Aleksandra Mir

Aleksandra Mir at Galerie Francesca Pia

Kunst-Bulletin, #5, Zurich, May 2002
By Beate Engels

HELLO Bern
Galerie Francesca Pia, Limmatstrasse 268, Zurich - Switzerland

Shots of statesmen and boxing champions, pop stars, pilots, master chefs and other 'completely ordinary people' are lined up next to each other on the walls of the Galerie Francesca Pia, pinned under glass onto the wall in various formats. The concept of stringing them together is as simple as a game of dominoes: on each image there are at least two protagonists, with one of them appearing again in the following image with a different person. In this way the shots of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall continue with a photo of Hall and her friend Marie Levin. The following photograph shows the queen of cosmetics, Marie Levin, arm in arm with Salman Rushdie in London, the latter posing on the next image with Gnüther Grass at a writers' meeting in Hamburg.

Aleksandra Mir now has a huge collection at her disposal. Practically the entire Family of Man could fit in here. The Polish artist (b. 1967) who has been living in New York since 1989 where she studied cultural anthropology at the School for Social Research, is known for her critical, caricaturing look at the media's processing of world history. In 1999, for example, she staged herself as the First Woman on the Moon in a media-friendly performance that took place on a beach in Holland.

There are no fakes in the photographic series Hello. The scans taken from press and state archives as well as private photo albums were merely reworked with photoshop by the artist in order to emphasise certain poses and gestures. The poses often look as though they are set up just for the cameras: the handshakes between estranged statesmen, the arms held high by politicans and sportspeople, sure of victory, the casual harmony that the Spice Girls bring to their show. A shot from 1965 of the Eisenhower family sitting stiffly is hardly any different from the portrait of Japan's ruling family, Hirohito, from the same period. The natural shots are real treasures, of George William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg for example, two really old men who sit together on the porch and look like two little boys recovering after a wild prank. Or a personal photograph of the great artist James Lee Byars who died in 1997, and has gone down in history for his eccentric public appearances in the most varied places in the world. Here we see him, dressed as elegantly as ever in a white broad-brimmed hat and black gloves, sitting comfortably at the kitchen table of the Bern gallerist Francesca Pia with her daughter Noelle on his lap.