In her video installation How to sleep among wolves 1, Luzia Hürzeler subverts the distinction between carrying something out and the ability to imagine it. As in the double meaning of the work’s title, an overlapping between instruction and question persists in the videos. For example, the artist’s wish to sleep among wolves inserts itself unremarked – as though it could come true in this way – into the stories told by a zoo employee (Othmar Röthlin), it links images of the sleeping artist with those of sleeping wolves and it produces the vision that a realistic sculpture of the artist could one day be placed in a zoo’s wolf enclosure.
The division between imagination and realisation is also called into question by reassigning traditional object-subject relationships. The fact that the artist herself becomes model to a sculptor (Rudolf Rempfler) causes a shift in the constellation of creator, model and figure, because as model for a sleeping figure she dreams about the realisation of her own work and, when she wakes up, her different roles catch up with her. And not least – she places herself in a position comparable to that of wolves in a zoo: The animals are, of course, also exhibited objects and parts of a model that is meant to make zoo visitors develop a mental image of their natural habitat.
In How to sleep among wolves 1, as in many of her other video works, Luzia Hürzeler links techniques of artistic representation with questions regarding the coexistence of humans and animals. In Il Nonno (2009/10), for example, she confronts a living lion with his stuffed grandfather. He ignores human beings’ efforts to make his ancestor into an object that seems as alive as possible just as laconically as the artist’s cat ignores the life-like bust of the artist made of meat in Selbstporträt für die Katz (Self-portrait for the Cat) (2006). Likewise, in Die Forelle (The Trout) (2012) the exhibition apparatus oscillating between monitor and aquarium is apparently noted by the trout only when it begins to threaten its existence.
In How to sleep among wolves 1 the precarious relationship between human beings and animals is put to the test by means of the imagination. Without actually crossing the boundary of any zoo enclosure, its mediating and simultaneously distancing effect is translated into artistic inquiries. Being able to sleep among wolves remains a myth, but it enriches mental images and dreams.
Translation: Michael Wetzel