Basel and the impossible shadow
words by Jennifer Cochrane
Artsource Basel Exchange Residency
1 July to 31 December 2016
Six of everything…
I arrived in Basel to a freshly painted studio. Ruth Walther from Atelier Mondial showed me the ins and outs of the space. When it came to the kitchen she breezed through a description of the facilities and opened up the cupboards for the plates and glasses to reveal six of everything…
...here I was in a dedicated studio space, spacious and self-contained, with a kitchen that was better equipped than the one I had left at home. ‘Six of everything…’ came to represent the privilege I felt being there.
I participated in three exhibitions while I was away. On arrival, I immediately began making cubes, with coloured paper from home, to fill a shopfront space for a show with Gert Handschin. This was a nice way to settle in as repetitive labour-intensive processes are second nature to me. The cube production created a familiarity that contrasted the experiences of exploring the new world of Basel and enhanced my processing of the sensory onslaught of adapting to my surroundings. I became obsessed with colour – the neutrality of the studio space with white walls and grey concrete floors amplified this obsession. Never before had I thought so much about colour as the cubes began to take over the studio. I then wanted to complement these cubes with paper sourced in Basel. After many trials, I found an old Swiss school atlas, in an op shop. So began a mission to find as many atlases as possible and when I had emptied all the op shops in Basel, I contacted the Swiss World Atlas Institute in Zurich. Hoping to find they had a basement full of old copies, I was instead generously given A0 proof sheets of the atlas. The production of map cubes (left) continued.
When I applied for the residency I talked about being able to stand in the shadows of works I had only previously seen as reproductions – this was a way of describing being physically present and truly experiencing the artworks with all of the senses. I had a big list of monuments I wanted to visit during the residency. At the top was Richard Serra’s Intersection in Basel. Whilst it was great to see, and walk through, it truly was an experience of all the senses. It is unfortunate that the work provides a perfect place for people to relieve themselves. The visual was stunning and to be physically surrounded was remarkable. It was, however, an unexpected surprise that this ‘complete’ experience meant that there I was on the other side of the world, immersed in an artwork, only to be reminded of the stairwell in the Murray Street carpark at home!
The second show I participated in was a collaboration with another residency artist and three Master’s students from the university. I wanted to further explore shadows as a starting point for this exhibition. Initially I thought there might be the opportunity to make a shadow of someone else’s work in the show, but that didn’t eventuate. Instead, I took a shadow from a work of mine at home (Give Way, Monument Series) and this became the beginning of the impossible shadow. Using cloth tape on the steps of the platz outside the studios I created a version of this shadow. My desire to complement this work with a corresponding shadow from Basel resulted in an interpretation of a light-pole artwork on the platz within the stairway entrance to the studios.
The impossible shadow was the gift that kept on giving (and continues to be), as the final show of the residency was an interpretation of the shadow on the platz within the exhibition space of Atelier Mondial.
The small country that felt huge…
Most of my travel during the residency was in Switzerland with some brief trips to other countries. Prior to leaving I thought I would do more travel than I did, but once I began to settle in it felt like the small country had become huge! I think this feeling depicted a whole range of emotions and experiences – from trying to take in the surroundings and get a grasp of Basel and Switzerland, to the anonymity of living in a foreign country.
It was an exciting feeling – scratching the surface and wanting to discover more. It was about the similarities and contrasts to home and the shift in your life and perceptions when living in another country - all the details you don’t know or anticipate until you get there and live it.
This feeling also acknowledged the vastness of the landscape. My first travels were a visual feast of mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and lakes, much of it taken in from amazing train journeys. I didn’t anticipate just how much the landscape would impact upon me. I couldn’t get enough of the mountains… I became addicted and developed an obsession for the Matterhorn.
I also found myself in awe of the astounding spaces for art in Basel – both the scale and investment and also the sheer numbers; the old and the new. I often returned to visit my newfound favourite 16th century paintings in the Basel Kunst museum along with experiencing installations at Schaulager from the Laurenz Foundation and so many more in between.
Before leaving Perth, I was excited at the prospect of being removed from the patterns and processes of creating that have defined my practice. I was keen to step away from the time and energy invested in my workshop, with its associated ways of making, in order to gain a different perspective. It was a truly liberating experience that continues to reveal its layers. I explored different mediums to create installations. However, the underlying, inevitable processes were still essentially the same – labour-intensive and highly repetitive. It has been a slow progression for me to embrace and accept these processes. The residency provided an opportunity to get a glimpse from a distance that has given me the confidence to recognise these processes on another level.
The exploration of colour continues, as do the impossible shadows. It is interesting that since arriving home I haven’t made anything that creates its own shadow. The importance of a dedicated, clean space has been made blindingly obvious to me since Basel.
I find myself missing Basel often. It was such a valuable experience and it continues to provide inspiration on many levels. I haven’t tried this yet but I am wondering if I visit that stair well in the Murray Street car park, will I be transported to Intersection?
Jennifer Cochrane completed a Bachelor of Arts at Curtin University in 1988. Her practice is predominantly object based; she has exhibited throughout Australia and internationally, including large-scale permanent works and intimate site-specific installations.
The Artsource Basel Exhange Residency was supported by Artsource, Atelier Mondial, Christian Merian Foundation, Department of Culture and the Arts and Lotteryswest.
Images (top to bottom):
Jennifer Cochrane, Shadow self portrait, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.
Jennifer Cochrane, Swiss World Atlas cube, 2016. Dock Under. Paper from Swiss World Atlas books. 10x10x10cm each. Image courtesy of the artist.
Richard Serra, Intersection, 2016. Steel. Photographer: Jennifer Cochrane.
Jennifer Cochrane, Give Way on the Platz, 2016. The tail of the sheep, Oslo Night. Cloth tape, 500x500x500cm. Image courtesy of the artist.
Jennifer Cochrane, Matterhorn, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.
Jennifer Cochrane, Impossible shadow, 2016. The tail of the sheep, Oslo Night. Cloth tape. Photographer: Kathrin Schulthess.
Jennifer Cochrane, Colour cubes, 2016. Dock Under. Coloured origami paper, 10x10x10cm each. Image courtesy of the artist.