“The Year of Living Dangerously”
curated by Samuel Leuenberger
June 13 – 19 2022
in collaboration with Thomas Schulte, Berlin and Maisterravalbuena, Madrid
There might have been something of a disaster of, well, monumental proportions that came to pass under Wettsteinbrücke in the city of Basel on the occasion of the world’s most esteemed art fair. Seen from above, or from across the river, the situation draws attention – it seems like a delivery-went-wrong; a cargo, destined for Messeplatz, capsized on a pebbled strand of the Rhine, below one of the two bridges linking the historical neighborhood of the city with the Kleinbasel district. It is tantamount to an art historical crime scene: a cluster of sculptures by Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp, Barbara Hepworth, Jean Dubuffet, and Jeff Koons, washed by the rolling waves, bleaching in the sun.
Maria Loboda called on a number of artists whose practice redefined the thinking about sculpture throughout the 20th century. She then had their works replicated, to scale, to stage this otherwise impossible scenario. The sculptures wade in the water, but also yield to it, as does the whole concept of Loboda: visible, or less so, dependent on the ebb and flow of the river. It’s less of a mockery of the monetary value and more of an unconditional invitation to indulge in thinking of the double, secret, or hazardous life of sculptures.
Among Loboda’s earlier works was based on historically acknowledged sculptures was a take on Jean Arp’s Resting Leaf (Feuille se reposant) of 1959, which, in her own words, she felt she had to “remove and protect” from its insulated, pristine setting. The object ended up tossed into a bog, in close proximity to the site it was displayed in. Arguably, not an obvious way of saving an artwork. This sculpture of Loboda is included among the works surrounded by driftwood on the Rhein and others that share the same fate.
They also have common origins, in that all of them are part of a stream of thought that took its point of departure in natural landscapes, and animal shapes, including those of humans. And all of them are far detached from the commonly understood idea of an original, cast and recast, created in series, continuously reinvented, as with Constantin Brancusi’s, Bird in Space (1928), or endlessly replicated as with Jeff Koons’s, Balloon Swan (Magenta), 2019. What is it then that Loboda deemed so important to save these sculptures from at this point in time?
The Year of Living Dangerously (2022) is as much about the unfortunate fate of those objects in this particular situation as it is about entertaining the thought of them living a multitude of other existences. Loboda did not prepare the scene as a stage set – rather, she set it in its slow motion and is complicit in it. It is not a gesture of rebellion but one of liberation. That of looking differently at otherwise revered objects which are no longer affixed to their secure positions and open to the passage of time, washing them ceaselessly like the waves.