Stansstad, 1969 © Urs Odermatt, Windisch / 2019 ProLitteris, Zürich
Stansstad, 1969 © Urs Odermatt, Windisch / 2019 ProLitteris, Zürich

In 2001, thirty-two photographs by Arnold Odermatt were displayed at the Venice Biennale. In this exhibition, the same selection of images is featured, representing a key moment of transition both in terms of the recognition of the work of the Swiss photographer on the international scene, and also for the broadening of the very notion of photography within the art system. Odermatt’s measured shots were not in fact originally designed to end up on the walls of a gallery, but are the result of the documentation carried out by a brilliant police officer who, at the end of the 1940s had the intuition of accompanying his reports on road accidents with visual proof. The multiple functions of photography are layered on one top of the other here, at times clashing with one another, just like the crumpled cars lying along the roadside. Odermatt discovered the rigorous poetry of the document, and over three decades was to put together an unmatchable catalogue of the results of transformative events, as powerful as they are frightening: on the road, in a single instant, unforeseeable sculptures are formed, imbibed with energy. Harald Szeemann, director of the Biennale, underlined this with the following words: “we see… the wonderful transformation of the police officer into a man with a careful gaze, and who takes up the opportunity to transform an accident into a great pleasure for the eyes.”

Brought into the world of art and displayed alongside works by great artists such as Joseph Beuys, Auguste Rodin, Richard Serra, Cy Twombly and many others, Odermatt’s images acquire an unprecedented aspect and value: from this moment on they are also works of art. This is a demonstration that not only highlights the extraordinary quality of the work of the Swiss photographer, but also a fundamental quality of the language he uses: photography is an exuberant medium. Basically, it gathers far more information than any single onlooker may decode, opening up to various readings and interpretations on the basis of the context in which it is found. Instead of constituting a motionless and unchanging object, the photograph is surprisingly transformed. It’s an exclusive peculiarity of this medium. Odermatt and Szeemann sensed this and turned a series of tools designed to establish civil and penal responsibilities for an accident into extraordinary artworks, endowed with a great aesthetic equilibrium and multiple meanings (they open up to reflections on the relationship between man and machine, speed, chance, death…). We are at a time when the phenomenon of the use of archives by artists took off, drawing on pre-existent materials to reuse as part of their own research. With the difference that Odermatt is both the creator of the archive documents and of the artworks. There is no difference. The ambiguity grows, and is one of the main keys to the interpretation of this work. Once separated from the facts, these photographs become mysterious and fascinating riddles. Without knowing how and why an old Beetle ended up at the bottom of a lake, we are amazed by the perfect correspondence between its roundish shape and those of a swan and a tree on the shore.

Arnold Odermatt

Associazione Biennale dell’Immagine

Sala Diego Chiesa

5.10 – 8.12.2019

Wed – Sun
11:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Le fotografie di Arnold Odermatt fanno parte della Collezione d’arte de La Mobiliare. Maggiori informazioni

In collaborazione con Galerie Springer Berlin