In this exhibition the bizarre and heterogeneous are superimposed on the idea of national art, putting the so-called existence of a stylistic category referred to as the artistic expression of the nation's spirit, in this case Switzerland's, in crisis. Suiza visionaria (Visionary Switzerland) brings together work from over fifty Swiss artists from divergent formal and aesthetic approaches (Abstract Constructivism, Surrealism, Conceptual Art, Kinetic Art and Neo-dadaism) and includes a highly diverse selection of artists, starting from the fifteenth century with Niklaus von Flüe then moving through to Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Meret Oppenheim, Markus Raetz, Jean Tinguenly and Daniel Spoerri and finishing up at Caspar Wolf and Heinrich Füssli.
The exhibit's curator, Harald Szeemann, puts forward a critical examination of art, of the creative act and visual aspects of a determined geographical context, in the process calling into question the saying that Switzerland is a country with no history (and thus no identity), and concluding that the common thread of all this artistic expression from such a wide chronological timeline is precisely the diversity of the approaches to singularity (psychic or social). The exhibition is rooted in this approach and addresses an historiographic interpretation of art practices in Switzerland from a critical perspective that encompasses a Constructivist spirit and heritage.
Harald Szeemann sets forth an interpretation of Swiss art as a product of visionary experience, considering the actual artist as a visionary. Thus, in the curator's own words: “The artist creates, or receives, techniques, methods and artistic dimensions, such as the movement, and pours these visions into their work.” The visionary does not adopt an artistic genealogy, but is limited to expression through images, thus filtering the language. This matter brings two facts to light: diversity (due to an absence of a determined style), the continuity of artistic creation in Switzerland, and, as Szeeman asserts, “The lack of a social structure in the trend towards totality”, meaning that the visionary artist does not attempt to formulate or build utopias.
The term visionary has connotations of the artist as a solitary and isolated, but not hidden, figure. From this notion the exhibition is able to join both romantic artists who represent the sublime in Alpine landscape and the work of the insane, thus forming a consensus that the images of the schizophrenics and those commonly believed as art fall under the selection criteria of creation from a visionary experience. Szeemann addresses the tradition of Art Brut and schizophrenic art endorsed and encouraged by Jean Dubuffet, who claims that, “When the Swiss are mad they are more creative.” In this exhibition the inclusion of Emma Kunz, Aloïse (Aloïse Corbaz) and Adolf Wölffli contrasts with the international public recognition of artists such as Johann Heinrich Füssli, Arnold Böcklim and Alberto Giacometti, and affirms the far-reaching and varied artistic panorama of a country that, as Szeeman points out, contains all mediums of expression, despite the stigma surrounding its lack of history.
Kunsthaus, Zurich (November 1, 1991 - January 26, 1992), Städtische Kunsthalle and Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Dusseldorf (June 26 - August 30, 1992)