Reto Pulfer (1981, Bern) grew up in Basel-Landschaft and now lives in Berlin. A self-taught artist, he constructs singular universes, both intuitive and complex kinds of ‘total artworks’ combining installation, sculpture, painting, performance, music and architecture. To create his environments, he adopts a very simple technique, close to the crafts, and uses basic materials, often recycled, such as bed sheets, cloth, paper and found objects, tinged by an aura. He extensively travels to experiment with arts and techniques which he then integrates into his artworks to create a thorough sensorial “condition”, as he describes it, that visitors can experience and feel at ease with.
He recently exhibited at the Centre d’art Contemporain, Geneva; Musée régional d’art contemporain Languedoc-Roussillon, Sérignan, France; Centre international d’art et du paysage, Île de Vassivière, France; Spike Island, Bristol; Kunstverein Nürnberg – Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft, Nuremberg; Swiss Institute, New York and Istituto Svizzero di Roma, Milan.
In our interview, Reto explains how to overcome the limits that another language sometimes sets.
What are the current priorities within your practice?
The visitor who comes walking into my spatial installations should feel at home or have the possibility for another experience. My practice is best described as a “Zustand” (condition / state / état des choses). Sculptures become unstable before they fall apart. A sound is made. The guitar vibrates. Language and textile fall into a state. A piece of textile is re-installed much differently the next time – it has been a shirt before.
In reference to this year’s graphic and thematic superstructure “migration”: what was / is your route and how has it changed your perception? How relevant is the notion of “Heimat” or “identity” for you?
I have not had a formal art education. I travelled with the Indonesian artist Eddie Hara, who lives in Basel, to his native country in 2001 where I experimented with art and performances. I found it challenging to make art outside one’s cultural limits. The use of a language is always limited. But how about artworks? A language and concern and intention of an artwork did not seem to be an universal property.
Nun in Deutsch: Mehr noch war ich beeindruckt wie stark die Künstler hier und dort kulturelle Codes, also scheinbar allgemein gültige Symbole in ihrer Arbeit aufgreifen und diese transformieren. Andere Ausstellungen in Thailand, Singapur, Japan folgten. Später im 2006 war ich in China für ein Performance-Festival und 2007 in Ägypten für ein Stipendium. 2013 Ausstellung in Mexico. 2015 in Nicaragua. Natürlich gibt es auch im europäischen/ amerikanischen Raum Unterschiede in der Wahrnehung und der Arbeitsweise. Ich glaube, das Reisen hat mir geholfen eine essentielle Spur zu suchen, um mit der Kunst über Dinge zu sprechen, die nicht nur mich was angehen. Mittlerweile finde ich die Schweiz genau so exotisch und eigen wie Orte die ich weit weg besuchte.
The work I present at Swiss Art Awards starts with a piece that is currently on view at the X Bienal de Nicaragua. The textile was bought, sewn together and painted on site. For Basel I will re-install it differently and add more sculptural elements.
This year’s Grand Award for Art laureate Christian Philipp Müller “dedicates himself to art education and actively supports the work of a new generation of artists”. Is / was there someone on your route that supported your work in a way that it influenced your practice / approaches /strategies?
Too many to mention.
Reto Pulfer’s latest show States of Remembrances can be seen until 1 May 2016 at Forum Eugenio de Almeida in Evora. He also participates in the X Bienal de Nicaragua, open until the 15 May 2016. More about Reto Pulfer here.