Published in: Shifting Identities, Kunsthaus Zürich (ed.), Zürich 2008.
I might almost have walked past a freestanding wall corner placed in the middle of the exhibition hall without paying any attention to it, had it not been for the inconspicuous indication of the label that records it as a work of art-Gregory and Cyril Chapuisat, Intra Muros. The experience-based work of the artistic duo from Geneva is often concealed behind wall surfaces that could at first be taken for part of the existing architecture. However, anyone who tries to unravel the spatial function of the creation by a brief look around it will not find any illuminating explanation for the puzzling installations. The works reveal themselves above all to the sense of touch-and in most cases that it meant quite literally. In fact, here in the narrow side surfaces there are two inconspicuous flaps that promise a way into the interior of the construction.
With a soft carpet under my knees I crawl on through the passages of the wall corner, which is fitted out to meet all the basic needs of human existence. Strange – in the interior I feel more secure than confined. Cooking facilities, two sleeping berths and even a small lavatory are there. Yes, it would in fact be possible to survive behind these outer walls. That concealed innerroom embodies the perfect opposite of its external face. The white wall still marks the last frontier of the contemporary practice of art-even if that demarcation line is again and again the subject of fierce arguments. Inside and outs1de, nature and art, art and life: these opposing concepts fit easily into the western thought pattern of dualistic distinctions. This cognitive method has served up to the present as a mental tool for demarcation and differentiation. But new problems also arose with it-because of the dualistic pairs of concepts, some gray areas disappear from our sphere of knowledge.
What do I think I see in front of me? The French philosopher Descartes might have doubtingly asked that question in the 17th century. Here, tangible reality in the interior of the Chapuisats’ constructions, there, an abstract linguistic idea that suggests an interpretation. To distinguish between material (e.g. touchable) and immaterial (e.g. conceptual) knowledge creates a differentiation of perceptual processes that is as useful as it is problematic. By means of projections and overlays of spheres that are in fact clearly delimited, Gregory and Cyril Chapuisat succeed in questioning a myth of western thinking. At first, inside and outside seem to behave quite clearly as opposites: there living space I here art space. The two cannot be experienced simultaneously, and one can be linked with the other only from memory. However, the hiding place behind the wall also functions as a commentary on the external wall, indeed its signs even point in the same direction. I can interpret the white wall surface on the outside just as much as the unused, Spartan hermit’s cave in the inside as a puritanical settlers’ fantasy with the signs of this mission standing more at withdrawal than conquest. The last frontier? I cannot say where the demarcation line runs, or whether it exists at all. And yet going to visit Intra Muros is a frontier experience, which suggests the latter to me.