Heidi Bucher: Spaces are Shells, are Skins
March 28 – June 25, 2023
Space 1, Space 2, Art Sonje Center
Heidi Bucher: Spaces are Shells, are Skins
Spaces are Shells, are Skins is a retrospective of Heidi Bucher, one of the most important and ground-breaking artists of the international neo-avant-garde. Ranging from architectural and spatial installations to drawings, textiles, and performative practices, Bucher’s oeuvre bears witness to resistance towards hierarchical structures and advocates for the liberation of the body. Bucher’s explorations of hierarchical spatial structures include ‘skinnings’ of her father’s study (Gentlemen’s Study, 1979), and her ancestral home (Floor Skin, 1980). These are accompanied by the consulting rooms of Dr. Binswanger, a psychiatrist who specialized in hysteria (The Parlour Office of Doctor Binswanger, 1988). The film footage juxtaposed with her major ‘skinning’ works, provides a vivid record of Bucher tearing away the fabric latex pieces from the surface of the architectural spaces. For Bucher, the act of ‘skinning’ was a process of producing the skin of architecture as an interface to the world.
Trained in fashion and textiles, the moving body was an integral part of Bucher’s artistic practice. Bucher describes her work as a process of transformation from which the body is liberated from oppression and discrimination. For the first time since Bucher’s death, Bodywrappings have been reproduced by the Art Sonje Center in collaboration with The Estate of Heidi Bucher. Created during her stay in California in the early 1970s, these foam bodysuits celebrated her novel approach to sculpture which took shape in the form of performance. This exhibition is part of the recent curatorial movements that recontextualized Heidi Bucher’s practice for our time. As the first retrospective of Heidi Bucher in Asia, it combines archival footage with over 130 works of drawing, sculpture, and installation.
About the artist
Born 1926, Winterthur, Switzerland; died 1993, Brunnen, Switzerland
The Swiss artist Heidi Bucher is one of the most important and ground-breaking artists of the international neo-avant-garde working with sculpture and installation along with a wide range of other media such as drawing and performance. She grew up in the patriarchal society of Switzerland, a country where women’s right to vote was only recognized in 1971. During the 1940s, she studied fashion and textiles at the Zürich School of Arts and Crafts under Johannes Itten and Max Bill. In 1960, Heidi Bucher married the sculptor Carl Bucher, who was nine years her junior, and together, relocated to Montréal and Toronto in 1969. Bucher subsequently embarked on her artistic career in New York and California. But her own role tended to be perceived as that of a “helper” to her husband, as evidenced by the title of their 1971 exhibition in Montréal Carl Bucher & Heidi. In 1973 the Bucher family moved back to Switzerland, whereafter Heidi and Carl got divorced. Simultaneously she applied the “skinning” technique to produce her own unique form of architectural sculpture. Establishing her own studio in the basement of a Zürich butcher’s shop, she began experimenting with her own sculptural language, starting with the Soft Objectsthat she created by flattening out used clothing and bedding. For Borg(1976), she presented a skinning-based installation sculpture modeled on her own studio as a setting where she could realize her own subjectivity as an artist, rather than as someone’s wife or daughter. Her sculptural works would later expand into installations that presented viewers with architectural spaces. Her interests broadened from private to public spaces, exploring ways of transforming social oppression and hierarchies. Following the first major retrospective in 2004 at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zürich, her work became the focus of contemporary attention through other retrospectives including the Swiss Cultural Center in Paris (2013), the Venice Biennale (2017), and the Haus der Kunst in Munich (2021), Kunstmuseum Bern (2022), Muzeum Susch(2022).
Detailed information about each exhibition space is available on the wall text QR codes situated near the entrance of each floor. QR codes for the description of works are located near the artwork.