Animated Matter

Animated Matter
Curated by Mathis Pfäffli

Matheline Marmy   2 Micha Zweifel   3 Hammer Band (Raphael Stucky & Res Thierstein)  4 Anna Bak   5 Lisa Lurati   6 Manuel Schneider


In autumn 2021 we opened a group exhibition around the artist residence La Dépendance in St-Imier, which I called “Animated Matter” in my role as invited curator.
For a better understanding, it is advisable to also briefly explain la Dépendance in this final report.
In the following section Jan Van Oordt describes what this small institution should achieve. La Dépendance hosts a seasonal residency program for invited artists, which usually runs from May to October. Coexistence, storytelling and active withdrawal as well as margins, offstream or interdependence and relationships with ‘nature’ form the working terminology in the orbit of the house.
La Dépendance aims to facilitate informal gatherings and conversations by operating on the threshold between private and public space.
The focus is more on a space of experimental knowledge than of production.
As a former resident, I know the place well and have decided to use this group exhibition to deal with this place, as a terrain, but also as an idea.
In the Saalblatt (or, in this case, better known as Feldblatt), I formulated the introduction to our exhibition as follows: What is La Dépendance and what makes it the place it is? In recent years, Jan Van Oordt has brought together artists who interest him and who are certainly working thematically in a similar direction as himself.
His hospitality and the design of La Dépendance as a residence have led to a lively exchange.
Many of those involved are often guests, and the discussions are also continued outside of La Dépendance in other contexts. Somehow Jan’s idea has taken on a life of its own and for me, and perhaps others as well, a thinking space has emerged that often accompanies me to other places.
Just like La Dépendance, “Animated Matter” is also a moment in a process.
When we started six months ago, many of those involved had not heard of La Dépendance, or had only heard very little. Over time, an exchange developed through zooms, on-site meetings, emails and told stories, through which the artists were able to get to know the place and the atmosphere. Finally, the work was created here on site and for La Dépendance during a few scattered days in summer and early autumn 2021.
The result is an exhibition in which dealing with matter becomes part of the content. Time plays a role in these works, including what is legendary and narrated. Time as a force and as a principle of order. I recognize an almost animistic approach to material, and I sense how important its properties are in these works. I find meanings that can change over time. As a small example, I use the work of Micha Zweifel, which complements the fireplace in the front garden of the small house with a piece of wood cast in bronze. I imagine how this object will survive the dépendance and surprise the future finder without context. Archeology and the cycles of nature seem to me already taken into account.
I find few absolute answers, rather unstable questions. And yet this exhibition will leave its mark; if they stay long enough, someone might notice them later and become something completely new in the process. “Animated Matter” could tell something about that.
I hope it works.
When I speak of a process in this text, I mean the whole work from our first meeting as a group to the fraying end of the exhibition.
As a curatorial method, I decided against visiting the studio and directly selecting work and instead chose a form of storytelling. From the first meeting on, I tried different forms to convey a feeling that I associate with “Animated Matter” or “animated matter”.
The same stories were then used to illustrate this exhibition.
One story I told at the opening of the exhibition is the following:
I am looking for a feeling that I cannot exactly describe.
Once, when I was still a child, we went to an exhibition of prehistoric art, I think it was during the autumn break in Athens. We wanted to spend the time on the island of Andros with a befriended family in a remote white Greek stone house, but then drove to Athens for a few days and visited many worn white rocks and that exhibition about the prehistoric Cycladic culture. There was also shown a selection of their typical figurines, the idols, which, strangely enough, have been found almost entirely in a battered, destroyed state. You don’t leave me alone to this day.
The adults also behaved strangely towards them at the time.
When I speak of a process in this text, I mean the whole work from our first meeting as a group to the fraying end of the exhibition.
As a curatorial method, I decided against visiting the studio and directly selecting work and instead chose a form of storytelling. From the first meeting on, I tried different forms to convey a feeling that I associate with “Animated Matter” or “animated matter”.
The same stories were then used to illustrate this exhibition.
I was fascinated by its almost transparent white, I had never seen such white before, it reminded me a little of the tone of my deciduous milk teeth. And the shapes, these flowing, almost perfect shapes. They had to be incredibly smooth. Were you warm? Or very cold? They looked light, but I suspected they were, on the contrary, very heavy. I wanted to touch them, but they were protected by thick glass.
I would have licked it.
I would have stolen it and hidden it under my bed.
But actually I didn’t know what made it different from other objects in my life.
They had nothing to do with my life, they were that old. Then I remember a hike we went on when I was maybe seven or eight. We had to get up early in the morning to prepare for the day. My father made bread, my mother made tea. In my memory, we either packed a bag of alphabet soup or a can of tomato ravioli to cook something warm for lunch. Pocket knife, sport mint, ovo sport, and country hunters.
Finally we started in some Graubünden village, I can’t remember which one, trudged up the first winding roads until a small hiking trail branched off and led over a stony meadow into the forest.
I guess I mix a lot of hikes into a single experience.
I remember rough, gray scree fields, strong mountain grasses, thistles, with dried cakes made of cow dung in between. Somewhere we were cooking something on a boulder and looking at gnarled mountain trees and the sun was beating down on my yellow sun hat.
We had a destination for the hike, we wanted to look for a large bowl stone.
While we sipped soup or poked ravioli in the pan, my parents talked about these stones, which can be found in many places in which people carved drawings a long time ago. Sometimes rings, sometimes stick people, often holes, bowls. It must have taken an awfully long time, this scratching. After all, people didn’t have impact drills back then, probably not even metal tools. So they had to hack stones with stones for days, even weeks, so that the grooves and holes were deep enough to remain visible to this day.
Later the path led us along a ridge in the forest. At a certain point the adults began to take a closer look at the ground and stones. Soon we found the first plate, covered with engravings, rings and holes. The longer we looked, the more we found, sometimes some moss had grown over it, or a pile of pine needles hid the tracks. We were standing on an ancient drawing. In my memory it is huge and meanders between the trees through the forest, similar to a stream or a snowfield.
What do you think this place was intended for? Nobody seemed to know nothing about the others either. Nobody could know, they told me. But clearly it had to be important. The place gave me a deep, vague feeling. Sure, it took a long time until these many, many holes were made. It was clear to me that I was standing in a place that was infinitely important to some people a long time ago, so important that it still seemed to vibrate noticeably to me. I felt something, although no one could tell me what it was all for, for what and why.
My mother must have prepared a little and thought that the bowls might have been used to collect blood from animals, perhaps a place of sacrifice. Or, she said, maybe people filled the holes with oils or fats, stuck wicks in them and lit the lights, looking for something in the backpack. She pulled out a bottle of olive oil and a candle wick. We filled one of these bowls with oil and made a device out of a branch so that the wick could protrude nicely from the oil. It took a while before we could light it, but then the light was on. It was a small inconspicuous candle, after all, it was late afternoon too and the candlelight had to assert itself against the sunspots on the forest floor. I tried to imagine it was night and all the bowls were filled with fat and wicks would burn everywhere.
It would look like a starry sky, one in the middle of the forest.
Last year, when Jan and I talked about the exhibition for the first time, in the evening I stood with him and Manuel on the crest where the bikes are today. These days, it was written in all the newspapers that the new satellites could be seen at night. We had set an alarm clock and at the said time we went for a walk up the hill. And actually at exactly ten o’clock, a chain of lights shot across the night sky. The clouds behind which it now and then disappeared seemed to glow, so bright were the individual points. It looked like an express train or a highway in the night sky.
At that moment I remembered the hike, the starry sky on the forest floor and the feeling that this place gave me.
Perhaps this story also explains why my ‘Saaltext’ ends with the remark, I hope it works. It is difficult to foresee what remains of us as something like transgenerational transmission in the matter. And yet it can be a motivation and intention of contemporary artists to produce communicating objects.

Time will tell who reads which message from it then.

Mathis Pfäffli; decembrer 2021


Matheline Marmy
Solid Wavers, 2021
Stainless steel, copper wire, tin
appx. 250×15×15cm












































Micha Zweifel
Switch , 2021
Bronze, in a fire place









































Hammer Band (Raphael Stucky & Res Thierstein)
Props for the performance Fiolle that took place on  september 19th 2021
































































Anna Bak
«The moon became the minute hand,
the seasons the hour hand.» 2021
Grass, textile/linen, cord.
160×130cm / 140×210cm





















































Lisa Lurati
Cielo graffetta, un omaggio, 2021
Cut grass and engraved copper





















Manuel Schneider
Untitled (The Moon Is Not
Acceptable), 2021
Concrete, steel, cloth, wire
variable dimensions

























































First visit in spring













Visit from Rico Scagliola and Sadie Plant with a class from ZHDK