28th April – 14th August 2006
Annelise Coste’s frieze consists of seventeen pairs of contrasting sentences using “we” and “you”, for example:
we are so good
you are so bad
Viewers immediately have to decide whether they belong to the “good guys” or the “bad guys”, whether they are included or excluded, “we” or “you”.
In this way the artist creates fictional groups, playing with the viewer’s imagination to address the issue of how opinions are formed or made. Since “we” is always plural, but “you” either plural or singular, the question constantly arises as to whether the statements refer to one group and an individual or to two groups. At first sight a pair of sentences such as
we are united
you are selfish
suggests that a social unit is opposing an egotistical individual. Yet this and the other statements, few of which are straightforward opposites, are in fact open to more than one interpretation. The reader automatically adds his or her associations and values, generating nuances and a personal process of exclusion and inclusion.
The French-born artist, who has lived in Switzerland for several years, is known for her frank responses to social and political issues. In countless caricatures, written images, collages and sprayings she has offered biting commentaries on world events, combining them with elements derived from her own biography and astronomy, and with narratives and news items.
In the frieze in the Kunst Halle, Coste adopts the visual language of graffiti, engaging with the public nature of the Museum’s entrance area. Taking this written imagery from the streets, she expands it on a grand scale until it fills the space in a way that recalls recent developments in painting (the work of Katharina Grosse and Renée Lévy, for instance), though it is constantly held in check by the very nature of its origins. Coste’s art is a kind of pragmatic activism that seeks to establish links, however fragile, between consumerism and opposition to capitalism and between individual sensibilities and world events. This is a big aim, and Coste deliberately draws attention to the fact as she probes its limits.