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Indepth Arts News:

"Switzerland and Other Islands: Aleksandra Mir"
2006-08-18 until 2006-10-08
Kunsthaus Zurich
Zürich, , CH

From 18 August to 8 October 2006 Kunsthaus Zurich is showing felt-pen drawings by Aleksandra Mir (*1967). Mir is creating a new series for this exhibition revolving around the notion of Switzerland as an "island". Aleksandra Mir is a Swedish citizen who was born in Poland and has spent the last 15 years in New York, where she studied art and anthropology. She has recently moved to Palermo, Sicily. Since early in her artistic life she has taken a special interest in cartography as a tool for interrogating our received notions, addressing the subject in films, photographs and performances. In the early drawings series, "The World from Above", Mir drew views of different places, starting with commercially produced maps. Favourite tourist destinations, such as the Tower of London, rubbed shoulders with the Gaza Strip and other political hotspots.

For the exhibition at Kunsthaus Zürich, Aleksandra Mir is creating a series of large-format drawings, collectively entitled "Switzerland and Other Islands" in which she explores the various meanings of the motif "island": socio-political, mythological and symbolic. The drawings‚ formal language is reminiscent of comic strips and appears almost childishly naive. However, by her choice of motifs and details, by altering the scale and by juxtaposing images of landmasses with decorative elements that frame and enhance them, Mir questions the validity of the prevalent models of representation. This is also reflected in the hanging of the exhbition. As well as filling the space allocated to her (the Cabinet Room), she presents three of the twenty works she is showing elsewhere, in amongst the Kunsthaus Collection.


In historical terms, cartography has always been a means to both represent and subjectively interpret the world. It is no coincidence that the conquest of the world happened at the same time as it was schematically pinned down on paper, creating a fictional political construct.

Maps of countries and towns help travellers to find their way through an unknown environment. Travellers rely on the fact that the information on the map does indeed reflect reality. Mir's abstracted maps question the sources and legitimation of what is generally regarded as "reliable" information and asks what and whose reality it is based on. She also plays with the specific political implications of maps, mimicking the real-life drawing up of physical borders, as well as the delineation of cultural and linguistic boundaries that all too often kindle political and economic flashpoints. The bitter conflicts, national chauvinism and resistance that result from this process and date back to the earliest days of colonialism still persist in today's globalised world.


Aleksandra Mir uses her work to investigate stereotypical images and notions. In the series "Church of Sharpie", for instance, she distanced herself from the official myths and tales of heroes that circulate in her host country, the USA. In "First Woman on the Moon" (1999) - one of her best known works - she constructed a "lunar landscape" on a beach in Holland and re-enacted the "giant leap for mankind" - only with a female protagonist. Aleksandra Mir captured this falsely recreated historical moment in a documentary film, obscuring the boundaries between reality and fiction as she did so.

Therefore the new drawings which are especially created for the exhibition at the Kunsthaus Zürich take up her earlier works. The Kunsthaus exhibition is curated by Mirjam Varadinis and will be accompanied by a small publication. It is available for CHF 28.- at the Kunsthaus-Shop.

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