“Blackout” at Corner College, Zurich

Petra Köhle, Archive Blackout, 2017


The Art Work(Ers) research group of the ECAV–École cantonale d’art du Valais/Sierre will exhibit the result of their efforts at the Corner College in Zurich, curated by Robert Ireland, Petra Köhle and Federica Martini.

The Art Work(ers) research began from a set of historical facts and some intuitions: the concurrent deskilling of art and industrial labour; the parallel emergence of applied research both in the arts and in utopian industrial plans; the observation that art did not enter the factory only once production was over–as an alternative or a gentrification agent, but rather artistic production had often overlapped, both aesthetically and politically, with industrial labour and materials. Working in between the past and present of two factories (Alusuisse/Constellium, Chippis and Olivetti, Ivrea), the exhibition Blackout shares performances, discussions and printed matters from the archive of the research Art Work(ers).

In the process leading to the Blackout exhibition, the research group considered the scenarios provided by Alusuisse/Constellium (Chippis, CH) and Olivetti (Ivrea, IT) as archives of narratives, questions and voices. They were led to many institutional and personal archives in between Chippis, Sierre, Martigny, Sion, Bern, Lausanne, Zürich, Ivrea, Torino, Rome and Genova. Some histories were recorded in detail, whereas others were inaccessible or forgotten. Important information for the research had been disregarded as unfitting in the existing narratives; women and non-western labourer were underrepresented both in art and industrial histories; similarly, strikes, protests and alternatives mostly appeared as hierarchically subordinated to indisputable main discourses. In a speculative fashion, they decided to give equal attention to visible facts and blackouts, consider both actual and alternative histories. The question was less “why X has happened” but rather “why the alternative Y did not take place”.

In 1980, when post-industrial perspectives became tangible, the poet and artist Nanni Balestrini published the Italian version of Blackout. The poem unfolds around four dictionary entries, each of them describing the notion in terms of memory losses, power breakdowns, conclusions, forms of censorship or concealment. Texts and images are here combined to trace back histories of disobedience and revolt. The exhibition Blackout at Corner College similarly unfolds from a quilt of archival materials and plural voices that are cut up and “played live”. The works and documents account for the sense of an ending, the melancholy that follows the unrest, and the necessary recording of volatile counter-chronicles around those whose battle was–at least provisionally, lost.

On show, a 3-screen movie, a series of sculptures, an installation, a collection of video interviews, four editorial projects and sound recordings on show at the Corner College. The space is designed by Christopher Füllemann, Petra Köhle and Robert Ireland’s sculptures and installations that revisit a 1959 archival image of the Olivetti workers’ reading room by architect Ignazio Gardella. Donatella Bernardi’s Cerebrovascular insult (CVI) (2015) and L’Aquarelle (2015) mingle the multiple-oriented Olivetti showroom aesthetics with “the digital era and of the visual codes of psychedelia”. A two-channel movie by Petra Köhle, Robert Ireland, Nicolas Vermot-Petit-Outhenin and Aurelie Strumans addresses the blind-spots of the memory of art and industrial labour at the Olivetti (Ivrea) and at Alusuisse/Constellium (Chippis). On occasion of the exhibition the two first issues of the Blackout  magazine will be launched, curated by Federica Martini & Christof Nüssli, with a focus on Art Labour and Olivetti. On December 8th, Patricio Gil Flood’s the École de non travail will convene one sound symposium in and around the Art Work(ers) research, together with the  projects’s artists in residence, including Cora Piantoni and Anne-Julie Raccoursier.

The exhibition Blackout is a collateral event of the SARN Symposium, ZhdK, Zürich, December 8-9, 2017. The Art Work(ers) research project is supported by the Hes-so research fund and the Canton du Valais.

With contributions by Donatella Bernardi, Christopher Füllemann, Patricio Gil Flood, Robert Ireland, Petra Köhle, Federica Martini, Christof Nüssli, Nicolas Vermot-Petit-Outhenin, Aurélie Strumans.

Texts by Leah Anderson, Andrea Bellini, Donatella Bernardi, Mabe Bethonico, Chrisantha Chetty, Robert Ireland, Alexandros Kyriakatos, Federica Martini, Guillaume Pilet, David Romero, Lise Soskolne (W.A.G.E.), Marcella Turchetti.


Robert Ireland, Ex Voto Homo Faber, 2017, in collaboration with the Musée d’Art Sion


Art Work(Ers) research group, ECAV–École cantonale d’art du Valais/Sierre
8 December 2017 – 28 January 2018
Opening on December 7th | 7–9pm
Discussion on December 8th | 11am–1pm
Curated by Robert Ireland, Petra Köhle and Federica Martini

Corner College, Zurich | Kochstrasse 1, Zürich
email: cornercollege@gmail.com
phone: +41-79-248 43 15