Herbert Distel – La Stazione

Thursday October 13, 2011
Encounter with Herbert Distel 7.30 pm
Transmission 9.00 pm
Hangar Bicocca - Via Privata Chiese 2 - Milan - Free entrance

The first live transmission in Italy of La Stazione by Herbert Distel (*1942, Bern), an essential contribution in the field of concrete ‘ambient’ musical composition and one of the most important episodes in the history of the relationship between contemporary art, conceptual practices and music. La Stazione was composed in 1987 starting from audio recordings at the Stazione Centrale in Milan.

In 1987 the Swiss artist Herbert Distel realized a series of field recordings inside the Central Station in Milan, that constituted the basis for the creation of an experimental work in five parts divided into two acts. Considered one of the masterpieces of concrete ‘ambient’ music, La Stazione was created following the model of the work La Collina (1947) by Mario Peragallo and was based on the Spoon River Anthology.

Each of the five parts is dedicated to a famous Italian personage:

Trecentocinquantatre (Arturo Schwarz)

Torino-Ritardo (Matilda von Meysenbug)

Capocaponeralearti (Federico Paternina, a producer of Rioja wine)

Transeuropexpress (Teresita Fontana, Lucio Fontana’s widow)

Diretto – Binario sette (Valeria Manzoni, Piero Manzoni’s mother)

The subtitles of each of the parts are based on the announcements made in the railway station, that mix with a continuous music background. Contemporaneously one can recognize the sound of trains clattering, doors closing, various announcements, whistle-blows of train conductors and people running. All these sources of sound have been developed and stratified, thus giving form to a single sound landscape, with an auratic and oneiric combination between industrial sounds and reverberations.

Herbert Distel Herbert Distel is a Swiss conceptual artist who creates works and produces situations that in various ways propose new modalities of relating to reality, be it the history of twentieth century art and its relationship with museology (The Museum of Drawers, 1977), be it the production of large-scale sculptural objects abandoned in the ocean (Project Canaris, 1970), or lastly the relationship between space, individuals and sound, like in the work La Stazione.

The presentation of the sound work by Herbert Distel is the last phase of the project I was driven on and on, a program of encounters on the modalities of the relationship between disorientation/obsession and production/sharing, that took place between Rome, Venice and Milan during 2011, curated by Filipa Ramos.

The Hangar Bicocca Foundation is collaborating with the Istituto Svizzero di Roma, welcoming the transmission of La Stazione by Herbert Distel. The occasion offered by the ISR is part of a project by the Hangar Bicocca of rediscovery and proposal of seminal artistic figures that are distinguished by a transdiciplinary career path and linked to the Milan territory.


Herbert Distel (Bern, 1942) studied lithography in Paris at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (1963-64) and began creating geometric form sculptures in the mid Sixties. In 1968-1969 he started making sculptures in the shape of an egg and in 1970 began Project Canaris, in which he placed a three-meter polystyrene egg  along the West African coast that then reached the coast of Trinidad seven months later. The same year he installed Monumento Canaris, a 22-ton granite egg along the road between Basel and Chiasso. Between 1970 and 1977 Distel produced one of the very first known examples of the use of museum practices by an artist through his The Museum of Drawers (Das Schubladenmuseum), a cupboard with 25 small containers that collect the works of artists such as Arnulf Rainer, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Beuys, John Baldessari, Carl Andre, Nam June Paik, Valie Export, Ed Ruscha, Dieter Roth or John Cage.

The Museum of Drawers was one of the three artist museums exhibited by Harald Szeemann at Documenta 5 (1972) and then presented at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York and currently belongs to the Kunstmuseum Zurich collection.

From 1985-1987 Distel studied in Berlin with film directors Krzysztof Kieslowski and Edward Zebrowski. In 1993 Distel and Peter Guyer completed the video Die Angst Die Macht Die Bilder des Zauberlehrlings, starting from found footage.

Soundwork (1971) is his first work based on the use of sound, created starting from the re-editing of voices of the astronauts of Apollo 13, mixed with George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.