 1964) and including a projection room for oblique documents, HUMAN VALLEY is a one- year display for hybrid presentations of borderline topics. It is also a collective and organic process, open to new encounters along the way...

The project starts with «Balzac Nouvelle Vague» or the question how the French Nouvelle Vague has been shaped by the Balzacian ambition of fiction as big as life – like Eric Rohmer who structured all his cycles in relation to la Comédie humaine, Jacques Demy’s recurring characters coming back from film to film, which is a Balzacian literary finding, or like François Truffaut whose main characters are obsessed with Balzac from Antoine Doinel in Les 400 coups (1959) to Pierre Lachenay in La peau douce (1964), including Jean-Paul Belmondo reading La Peau de chagrin (1831) in La sirène du Mississippi (1969) or Delphine Seyrig quoting Madame de Mortsauf from Le Lys dans la vallée (1835), which Godard also wanted to shoot in 1966, but also like Jacques Rivette who adapted four novels of Balzac.

Often seen as a classical dry author with endless boring descriptions, Honoré de Balzac is the inventor of an incredible optical system that operates with an endless number of characters, and stages them on the front page or the background of a panoramic series of novels. He also invented the notions of prequel, sequel and spin-off among other exciting literary findings. Some of his characters, La femme de trente ans, La Torpille, Eugène de Rastignac, have become archetypes for social studies and in Brazil a forty-year-old woman is now known as a balzaquiana. His less famous, dark and fantastic oeuvre had a large influence, first on the decadent novels and then on the noir modern literature. And as Godard says: “We always talk about an old movie but never about an old Balzac novel...”

In the Bärengasse frame of HUMAN VALLEY – like savage detectives or a combo of passionate readers and movie-goers – Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Tristan Bera present their sentimental research on stimulating links between Balzac and the Nouvelle Vague. In relation to this presentation of the first chapter of HUMAN VALLEY there will also be a reading by Catherine Millet (fall 2011) and film screenings – see list on

Autumn: «l'amour en a majeur»

HUMAN VALLEY is a one-year project by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Tristan Bera for Kunsthalle Zürich at the Museum Bärengasse. A space for lingering on the ground floor emerged, containing a library, vitrines and a space for screenings, continually open to new encounters. After «Balzac Nouvelle Vague», Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Tristan Bera invited Jean-Michel Wicker, Heike-Karin Föll and Gregorio Magnani to present the next chapter «l’amour en e majeur»:

In the second chapter of HUMAN VALLEY, the audience is welcomed by a horizontal set-up of drawings, films, fabric, scribbles, lamps and light bulbs, anti-books, scrapbooks and xeroxes.

Some works are displayed in vitrines, some are outside, mirroring possible dis/connections between the single objects, indifferent to shape and meaning.

There are four letters and some books wondering why so little is said about love and how it could be said.....

The rooms focus on the juncture between the visual and verbal, drawing and writing, newspaper and fairy tale.

Questions with a soupçon of gossip, threat, flattery and secrecy are not answered but rhythmically repeated.

Winter: «The Money Plot»

Superimposing information and fiction, the Human Valley winter presentation «The Money Plot» by Egija Inzule, Tobias Kaspar and Hannes Loichinger takes a look at how society deals with the uni- versal means of money exchange.
Introduced as the thematic focus of Issue O of the journal PROVENCE and with the exhibition «Les Journalistes» (1986/1987, Musée d’Orsay, Paris), which was curated by Chantal Georgel, in mind, «The Money Plot» continues the observations on journalistic formats and society novels of the late 19th century and compares Honoré de Balzac’s novel Illusions perdues (1836–1843) with Guy de Maupassant’s Bel Ami, both of which tell the socio-economic tale of parvenus in French society.
“From the 19th century, at the latest, financial transactions and markets have been considered as exemplary social scenes”, as literary scholar Joseph Vogl wrote in the FAZ not long ago. “It ap- pears that literature, in particular, wanted to repeatedly decode the dynamics, types and machine- tions, the sweeping gestures and petty secrets, the norm positioning and pathologies that dictate our fate.” Vogl refers to the parallelizing of the progressing narrative with the continually replen- ished payments of the anonymous German protonovel Fortunatus (1509) and the speculation novel of the crisis-shaken 19th century – Émile Zola’s L’Argent (1891) and Balzac’s banker’s novels.
In the early 20th century, sociologist and anthropologist Marcel Mauss introduced exchange into social theory as the primary moment of the establishment of social contact and as the origin of sociallization. This concept, which is developed in various works by Mauss, including his essay “Essai sur le don” (1923/1924), was received with astonishment as it does not formulate the social and the economic principle as opposites but as completely connected. According to Mauss, a gift is price-less in principle but may be reciprocal. It is located between the pure and one-sided gift, which does not allow for reciprocation, and the economic transaction, which concludes with pay- ment for the goods obtained. Social conventions become visible through the use of money in every- day life, which, like tipping, hover between the two categories and are subject to the unwritten laws of social guidelines.
Following the Driftwoods announced with Issue V, in November 2011, PROVENCE will publish a special edition THE PROVENCE CITY GUIDE: NICE, a travel guide to the city of Nice which is shown for the first time in conjunction with the presentation «The Money Plot»: “You don’t come to France’s fifth-largest city for a quiet time or a seaside holiday. You come for business – not pleasure.”
The Kunsthalle would like to thank the Präsidialdepartement der Stadt Zürich, LUMA Foundation, Hulda und Gustav Zumsteg-Stiftung for their support.

Spring: «Microlima Zurich Tropical»

Freely inspired by Honoré de Balzac’s imaginary journey from Paris to Java (Voyage de Paris à Java, 1832), «MICROCLIMA ZURICH TROPICAL» presents real and imagined journeys into the tropics and other jungles. MICROCLIMA proposes an immersion into a different microclimate, and with it shifting points of references giving visibility to narratives produced in other climates and geographies.

MICROCLIMA ZURICH TROPICAL is a salon with works by Ana Roldán, Alejandro Cesarco, Gilda Mantilla and Raimond Chaves, Julia Rometti and Victor Costales, Radames ‘Juni’ Figueroa, Tetine, and others. MICROCLIMA ZURICH TROPICAL also includes a library and a cine club.

BIBLIOTECA AMAZONICA is an attempt to build a library with publications and posters by Irene Kopelman, Mariana Castillo Deball, Martha Hellion, Sophie Nys, Priscila Gonzaga, Leonor Antunes, Cassia Tabatini, Cecilia Palmeiro, Fabio Morais, Alexander Apostol, Jean-Michel Wicker, Inti Guerrero, Miguel Calderon, Andre Romao, Ricardo Domeneck, Ediciones del Exotismo Ordinario Internacional, Alias Editorial, and others.

BIBLIOTECA AMAZONICA is inspired by Mantilla and Chaves’ research into the amazonic libraries of Iquitos in Peru (“In the jungle there is a city, in this city there is a library, and in that library is the jungle”) and in Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s investigation on the future of books (“Is it possible to expand this library, and if so, how can it be done in a completely different way?”) and the relationship between text, space and climate as explored in her exhibition «Chronotopes and Dioramas» at Dia Art Foundation/Hispanic Society of America in 2010.

CINE CLUB DE LOS TROPICOS is a changing program of artists’ films, which – although having no direct relationship to Balzac – explore realistic narratives, present panoramic portraits of different aspects of society, and share the Balzacian ambition of creating fictions (and realities) as big as life. Artist films in the program include amongst others: Gilda Mantilla and Raimond Chaves, An Uncomfortable Eagerness (2011) about their research done in the Amazonian Libraries of Iquitos; Javier Bosques, The Splinter from the Tree (2007), a personal portrait of the artist’s family life and history; Silvan Kälin, Lagoa do Ouro (2008), a telenovela (soap-opera) presenting a microcosm of the real life dramas of a small village of Pernambuco, Brazil.

In the course of the exhibition the presentation will grow over the space – works and books will be added, the film program extended. «MICROCLIMA ZURICH TROPICAL» also celebrates Balzac’s attempt to create his own microclimate, a failed attempt to transform the land around his house in Paris
into a pineapple farm.

The stationary this press release is printed on is a replica of Marcel Broodthaers’ stationary for his fictional Musée d’art Moderne in 1969, it was replicated by Alejandro Cesarco firstly in 2008 and is now used again on his proposal.

Opening: Saturday, 14 January 2012, 5–8 pm with canapés and cocktails by David Waddington and
Tom Collins / Bistrotheque, London

Pablo León de la Barra is a thinker and an exhibition maker

Pablo León de la Barra thanks architect Douglas Stewart for collaborating on thinking the idea of the Microclimate, developed one night at a night club in London’s East End, where they identified (and later decided to join) a group of men dancing without shirt and creating their own microclimate in London’s cold winter weather. Kunsthalle Zürich thanks: Präsidialdepartement der Stadt Zürich, LUMA Foundation

Midsummer: «Back To Nature»

The fifth and final Human Valley chapter «Back to Nature» looks to the notion of nature as seen through images found in books from discarded archives. The books have left their alphabetical order and are reorganized in small groups, based on visual clues. Turned inside out and without their explanatory texts, photographs of things that occurred some time ago take on a new presence as they start communicating with each other. Research has been conducted to see if there is a possibility for a return to the wild.

Godard’s film Une femme mariée (1964) consists of a collection of “fragments”.
The film’s subtitles are chapters, episodes, vignettes, and tableaux.
It is a pile of magazines made into a film.
Elise Storsveen and Eline Mugaas will continue this idea of the collection of fragments. The installment for Human Valley will mirror the playful juxtapositions you find in the ALBUM# Zines. The narrative will weave in and out of ALBUM#’s favorite Scandinavian topics like nudity and the universe, desire and pet keeping, melancholy, motherhood and lonely men.

In the installation books have been taken out of the bookshelves and are displayed in groups on little bookstands that allow them to be open at specific pages. Fragments from films are screened, torn from the original narrative. They may seem random, but a closer examination will reveal topics loosely held together by narrative content or visual puns. The bed invites you to lie down, to sleep or read (or make love?), but as you examine the different elements in the space, you realize that the images on the wall above are connected to the books and the room. By lying there, you merely fulfill a composition. You become a crucial part of a structure made up of references, images and cinematic as well as literary narratives.

Storsveen and Mugaas met at an alternative holistic teaching environment in Norway in the mid 1970s. It was a time for free child rearing in Scandinavia, sex-ed, home made bread and stay at home dads, an attitude to life that came to shape them. The belief in leaving behind traditional values and returning to a free state, in harmony with nature and unrestricted by the constraints of bourgeois values, moved optimists forward full force and let them crash head-on into the 1980s. Time has passed.

Having always had a great appetite for images, Storsveen and Mugaas have over the years amassed a big collection of images with little regard to their origin. It thus became a place to look for hidden truths about the meaning of life and the state of things in general.

Tristan Bera (born 1984, lives in Paris). Fond of Decadent aesthetics and cross-over exhibitions, he worked on mainstream shows like Dada (2005/2006) at the Centre Pompidou, Richard Wagner, visions d’artistes (2005) and Gainsbourg 2008 at Cité de la Musique in Paris, and worked at Studio Frédéric Sanchez (2008). He received a MA in philosophy and a BA in art history in 2009. He is currently working at Le Pavillon/Palais de Tokyo’s creative lab. Now preparing the shooting of a short film together with Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and working on a book about J.K. Huysmans.

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (born 1965, lives in Paris). Her practice includes environments, films, stage, and architecture. Recently Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster created the site-specific work Desert Park (2010) for Inhotim, Brumadinho, Brazil, and performed K.62/K.85 with Ari Benjamin Myers in New York and Bruxelles and T.1912 at the New York Guggenheim Museum in 2011. Among her recent solo exhibitions are projects for The Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London (2008); MUSAC – Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y Léon (2008); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris / ARC, Paris (2007). Now preparing the shooting of a short film together with Tristan Bera.

Heike-Karin Föll works with materiality and mechanics of language and drawing, treating textuality as equally a vehicle of content, a visual motif and a material form
her drawings have been shown recently in Deichtorhallen Hamburg in the exhibition Captain Pamphile
she run the Glasspavilion on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin from 2007 to 2009
she is fascinated by the clash of Abstract Expressionist painterly gestures and fashion drawing she lives and works in Berlin

Jean-Michel Wicker (b. 1970, lives in Berlin)
Garden (27m2) and living design (24m2) of Casa Jungle, Nice (2003–2009)
founder in 2006 of Le Edizioni Della Luna, Nice; since 2009, Le Edizioni Della China Papers Archive Berlin
❤ humans, animals, botany and spatialist environments
particular obsession with the mediterranean borders and climate
currently working on the development of digitalized animated xeroxed trailers and mini-films (with sound) related to the axis Roma → Napoli → Palermo → Beirut via the Greek channel islands (including their inhabitants)

Gregorio Magnani
Gregorio Magnani has been involved in contemporary art in various capacities since the late 1980s. He is now mostly interested in artist’s books and their possibilities of survival.

PROVENCE (edited by Tobias Kaspar and Hannes Loichinger) is an eight issue magazine, the first issue of which, Issue P, was launched in June 2009 in Basel as part of an exhibition staged with Egija Inzule and including a work by John Knight and documents on Ghislain Mollet-Vieville. Issues R, O and V have since been published inter alia in association with the exhibition «In the Middle of Affairs» at the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, and presentations at Silberkuppe, Berlin and The Artist’s Institute, New York (all 2010).

Egija Inzule is a curator and is currently working on a series of exhibitions and publications in Riga. Tobias Kaspar is an artist and lives in Berlin. Hannes Loichinger is running the Halle für Kunst in Lüneburg with Valérie Knoll.

Elise Storsveen (lives and works in Oslo): “At the moment I am trying to find answers to the following: Can one make images of outer space and the celestial bodies go hand in hand with African tie-dye techniques to create a self-evident, unrestrained unity? Can one decode early abstractionism and infuse it with your own content? Is it possible to solve artistic problems in cooperation with your old Dad?”

Eline Mugaas (lives and works in Oslo): “Now at the moment of death of analogue photography, I am unsure whether the answer is digital or if my interests lie in the physical aspects of images. Currently I am working on a collection of images – a goodbye to analogue photography, to film and darkroom – a love letter to gray scales. A pausing on gray and a welcome to gray hair.”