Joshua Webb, Matterhorn, Zermatt 4pmResidency Postcard

Joshua Webb
December 2012

On the acquisition of cultural trophies, art tourism and Swiss Brutalism – or – why mountains are better than art.

There are roughly seven reasons why mountains are better than art, but the purpose of this brief text is not, however, to explain this statement. I’m charged instead to construct a valid explanation for art tourism.

I’m required to sell you my experience of Switzerland. That is to find some tangible bankable reason to explain why more Australian artists need to climb the Matterhorn and why taxpayers should foot the bill.

The international art residency; like some kind of working holiday is a cultural rite of passage for Australian artists, but what exactly does one gain through an actual experience of Swiss Brutalist Architecture? My residency, a gluttonous consumption of cultural trophies across Europe, employs an intuitive itinerary, a travel log that begins with the pioneering work of German architect and designer Peter Behrens. I have, however, become sick with culture. Consumed too much history. It has been, in all truth, really hard work living the dream – a gap year in Europe? It is fortunate though that my extensive and rigorous training (seven years within University art schools across the globe) means that I have such stamina. That I can keep looking at art even when it makes me sick. I can hold down my culture. My abilities have grown more powerful during my time in Europe. The power to consume entire museums in less than 12 minutes or a single loop around Villa Savoye and I’m done.

OK, new style – you should probably imagine me writing this with a backdrop of Starshine’s All I Need Is You (Cuetec Edit)  in my Mies van der Rohe-inspired studio apartment … just slightly paranoid, sitting in the middle of some kind of glass panoptic.

The autumn leaves an iridescent yellow disappearing to reveal tourists at street level, watching me. I’m excited about the new 007 movie, Skyfall. Bond Villains always have the coolest modernist houses. I miss explosions. I’ve been indoors for too long, reading about the history of Brutalist Architecture. I might just download Die Hard; I do love LA’s Nakatomi Plaza.

People keep asking me what art I am making – what am I doing in Switzerland? I don’t know. Which is tricky as I’m in an exhibition in about two weeks. Evidence of my experience is required so I now have an assortment of jade green rocks shaped like mini–mountain peaks. I carried them all the way down from the actual Matterhorn peak. It seemed like a good idea at the time, some kind of souvenir – a memento of achievement slightly more authentic than just another photo?

Joshua Webb was the 2012 recipient of the Artsource Basel Exchange Residency.
This article featured in the Artsource Newsletter, Summer 2012/2013.

Artsource supports the practice of professional artists with the Global City Residencies.