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Works 2004 - 2016

The order is not chronological. I regularly recompose the works in regard of content and aesthetics. Accordingly, some of the new works can be found by scrolling down.

“(…) Muriel Baumgartner’s self-portrait, on the other hand, may seem like a stark contrast, although the titular ‘Inner Diameter’ of this solid wooden bust also makes reference to a cavity. The object is bulky and very present in the entrance area, its concealed face carved into a piece of wood that is riddled with cracks and inclusions, worked to varying degrees of precision and incorporating multiple stylistic elements. The artist’s temples are adorned with mannerist curls emerging from a seemingly natural ponytail, there is a medieval quality to the fringe above the forehead, and whereas the rough upper arms and chest still bear traces of the chisels and chainsaw used on them, the hands are highly elaborated, almost naturalistic in effect. This mixture of styles is slightly chilling, but the artist’s approach here is hardly arbitrary; it is a deliberate exploration of a craft she has acquired through self-study, intentionally losing herself in stylistic references from a long history of sculpture. The work references classic portrait sculpture while depriving us of its core function and asking the question instead as to what opportunities there are for sculpture in the contemporary art world. Meanwhile, the gesture of the hands that conceal the artist’s face also hints at another level of meaning, with the self-portrait oscillating between seeing, not-seeing and not-wanting-to-be-seen. Created over a one-year period, this sculpture represents moments of introspection and artistic self-reflection in equal measures.”


Marc Munter 2010

This spatial installation with three objects formed part of the art project Kunst am Wasser in the context of comprehensive and effective restructuring and renaturation efforts on the River Aar near the Swiss capital of Berne for the purpose of flood control. The installation is located near the riverbank, in full view of the mansions of Muri up on the hill.

Whether they are located in Lima, Manila, Lesotho or in the forests of Calais (where illegal immigrants had been waiting for seven years for a chance to cross the English Channel before the French police cleared their camp in September 2009): shanty towns are media-compatible symbols of poverty, characterized by building standards halfway between makeshift tent camps and crude brick buildings. These symbols have also come to represent the range of circumstances, such as natural disasters, that can uproot people and force them to live in such dwellings, sweeping them from their rural communities into the urban periphery. If we apply this setting to the city of Berne, we would have refugee camps springing up in places like the undeveloped peri-urban Aar Valley where the new inhabitants would be threatened by natural phenomena such as landslides or floods. The installation entitled Shanty Town, Standardized also alludes to the architectural trend of redeploying a proven building formula again and again, with little or no variation. All around the world, single-family detached homes are particularly well suited to be built as ready-made objects in more or less uniform suburban developments. With their standard format, they appear almost as industrialized and clinical as shipping containers. This kind of architecture is totally interchangeable, site- and location-unspecific and therefore quite affordable, fulfilling mass-market desires of home ownership. The realization of these dreams, however, is one cause for the rampant land consumption in Switzerland. Adversity and affluence are at opposite ends of the spectrum of human impact on nature and the environment, and our standardized slum serves as a silent reminder of both of these tendencies.


Patrick Klötzli und Muriel Baumgartner 2010

The title of Muriel Baumgartner's work Zustand II – seven photographs that are consecutively projected far up onto the unplastered wall – results from the very pedes- trian circumstance that it is wedged in between the two installations Zustand I and Zustand III (both from 2009) within a small series of works. However, one could also deliberately ignore this fact and take the title in just by itself. For it is invariably a second state – and not the original state – that Baumgartner is interested in. And her artistic strategy always involves the transformation of an object through appreciative misreading.
Nor was there a need for her to become creatively active for this. For Zustand II it sufficed that she photo- graphically isolated seven different load-bearing columns of a building undergoing demolition. By zooming in, the remnants of metal reinforcement are transformed into branches, if you will, and the top of the column which really was formed quite haphazardly by the wrecking ball becomes a stork's nest. What interests Baumgartner about the subject of the ruin is less the patina of modern- ist architecture, by means of which an artist like Cyprien Gaillard tries to draw a line between Modernism and Postmodernism, but rather the boundary between built civilization and nature.
Zustand II does not function according to the tried and tested principle of artistic work that imagines the terri- tory held by civilization being recaptured by nature. Baumgartner merely capitalizes on the fact that a wreck- ing ball and a stork's beak can quite unintentionally pro- duce very similar architectural results – despite the pro- found difference between the two instruments in terms not only of form, but of symbolic power as well. On the one hand we have the instrument of demolition that, as a linguistic metaphor, is at the same time made responsi- ble for all kinds of material and immaterial destruction, and on the other there is the stork's beak that carries newborns to their parents, no less. Thus Zustand II is not just a state between Zustand I and Zustand III: it is also a situation between de- and construction, between end and beginning and, eventually, between birth and death.


Daniel Morgenthaler 2010, text in the exhibition catalogue "Yesterday will be better", Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland

Nowadays, the ‹made› in ‹readymade› may be taken somewhat more literally. The actual activity, the ‹making› of a readymade, no longer merely consists in simply placing an object into an unmistakable art context, but also in actively and unabashedly manipulating the object. For her 2009 work "Untitled" Muriel Baumgartner has turned an umbrella inside out in the way normally only caused by a strong gust of wind. Moreover, without adding any additional materials, she disassembled and reas- sembled the components in such a manner that the objet trouvé in the end resembles less an umbrella than a folding contraption for drying laundry.
While in Baumgartner's group of works State I through III each individual work stands for a particular state, here there is a conflict of competence within one and the same object, since an umbrella only works when it rains, while a drying rack only works when it is dry. However, a compromise was already arrived at: the triangular panels of fabric of the umbrella now simply hang out to dry like funeral pennants. The process of newly acquired functional freedom is coming full circle: the umbrella may no longer protect from rain, but on the other hand it does dry faster; at the same time the black fabric takes up the entire length of clothesline, preventing other laundry from being hung on it.
As a result, the object serves all the more effectively as a projection surface for less obvious associations. Thus, it also faintly resembles a small tree that has been affected. But while the columns in Baumgartner's State II seem to be awaiting storks, on this little plant ominous ravens would clearly cut a better figure. For the same reason it would fit well into the gloomy stage set for Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, which according to the stage directions includes exactly one tree. Particularly since the original object, the black umbrella, is a highly theatrical object and should not be missing from any costume stock – just like the black bowler hat that plays an important role in Beckett's play. Both props are also – along with the pipe – part of the iconic imagery of René Magritte. In the end, therefore, Baumgartner's umbrella object only lacks a function inasmuch as the theater of the absurd and surrealism lack meaning.


Daniel Morgenthaler 2010, text in the exhibition catalogue "Yesterday will be better", Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland

My project displaces the automated generation of digital images in photo booths to expose the people passing by on the outside. Using a mirror to open the hermetically closed-off space within the booth, the outside world is allowed to enter and thus becomes the unwitting focus of the camera. Whoever operates this system now is no longer just an object in the photo lens.

With all the newly acquired freedoms and original restrictions of the built-in camera, I started taking pictures of passers-by, thus taking the core function of the photo booth—capturing the essence or personality of a person in an image—to the next level. The resulting pictures are spontaneous, fleeting snapshots of people who are caught off guard by the camera and who have no control whatsoever of the image produced without their knowledge.

As an intermediary between the photographer and the photographed, who vanish into oblivion as quickly as they appeared in front of the lens, the photo booth creates an atmosphere of ephemeral authenticity that leaves the viewer with the impression of witnessing the true character of the portrayed person.

Most pedestrians would normally hardly notice the photo booth, but the irregular perceptual pattern (curtains drawn back, booth operated from the outside) generates a spark of interest in the majority of them. They focus on something outside of their regular field of vision, and the lens does the same—their “eyes” meet. Capturing that fleeting moment was the challenging part of this project.

This camera is designed to create specific, highly standardized images of people’s faces. Its entire conceptual design is aimed at eliminating coincidence in favor of controlling all aspects of the setting to enable perfect self-portraits by providing standardized conditions (light, distance, background) in a closed system. Digital video technology constantly displays what the operator’s image will look like until he or she is absolutely satisfied with the final product—sacrificing photographic qualities like materiality, focus, chromaticity or contrast for functionality. The photograph as a physical product thus becomes secondary.
The specificity and imperfection inherent in the production of these images is visibly exposed by the unintended operation of the photo booth, which creates stylistic elements such as motion blur, color casts, interlacing and grain effects. The visual esthetic of the images is a direct result of the camera’s purpose-built design.



Muriel Baumgartner 2005
An airshaft in the main hall of the EWZ building opens onto steep, narrow built-in stairs creating a passageway to the basement. In the exhibition booth below, various sections of wall space were added. These walls, visually indistinguishable from the surrounding original structure, divide the basement into two separate rooms filled with a dense and often interconnected arrangement of abstract, empty shelving units. The positioning of these shelves, custom-fit to block passageways to other rooms in the basement, is deliberately unpractical in relation to the architectural space. The first room contains a portable lamp for visitors. The installation can only be accessed by one visitor at a time and must be exited via the stairs. There is no other exit from the basement.
Wood carving; replicas of computer parts and printer casings on a scale of 1:1
The title is an advertising slogan by Epson
Site-specific spatial installation at Stadtgalerie Bern, Switzerland.
Poems (engraved in sheets of plasterboard and printed on leaflets), wall-to-wall carpeting, bench

Selected advertising slogans from leading IT companies were compacted into four psalm-like poems, three of which were engraved (in manual labor) in the pre-existing walls while the fourth was prepared as a "take-away" poem on a leaflet. The titles of the installation and of the individual poems are also unmodified slogans. Other materials include a slightly oversized bench made of black MDF and gray wall-to-wall carpeting with plastic skirting boards. Installation space with symmetrical configuration of elements and no outside view, illuminated with some of the existing fluorescent lamps.

Used slogans:
   
How many companies would you bleed for? Hewlett Packard 2004
Always looking ahead Verbatim 2001
Who are you? Nintendo 2003
Have you got what it takes? Amiga 1993
What do you have to say? Hewlett Packard 2008
Stop talking, start doing IBM 2009
Go further, faster Netapp 2008
Upgrade yourself Packard Bell 2002
Put your life on it Western digital 2000
Lead. Don't follow Anlink 2003
It's you Yahoo 2009
What happens is in your hands AOL 2003
When you need more Bell microproducts 2000
Accept no limits Olympus 2006
Now you see it - now they don't 3M 2005
Feel free GMX 2006
Love to lead Toshiba 2007
Bringing Clarity to your life Windows Vista 2005
Life's a game Nintendo 2003
The game is just the start Playstation 2009
Playing is believing Nintendo 2006
Be fearless Symantec 2006
Believe Yahoo 2003
We hear you Acer 2000
We take you there Garmin 2006
What if you could NXP 2006
Now you can Microsoft 2003
Yes, you can Microsoft 2001
Yes Intel 2002
   

"Upgrade Yourself." Nintendo, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Amiga, Bell, Toshiba—these are just a few names of global IT companies using slogans like these to advertise for their products and solutions throughout the world. Especially for international enterprises, slogans play a pivotal role in creating quick ways for consumers to identify with their brands. The purpose of these slogans, however, seems to be less and less about highlighting specific product qualities or creating a factor to differentiate a particular company from the competition. In fact, slogans make use of simple linguistic patterns supercharged with metaphors and the vague promise of transcendental values that seem to suggest a particular "lifestyle". Taken out of their context of the fast-paced world of commerce, they not only reflect our basic human needs but also paint a picture of consumerism that is as exaggerated as it is excessive, a world where the only desirable and worthwhile values are self-fulfillment, productivity, profit and attractiveness.

Thousands of such slogans served as the basic material for Muriel Baumgartner's installation, "How many companies would you bleed for?", created especially for this exhibition. By returning them to their pure, original form and turning them into poems—parts of a potentially continuous narrative of consumerism—she has created a purposeful assemblage and enabled a new way of reading these slogans. The logic of rearranging them as poems is powerful enough to compact the shared "values" of consumerism into a pathos formula. Through constant use of imperatives directly addressing an anonymous recipient, the rhetoric of power, control, self-aggrandizement and transgression of boundaries becomes ever more apparent, clearly taking on traits of totalitarianism. Visualizing and emphasizing this interpretation with her installation, Muriel Baumgartner has staged the exhibition space as a resonator, transforming the existing "sacred" authority of the white cube into a truly cultish space.

Born in 1976 in Zurich, Switzerland, Muriel Baumgartner graduated from the Zurich University of the Arts and has had numerous exhibitions in Switzerland. Her works are often characterized by their site-specific nature and she likes to use the format of an exhibition to develop new ideas in response to pre-existing local conditions. Her methods of execution include a multitude of artistic and technical practices, from targeted spatial interventions to the production of entire aesthetic environments.

Martin Waldmeier 2011, exhibition leaflet for "Im Angesicht der Tatsache" at Stadtgalerie Bern, Switzerland

Muriel Baumgartner
Anwandstrasse 28
CH-8004 Zurich
Switzerland
+41 78 870 27 82


06-09 Studies of fine arts at Zurich Academy of Arts
ab 97 lives and works in Zurich, Switzerland
76 Born in Winterthur
   
   
Group shows
2017 "Jetzt Kunst", Marzilibad, Bern, Switzerland
  Galerie Gluri Suter Huus, Wettingen, Switzerland
2016 "Invasion Manual", artist newspaper, London
  Art-on-construction contests Hornbach and Schütze, Pavillon Werd, Zurich, Switzerland
  "Neue Kunsthalle Zürich", Kulturweid, Pfingstweidstrasse 63, Zurich, Switzerland
2015 "Invent the future with elements of the past", Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Lucius Burckhardt und 10 Zurich artists, Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, and Salon Suisse, Venice Biennale
  "Konstant in Auflösung", Trudelhaus, Baden, Switzerland
  "Paradis et Utopies, Ceci n'est pas qu'une exposition", Château de Mézières, Switzerland
2014 "Rituals 2", City SPA Volkshaus, Zurich, Switzerland
2013 "Seduction", ION, Zurich, Switzerland
  "Werk- und Atelierstipendien der Stadt Zürich", Helmhaus, Zurich, Switzerland
  "Die zweite Dekade" Kunsthalle Arbon, Switzerland
2012 "Catch of the year 12", Dienstgebäude, Zurich, Switzerland
  Jahresausstellung Station21, Zurich, Switzerland
  Gruppenausstellung, kuratiert von DAS SYSTEM, öffentlicher Raum Schaffhausen, Switzerland
  "Säen, ernten, glücklich sein", site-specific exhibition project in a park in Chur, Switzerland
  Kunstplattform AKKU, Lucerne, Switzerland
  "durchblicken und abprallen", K3 project space, Zurich, Switzerland
  "Angela where are you?", Gallery fishpiece, Zurich, Switzerland
2011 "Transform", site-specific intervention in Bern, Switzerland
  "Werk- und Atelierstipendien der Stadt Zütrich", Helmhaus, Zurich, Switzerland
  "Im Angesicht der Tatsache", with Esther Kempf, Stadtgalerie, Bern, Switzerland
2010 "Plastische Lücken", Kaskadenkondensator, Basel, Switzerland
  "Yesterday will be better", Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland
  "Nothütten, standardisiert" with Patrick Klötzli, Kunst am Wasser, Bern, Switzerland
  "Spekulationen", lokal-int, Biel, Switzerland
  "Plattform 10", EWZ Zurich, Switzerland
2009 "Minimale", Produzentengalerie Alpineum, Lucerne, Switzerland
  "Catch of the year", Dienstgebäude, Zurich, Switzerland
  "Weihnachtsausstellung", Station21, Zurich, Switzerland
  "Kunstpreis der Nationale Suisse", Kunsthaus Baselland, Switzerland
  "The audacity of imagination", Gallery Römerapotheke, Zurich, Switzerland
  "Bachelordiplomausstellung", Güterbahnhof, Zurich, Switzerland
  ohne Titel, Dienstgebäude, Zurich, Switzerland
2008 "in progress", PROGR, Bern, Switzerland
  "Weihnachtsausstellung", Station21, Zurich, Switzerland
  "Anniversary Show" Gallery Madonna-Fust, Bern, Switzerland
  "Jahresausstellung 2/4", bildende Kunst, Zurich, Switzerland
   
Solo shows
2016 Site-specific installation in privat house, Herferswil, Switzerland
2015 "D.I.Y. 1", Studio MYG, Zurich, Switzerland
2014 "Hinterzimmer der Behaglichkeit", Kunsthaus Langenthal, Switzerland
  "Svendita totale causa amnesia", church ruins Sta. Maria in passione, Genova, Italy
2012 Kunsthalle Arbon and public space Arbon, Switzerland
2011 "Eksternalizacija", Totaldobze Art Center, Riga, Latvia
  "Doppelter Phasenübergang", Kunstkasten Winterthur, Switzerland
2007 "morgen bin ich reich", Migrosbank Zurich-Oerlikon, Switzerland
  "waste", Kunsthof Zurich, Switzerland
  "Stellwerk Hettlingen", former railway station Hettlingen, Switzerland
2006 "Wiedereröffnung des Bahnschalters", with Andi Domke, former railway station Sumvitg, Switzerland
  "grind down", Station21, Zurich, Switzerland
   
Awards etc.
2011 Studio grant Genova, City of Zurich
2011 Studio grant Riga, Pro Helvetia
2010 Studio Visits 2010, Pro Helvetia
2009 Nominated for the Art Prize, Nationale Suisse Insurance
  Studio grant Nairs-Scuol, Fundaziun Nairs
2008 Studio grant Paris, Kanton Zurich
  Jury Prize "nondeleted", Festival of Photography and Film at Kunsthaus Glarus
   
Publications
2016 "Interviewed", 18 artists interviewed by Gilles Fontolliet, 4 commenting texts by Barbara Basting and others, edited by Gilles Fontolliet
2015 "Invent the future with elements of the past", exhibition catalogue, edited by Adrian Notz and Hans Ulrich Obrist
  "Transform - KunstRaumProzesse", documentation catalogue of 4 experimental exhibitions, edited by Franz Krähenbühl and Kanton Bern
2014 "Hinterzimmer der Behaglichkeit", exhibition catalogue, with a Text by Franz Krähenbühl, edited by Kunsthaus Langenthal
2013 "Mind the gap", Publication about "Kunsthof", edited by Institut für Gegenwartskünste, Zurich
2010 "Yesterday will be better", exhibition catalogue, edited by Aargauer Kunsthaus, with texts from Daniel Morgenthaler
  "Kunst am Wasser", exhibition catalogue, edited by Verein Kunst am Wasser, with texts from the artists
  "Bachelordiplomausstellung", project catalogue about the independent diploma exhibition at Güterbahnhof, Zurich