The exuberant, joyful installations created by Swiss artists Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger take the viewer into a wonderspace of interconnected matter. Odd things and found objects – synthetic creatures, artificial flowers, small skeletons, rubber hoses, twigs, buckets, and many other ephemeral items and discarded bits and pieces – are transformed into amazing symbiotic systems. For the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, Steiner & Lenzlinger have created a new site-specific installation on Cockatoo Island entitled Bush Power (2014).
Taking their cue from the human energy that was once a part of Cockatoo Island’s occupations of shipbuilding and power generation, Steiner & Lenzlinger have transformed redundant gym equipment into fantastical machines of sound and colour. Developing an intricate system of rigs and pulleys, the artists have fashioned an interactive environment where visitors are encouraged to use the machines and be a part of this happy energy experiment.
Nothing is useless in Steiner & Lenzlinger’s world; their ethos and ethic is one of recycling and reinvention. The world of whimsy they have manifested within the island’s gritty, industrial space is imbued with a kind of optimism and a therapeutic sense of renewal. It is a magical environment overflowing with energy and colour, captivating the imagination of young and old.
At the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, the artists will present Souls (2011), a series of 11 collages featuring surreal, winged creatures set against majestically beautiful landscapes. Mystical in quality and subjective in content, the souls offer the viewer a free spirit, released from dogma, into which we can send our own hopes, reveries and remembrances.
Steiner & Lenzlinger have worked collaboratively since 1997. Prior to teaming up, Steiner focused on large-scale paintings, while Lenzlinger created sculptural formations from industrial materials. Since blending their ideas and methods together in a successful partnership, the artists have become known for their immersive site-specific installations that entice audiences to enter fantastical new worlds.
In 2003, Steiner & Lenzlinger represented Switzerland at the 50th Venice Biennale with The Falling Garden, a site-specific installation that took the form of a garden suspended in the air. The work appeared in the San Staë church, an abbreviation for Saint Eustachius. The artists created the garden for the stag that Saint Eustachius was hunting when the image of Jesus appeared to him in the miracle that made him eligible for sainthood. Visitors to the exhibition were encouraged to recline on a platform beneath the installation and gaze up into the floating mass of colour. The multitude of items suspended from the vaulted ceiling, many of which were collected by Steiner & Lenzlinger on their travels around the world, included artificial flowers, plastic berries, seaweed, pigeon bones, orange peel, rubber snakes, and other found objects and discarded items.
The artists use a variety of found objects, organic forms and man-made materials in their installations; meticulously arranged and blended together to create a fanciful dreamscape of pure imagination. In Brainforest (2004), an installation created at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, the artists used a collection of incongruous objects, ranging from paper flowers and gilded tree branches to electrical cables, to represent the human brain as a rainforest. The diversity of these objects and their interconnections served as a metaphor for the infinite range of thoughts and ideas generated by synapses within the brain.
Notable solo exhibitions of Steiner & Lenzlinger’s work include ‘Power Sources’, Art Tower Mito (2012); ‘High Water – Drink, Oh Heart, from the Overflow of Time’, Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen (2011); ‘Comment rester fertile?’, Centre culturel Suisse, Paris (2010); and ‘The Water Hole’, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2008). They have also participated in a number of international group exhibitions, including ‘More than meets the eye’, Buchmann Galerie, Berlin (2012–13); ‘Wild Things’, Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense (2010); 3rd Moscow Biennale (2009); and ‘The Tropics: Views from the Middle of the Globe’, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2008–09).