In the Abbot's Room from 5.5.2013 to 21.4.2014

Of the Earth

In the mid-nineties the photographer Guido Baselgia set out to explore his homeland, Engadine. On sheer endless rambles he exposed himself to the mountainous landscape for as long as it took to recapture a sense of strangeness. He found an archaic piece of earth. A highland in which things can unfold their uniqueness, their sensuality and also their enigmatic qualities.

Then he sought out the flatland – the lowlands where there are no mountains, no trace of humans and no dramatic evidence of erosion to make story-telling inevitable. In the North of Finland and Norway, in the endlessly uniform uneventful regions between the polar circle and the Barents Sea, he discovered an undisturbed area of solitude where any viewer is forced back on themselves. To question the landscape means questioning one’s own existence. What is reality, what is fantasy?

Soon after, a step on into the extreme: Baselgia travelled in the Bolivian Altiplano and the Chilean Atacama Desert, where the surface of the earth serves merely as a reflector of rays from Space. Here he directed his lens onto the infinite. Light becomes the predominant theme of his photographs. The light that gives an object its shape, its colour and its reality. The light that, as dusk falls, removes the images and finally causes the landscape itself to disappear completely.

In the end, his questions drove him to go back once again: in 2006, more than ten years after the start of his researches in Engadine, Guido Baselgia travelled one more time to the arctic landscape of the far North, into the alpine uplands and the desert zones in the southern hemisphere of the sun’s tropic. He was already carrying the pictures with him in his head. Images of the invisible in the visible, pictures of elementary forces, as revealed in various phenomena. He chose the technique of heliogravure, a method dating from the very beginnings of photography: he had the exposed film transferred to a printing plate, depriving it of its instantaneousness. The magic of the dark room becomes connected to the expressiveness of printer’s ink. In this way, Guido Baselgia put the essence of his expeditions to paper.

Vadsö, Morteratsch, Patacamaya: forgotten places on a thin skin, which can be read like an open book – the coming and going of a planet.

Peter Pfrunder
Director Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur

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