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passage2011 an actionistic, transalpine drama

The undertaking is driven by hope: bare handed the artists will drag a self-made boat
over the Alps. Neo-romantic aspirations and sisyphean exertion characterize the mission, whose apparent aim is to launch the boat into the lagoon in time for the most distinguished art event in the world, the Venice Biennale – to eventually celebrate the victory of art over nature in a triumphal journey up the Canale Grande or to fail dramatically.
This route is arduous and will physically and mentally demand a great deal even from
the experienced mountaineers. The major part of the four to five-week expedition will consist in traversing the main divide of the Alps on foot.
It is projected that the work be integrated into the 2011 Venice Biennale and for it to
be documented there by means of the daily journals entries of the expedition in written and illustrated form. A series of photographs will be generated as well as a video work, which will be presented with the boat.
Following the structure of classic drama, which will either end in apotheosis or in catastrophe, the piece focuses on the heroes and their actual but also metaphorical undertaking. The art remains central, which is manifested on the one hand in the self-made boat (in the sense of sculpture), and on the other hand in the act itself. Thereby it is only a metaphor for man's aspiration to reach beyond his limitations, which can only end – sooner or later – in catastrophe or salvation.

The route
Crafted in a studio in Munich, the boat will be transported on a conventional boat trailer and a towing vehicle to the Furtschaglboden in the Zillertaler Alps.
From there it will be manually dragged in many challenging steps over the Schlegeis Glacier up to the Nevessattel pass at an altitude of 3029 m. With its weight of about 180 kg, 5 m length and 2 m height, the boat can be pulled slowly and with regular breaks by the two artists up a slight incline. Steeper and more demanding sections have to be traversed by improvising with "Egyptian" tricks or with pulleys and alpine ropes.The top of the Nevessattel pass marks the crossing of the main alpine divide and the border into Italy at the same time. On the south side the boat has to be abseiled down 80 m vertically and lowered or pulled along moderate slopes down to the Lappach Valley. At 1860 m altitude at the Lago di Neves, the boat will be reloaded onto the trailer and transported on roads to Venice, where it will be launched into the

The reference
The work refers in its central storyline to Werner Herzog's film classic "Fitzcarraldo": Here the plan was to transport a steamship over a mountain, to eventually build an opera house in the Peruvian Jungle – an allegory for the victory of western culture over primitive nature.
In "Passage", it is the apparently even more absurd act: to transport an ambiguous art-object cum functional boat to the city of maximum cultural concentration, Venice. In their hubris and assumptive self-elevation, the two undertakings are comparable with each other, and it remains to be seen if both likewise fail.
Against this background the work can also be read as a response to the global economic and ecological hurdles facing humankind today. Accordingly, the motif of the glacier that must be overcome within the framework of this undertaking stands as a symbolic reference (keyword "climate change") to the sheer insurmountability of the challenges that mankind is confronted with, should we wish to preserve our environment.



28 years after Herzog's film and 130 years after the authentic expedition of Isaias Fermin Fitzcarrald, this interpretation opens new associations on varying semantic layers (like Noah, Sisyphus and Hannibal) to the historical exchange of culture between countries north and south of the Alps, as well as to principal existential aspects of art production. One contemporary issue under examination in this context: the artists see the absurd undertaking as an ironic statement on the prevalent practice in the art world of freighting opulent works of art from art fair to art fair and biennial to biennial, regardless of the hair-raising environmental impact.

Artists: GÆG Wolfgang Aichner / Thomas Huber
The artists act on long-standing alpinist experience and on the fascination in both their commitment to art and mountaineering to cross boundaries.
GÆG stands for "Global Aesthetic Genetics" and is written with the nordic Æ – a reminder of the shared adventure in an ice storm on the Icelandic glacier Vatnajokull in 1988 which the two artists only barely survived. They finally teamed up in 2005 and started working on collaborative projects. Numerous concepts were developed which led to some successful realizations like "tilia inflata" and "silva inflata" 2005, "freunde" 2006, "werteaustausch" 2006, "inside" 2008 – 2010 and "bunter abend" 2011. Beside art in public spaces, the focus of their collective practice is on installation, video and action art.

Documentation (film/photography): Matthias Fuchs

Curator: Christian Schoen
The Phd art historian is a curator and author with international experience. From 2005 to 2010 he headed the Center for Icelandic Art as well as acting as commissary of the Icelandic pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2007 and 2009. Before this he curated the Städtische Kunsthalle lothringer13 in Munich (2000 – 2003) and since 2001 he has directed Osram Art Projects. Schoen lectures at the Universität St. Gallen and is author of numerous publications in the fields of historical and contemporary art, new media art and art in public spaces.