Heidi Bucher

Heidi Bucher
Parasol Unit, London
19.09.18 – 09.12.18

A snake sheds its skin whole; discarded clothing is warped by the body that previously wore it; a building becomes marked over years, the elements wearing the outside, the attrition of footsteps on its corridors – material memories accumulate. Swiss artist Heidi Bucher ( 1926 – 1993 ) is best-known for her Häutungen ( Skinnings ), where she applies a layer of latex to buildings, clothing and bodies before pulling the resulting skins away. The detached skins hold a record of these surfaces, revealing the detail of their forms, carrying imprints of tiles, of window panes, of parquet flooring; and hinting at what might have taken place there, the latex catching the collected debris of dirt and dust, and the various evidences of surfaces become worn.

A snake sheds its skin whole, as the creature below emerges reborn. What once served as protection from the world is now discarded; no longer necessary, it shrivels. Bucher’s Fliegender Hautraum ( Flying Skinroom, 1981 ) does not shrivel and disappear. In the footage shot by Martin Kugler – the Super 8 medium lending it a nostalgic dreamlike feel – the skinroom takes flight. Up in the air ( although raised from the ground by a crane ) this partial cast of a room seems to take on a life of its own. A latex mould of four walls connected, but without floor or ceiling to hold its rectangular form, it morphs in and out of different shapes in nonsensical sequence: a jellyfish, a balloon… this residue of memories reincarnated as a shapeshifter, making a fantastical escape from the past.

Die Abbilder von Gestern sind die Bilder von Morgen.
The imprints of yesterday are the images of tomorrow.
Die Häute sind die Abbilder von Morgen.
The skins are imprints of tomorrow.1

Skin, a boundary between the hidden and the visible, a mystery to medicine for centuries, offers itself as a material indeterminate and elusive: solid, a snapshot of time, yet also fluid; a time portal, at once the past, the present and future. Bucher’s skinnings are simultaneously precursor and successor: they are imprints of yesterday; already imprints of tomorrow.

Time, with regard to Bucher’s work, is pressing. As these forgotten spaces lay dormant before her intervention, the artist herself has been overlooked for some time. The attention paid to her work in the 1970s and 80s lapsed into a decade of near-silence following her death in 1993. Since her rediscovery in 2004, when a solo exhibition was held at Zurich’s Migros Museum for Contemporary Art, there has been a gradual resurgence of interest and a trickle of international exhibitions and retrospectives. This exhibition at London’s Parasol Unit is the first extensive showing of Bucher’s work in the UK.

The current interest in Bucher follows that in various artists to whom she has been compared. Those who came before: the German-American artist Eva Hesse, who made similar innovations with new materials such as latex in the 1960s, which was profiled in a 2016 documentary; and those who came after: the best-known being Rachel Whiteread. Despite Bucher’s work predating Whiteread’s by almost two decades, the latter’s is far more recognised. Since her Turner Prize nomination for Ghost in 1991 and subsequent win for House in 1993, Whiteread’s cast sculptures of everyday objects and forgotten spaces are never far from the public eye; they were the subject of a large retrospective at Tate Britain in 2017 – 18. The three artists have in common processes with materials that succeed in confusing boundaries and surface. Their sculptures lose the industrial connotations of their materials, their forms seen as ‘other’, organic or feminine, and their minimalism ‘human’.

Beyond the field of art, Bucher’s concern with bodies and space led her to an interest in fashion and architecture. We see something of her legacy in the work of the revered Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela, whose signature method of working with old garments and historic forms typically involved collating and binding them together with the application of a white surface that still paid tribute to their past existence. Margiela’s material interventions are part-preservation, part-shrouding: garments stiffened and held under a coating of white paint, and buildings ( the brand’s shops, his atelier ) as if frozen in a state of disuse, furniture and surfaces draped in white sheets.

Unlike Margiela’s skins, Bucher’s do not remain adhered to surfaces. In the gallery, whether the skinnings hang from the ceiling or on the wall, or are erected as tent-like three-dimensional structures, they appear as fragile monuments to the past. These stilled forms do not disclose the fervent process of their making, and it is only in watching the film footage that you see the force behind Bucher’s movements. She pulls at the skins with all her weight until they are piled on the floor. The process is emotionally charged throughout. After the skins are removed, in a somewhat ritualistic manner, the artist might afterwards climb under them, as if momentarily needing refuge – one animal sheltering from the wild under another’s hide. Finally, she takes the skins upon her shoulders, dragging their bulk behind her like a cloak. As the title of her work Zieht das Gestern ins Heute ( 1980 ) indicates, Bucher intends to ‘pull yesterday into today’. While doing so, Bucher also drags the inside – domestic, private and institutional spaces – outside, their dirtying, ageing material hung up and their proportions laid out. Holding the past accountable, the skinnings might also serve as a threat to future action: a severed head on a spike, as a warning. The demands of her work do not remain in the past.

Critics have previously remarked on the involved emotional state with which Bucher worked, describing it as personal, and a number of the skinnings drew from her own history. An early work, Borg ( 1976 ), was from her previous studio, a former butcher’s shop, and some were taken from the Ahnenhaus, her ancestral home in Winterthur, Switzerland. A focus on material and memory is often dismissed as feminine rather than universal, considered simply autobiographical. Unfortunately, the London show does not highlight the significance of the various contexts, but I’d argue that Bucher invites us to read the political narratives that spaces hold on both an individual and a collective level. Her skinnings of her family home, including one of the male-only domain of her father’s study, are linked to her dissatisfaction with the domestic setup common in her youth, compared with her ambitions for her life as an artist with young children.

Other skinnings were made elsewhere, such as those of the Bellevue Sanitorium. Housed in a grand nineteenth-century building, this psychiatric clinic served as a luxurious retreat for privileged madmen. A sample of its more renowned residents is telling: ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, historian Aby Warburg, heralded as geniuses in their fields; also ‘Anna O’, a patient of Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud, marginalised with the ‘female’ ailment of hysteria. Whereas Bucher starts her reconnaissance of a space simply by looking at floor, ceiling, windows, ‘as an architect’, she then asserts: ‘I must come closer to everything.’ In the 1990 film Bellevue, Kreuzlingen, the artist speaks from within one of the skinrooms. Listing the condition of the skinning as if its symptoms belonged to the patients who inhabited the room from which it was cast, she describes ‘the suppressed, neglected, wasted, lost out, sunken, flattened, deserted, inverted, diluted, forgotten, persecuted, wounded’. She seems thoroughly consumed as she speaks, although we cannot tell to what exactly she refers.

She asks of the skinnings: are they inside or outside? In the two-way direction of frottages, what is it to be influenced, to influence, to make an impression or to be impressed upon? Bucher’s Frottages ( Rubbings ) series suggests a term that could be applied more generally to her work. She records surfaces through fricative action, physical and emotional. The idea of personal narrative seems a short-sell, when her Frottages might reveal the rub of history on both artist and audience.

On the upper floor of the exhibition are works that are more ethereal: minimalist abstracted models of a ‘glue house’ ( Weissleimhaus, 1976 – 1983 ) and imprints of beds and nightdresses, tools for nocturnal dreaming. We see also Bucher’s costume-object, which she wore to perform, becoming a dragonfly, a creature that emerges from water, only for a brief period of their life able to fly. Visions not worn or tarnished, they shine instead under a mother-of-pearl coating with the eerie beauty of trapped specimens, rather than feeling weighed down with specific historic context, unlike the mummified skinnings hanging in the gallery, yellowed and flaking.

Another series in this show includes three sculptures of water pitchers poised in the air; a latex flow of ‘water’ pouring from their spouts – this too, frozen in a single moment. A moment of casting would be impossible, and these jugs serve as symbols rather than signalling specific memories. Wasserkrug ( Water Pitcher ) is undated, whereas another work, dated 1986, bearing the title Heute fliesst das Wasser aus dem Krug ( Water Flows out of the Pitcher Today ) evokes the present. The water flows in a state of constant renewal; it is always flowing, and it is always today. In a third work, Jetzt fliesst das Wasser aus der Vase ( 1987 ), water flows from a jug in the air towards a pond, a real body of water at the back of the gallery. Did that water once flow from the vase? Perhaps, such things can be captured, if, as Bucher believed of her skinning process, we approach ‘at the right moment’.2 I find the renewed interest in Bucher’s work an affirmation. A moving forward through these hanging skins and arrested memories. The running water stilled, but of all-time. An image paused, it could be yesterday, it could be tomorrow.

1. From a recording of Heidi Bucher in 1993, quoted in Heidi Bucher, Parasol Unit, London, 2018, p. 15.
2. Ibid.


2018 年9 月19 日—2018 年12 月9 日

译 / 黄晔丹



然而,布赫于1981 年创作的作品《飞行的表皮房间》却并没有萎缩或消失。在马丁·库格勒的镜头下—超8 厘米菲林带来一种梦幻般的怀旧感—整件作品确实飞起来了。尽管是被一架吊车从地面吊上天的,但这件对整个房间的局部拓印好像真的被赋予了生命。一个乳胶制成的模子连接着房间的四壁,但没有地板或天花来维持其长方形的外形,在无序中变幻出各种不同的造型:时而像一只水母,时而又像一只气球……记忆的残留化身为变形者,成就一场针对过去的绝妙出离。

Die Abbilder von Gestern sind die Bilder von Morgen.


Die Häute sind die Abbilder von morgen.



就布赫的作品而言,时间是紧迫的。正如在她的介入之前, 这些被人遗忘的空间一直处于休眠的状态一般,艺术家本人也曾 在相当长的一段时间内遭受忽视。自上世纪七八十年代起艺术界对她作品的关注在她1993 年去世后的10 年间渐入沉寂。直到2004 年,苏黎世米格罗斯当代艺术博物馆举办其回顾个展,布赫的艺术价值才被重新发掘,再次吸引业内人士的眼球,并陆续有一些关于她作品的国际展览与回顾。是次在伦敦太阳伞联盟当代艺术基金会举行的个展是首次在英国完整呈现其作品脉络的一次展览。

当前艺术界不仅关注海蒂·布赫,也对其他一些曾与布赫做过比较的艺术家产生兴趣。例如2016 年的一部纪录片就讲述了德裔美籍艺术家伊娃·海瑟早在上世纪60 年代就用乳胶之类的新型材料做过类似的创新作品;而在布赫之后最出名的当属瑞秋·怀特里德。尽管布赫的作品问世的时间比怀特里德的早了将近二十年,但后者的知名度却远高于前者:自从其作品《幽灵》及《房间》先后获得1991 年透纳奖提名及1993 年透纳奖殊荣之后,怀特里德有关日常物件及被遗忘空间的金属铸造雕像作品就从未远离过公众的视线;这些作品在今年早些时候曾在英国泰特美术馆的一场大型回顾展中展出。上述三位艺术家有一个共通点,即成功地选用模糊边际与表面界限的创作材料,而创作出的作品则摒弃了其材料的工业内涵,展现出“另类”、有机、女性主义或极简主义的形态与人文意味。

除了艺术领域之外,海蒂·布赫对于身体与空间议题的关注亦引发其对时装及建筑的兴趣。我们可以从令人尊敬的比利时时装设计师马丁·马吉拉的作品中找到布赫的影子。马吉拉喜欢将旧款时装及古典样式作为设计元素,并在此基础上添加白色涂料作为其个性化标签,从而表达他对历史的敬意。他采用部分保留、部分覆盖的介入模式:时装经过一层白色涂料的覆盖而变得硬化, 而他的车间及品牌店铺的建筑则仿佛被凝固在一种废弃的状态, 家具及物品表面均被白色床单所包裹。

与马吉拉不同的是,布赫创作的表皮并不附着于其拓印的表面之上。在展览现场,无论这些作品是被吊在天花板上、挂在墙上, 抑或是像帐篷一样以三维结构的形式竖立在展场中,都仿佛是缅怀过往脆弱易碎的纪念碑。单从这些作品的静态形式上并不能体味出其制作过程的火热,只有透过影像镜头,你才能发现布赫创作时所展现的力量:她用尽全力掀起乳胶表皮直至将其堆到地上, 整个过程中,艺术家都保持高昂的情绪;当表皮从物体上移除之后,艺术家可能会以一种略带仪式感的方式,从表皮底下爬过, 就像荒野中的动物躲藏起来以寻求片刻的庇护一般;最后,她将表皮扛上肩膀,好像一块披肩一样拖着行走。她在1980 年创作了一件作品题为“Zieht das Gestern ins Heute”,翻译过来的意思就是“将昨日拉至今日”。这么做的同时,布赫亦将存在于个人、家庭及机构内在的东西带到表面,将其日渐陈旧、污秽的一面以悬挂或铺陈的方式公之于众。“剥皮”系列作品不仅是向 过去问责,也可能会威胁到未来的行动:就像将砍断的人头插在高竿上作为警告一般。毕竟,过去并不存在对她作品的需求。

评论家们曾探讨过布赫作品中所涉及的情感状态,认为其部分作品源自艺术家的私人生活及历史背景。布赫的一件创作于1976 年的早期作品《城市》描绘的是她先前的工作室(过去曾是一家屠夫开的肉铺),而有些作品则取材于其位于瑞士温特图尔的老家—先祖的故居。布赫的创作带有浓烈的自传色彩,她对材质及记忆的关注更为其作品增添一丝女性化的况味。遗憾的是,伦敦的这场展览并未突显出不同背景的重要性。尽管如此, 我认为布赫已邀请观众从个人与集体两个层面解读不同空间背后所隐含的政治故事。她有关自己祖屋的“剥皮”系列作品—包括其父亲那间只许男性出入的书房—与她对自己青年时代家庭格局的不满及成年后身为一位母亲兼艺术家对人生的抱负紧密相连。

“剥皮”系列的其他作品则是在别处制作的,例如拜洛沃疗养院。这所精神病医院地处一幢建于19 世纪的大宅,为罹患精神病的权贵达人提供奢华的疗养服务。其中,比较出名的疗养者包括芭蕾舞演员瓦斯拉夫·尼金斯基及历史学家亚伯拉罕·沃伯格,两人均被视作是其领域里的天才;还有心理学家约瑟夫·布罗伊尔及西格蒙德·弗洛伊德的病人“安娜·欧”,因其“女性化” 的歇斯底里病症而被边缘化。布赫“好似一名建筑师一般”,仅仅对一个空间的地板、天花及窗户进行勘查之后,就做出断言:“我必须深入研究这里的一切。”在1990 年拍摄的纪录片《克罗伊茨林根的拜洛沃》中,艺术家在她有关拜洛沃疗养院的剥皮作品前接受访问,透过个中每个房间的表皮状态,细数当年居住其间的病患的病情及生活细节。她用诸如“被压抑的”“被忽视的”“烂醉如泥的”“失败的”“陷入麻烦的”“丢脸的”“被抛弃的”“被倒置的”“无力的”“被遗忘的”“被迫害的”及“受伤害的” 之类的辞藻来描绘,叙述的时候充满感情,尽管我们无法得知她所指的对象具体是哪些人。

对于她的“剥皮”系列,艺术家提出这样的问题:他们是朝向里面还是朝向外面?这种双向的拓印方式,究竟会受什么影响, 或想对什么产生影响?是想给人留下深刻印象,还是要让人明白其重要性?布赫的“拓片”系列提出一个观念,或许更能概括其创作:她透过物质层面与情绪层面的摩擦发音来记录不同的表面。这种个人叙述的观点就好似一种沽空行为,而她的“拓片”系列则向艺术家本人及观众揭示了历史所存在的问题和阻碍。

展场的二楼则展出一些更为空灵的作品:有1976 年至1983 年间创作的“胶水房”的极简主义抽象模型;还有作为夜间睡眠工具的床和睡衣的拓印。观众还能欣赏到布赫所设计的、用作表演如何成为一只蜻蜓时所穿着的时装单品。蜻蜓是一种诞生于水中、终其一生仅有非常短暂的一段时间可以飞行的生物。这套时 装的视野未被受损或玷污,相反,它在一层珍珠母涂层的覆盖下熠熠发光,呈现出一种怪诞之美,而不像那些被木乃伊化的剥皮作品,悬挂在展厅上空,日渐变黄、剥落,让人体会到某个特定的历史背景所带来的沉重感。

本次展览所展出的另一组系列作品包括三件挂在半空中的玻璃水瓶雕塑;一条乳胶制成的“水柱”从每个喷口中倾泻而下, 同样也被凝固于一瞬间。这些容器绝不可能是在短时间内铸造而成的,其功用更像是一种象征,而不是表示某个特定的记忆。其中一件题为《水瓶》的作品并未标注创作日期,而另一件作品尽管创作于1986 年,但其标题则为《今天有水从樽中流出》,这不禁让人想起当下的情境:流动的水处于一种不断更新的状态中; 水总是流动的,就像时间流过一个又一个“今天”。第三件作品是布赫于1987 年所创作的,题为《现在有水从瓶中流出》,表现的是水从半空中的水瓶中流入一个池塘里:池中的水是真实的实物。那些水真的是从水瓶中流出来的吗?正如布赫对其剥皮过程保持信心,如果我们能够找到“准确时机”的话,上述问题的答案或许是肯定的。2 我敢断言:世人会重燃对布赫作品的兴趣。从这些悬挂着的表皮和被禁锢的记忆中不断前进。流水虽然静止, 但却永恒。一个停顿的画面,可能属于昨日,亦可能属于明天。

1. 源自艺术家海蒂·布赫于1993 年受访时所留下的访问记录,摘自伦敦太阳伞联盟当代艺术基金会2018 年举办的海蒂·布赫个展画册第15 页。
2. 同上,第15 页。