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Bani Abidi: ‘What you see in my films is what I know’ Ocula Conversation Bani Abidi: ‘What you see in my films is what I know’

A group of voices accompanies me in the exhibition. They are singing words I cannot comprehend, yet the warm tunes are familiar: folk songs, love songs, songs of longing. There are letters, too. They speak of the quotidian details of a soldier's life: the hardness of the war, sending money to the family, and longing for familiar landscapes, food,...

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Aichi to Okayama: Art in Japan Looks to the Future Ocula Report Aichi to Okayama: Art in Japan Looks to the Future 11 Oct 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

There has been a flurry of triennial and biennial art activity in Japan this year. The Aichi Triennale opened in Nagoya this August, sparking a national debate about the shutting down of a display of formerly censored works—the result of public backlash against a burnt image of Emperor Hirohito and a statue commemorating the women forced into...

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Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough Ocula Insight | Video
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Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough 15 October 2019

Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans...

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Not Vital

b. 1948, Switzerland

Drawing inspiration from the landscapes, environments, and cultures encountered on his extensive travels, multi-disciplinary artist Not Vital is particularly known for his installations that are akin to architectural monuments.

Vital divides his time between his birthplace of Sent in Switzerland, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, and Niger. After graduating from the Centre Universitaire Expérimental de Vincennes in Paris in the mid-1970s, he moved to New York City. Coming to artistic maturity surrounded by the dynamism of the city's art, music, literature, and nightlife deeply impacted Vital, and by the late 1980s he found himself entrenched in New York's art scene.

In 1999, Vital made his first visit to Niger. The trip was born out of an interest in the nomadic tribes of the area he had read about. Considering his own almost nomadic existence, he felt a sense of affinity with these tribes, particularly the Tuareg and the Peul. Since this first excursion he has returned and produced several large-scale artworks that draw from the physicality or culture of their settings. Built in Agadez, the pyramidal structure Makaranta functions as both a sculpture and a place for learning—schoolchildren are invited to sit on the steps that completely cover the structure's exterior. Sunset House, also located in Agadez, is, as the title suggests, a structure from which to watch the sunset, as well as a platform from which to track the stars in the night sky (the Tuareg's main orientation tool).

Alongside nature, Vital has a fascination with traditional manufacturing processes. The installation 700 Snowballs (2013), shown on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, marries these two interests. The work comprises 700 glass balls individually blown by a master glassblower in Murano—a location in Italy famous for glassmaking—and laid upon the floor. Similarly, The Last Supper—a ceramic panel with 13 abstract black splotches that depict Christ and his Apostles—was produced in Jingdezhen, a Chinese city known for the production of porcelain.

The Last Supper was made for Vital's Bataan chapel, a concrete structure he built in a small town 50 kilometres west of Manila with the support of non-profit foundation Bellas Artes Projects. Constructed as a polygon with a steel door and a narrow opening to allow dramatic beams of sunlight in, the floors of the chapel are designed to be flooded with water. Despite seemingly Christian references in the work—including the use of the word 'chapel' in the title and the inclusion of The Last Supper—Vital steers away from monotheism by affixing onto an interior wall an antique wooden statue of the rice goddess Bulol that was carved by the northern Fillipino Ifugao tribe. Additionally, the water that floods the chapel might be seen both as an allusion to the concept of walking on water and as a nod to the rice fields and agricultural economy of the Philippines.

Works such as Vital's Bataan chapel, Makaranta, and Sunset House investigate the boundaries delineating art and architecture. To describe these works, Vital coined the term 'SCART', referring to sculptural architecture with a social aspect. While appearing as actual buildings, these structures are often devoid of infrastructure, having been created for very specific purposes that exclude inhabitation.

In 2016, Yorkshire Sculpture Park hosted the artist's first major exhibition in the United Kingdom. Works from the past three decades of Vital's career such as 80 Cow Dungs (1990–ongoing)—an edition of 1000 pats of cow dung initiated on Vital's first visit to Nepal in the late 1980s and cast in bronze—were placed on display alongside newer, site-specific pieces. Prominent amongst these pieces was a site-specific aluminium bridge that enticed visitors to to the lakeside areas, mirroring the manner in which 18th-century follies marked key vantages.

Artworks by Vital are housed in the collections of several museums internationally. These include the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; Dallas Museum of Art; Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Kunstmuseum Bern; Kunsthalle Bielefeld; Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva; and Museum der Moderne Salzburg.

Biography by Zena Khan | Ocula | 2019
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Featured Artworks

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Nothing by Not Vital contemporary artwork
Not VitalNothing, 2012 Bronze with white patina
360 x 70 x 30 cm
Galerie Urs Meile
Mountain by Not Vital contemporary artwork
Not VitalMountain, 2017 Ceramic
45 x 36 cm
Galerie Urs Meile
Tongue by Not Vital contemporary artwork
Not VitalTongue, 2018 Black granite
130 x 35 x 30 cm
Galerie Urs Meile
Tongue by Not Vital contemporary artwork
Not VitalTongue, 2010 Stainless steel
202 x 54 x 51 cm
Galeria Nara Roesler
Lotus by Not Vital contemporary artwork
Not VitalLotus, 2018 Stainless steel
300 x 60 x 60 cm
Galeria Nara Roesler
Landscape by Not Vital contemporary artwork
Not VitalLandscape, 2017 Stone and plaster
75 x 76 x 26 cm
Galeria Nara Roesler
Seascape by Not Vital contemporary artwork
Not VitalSeascape, 2017 Stone and plaster
90 x 80 x 24 cm
Galeria Nara Roesler
Moon by Not Vital contemporary artwork
Not VitalMoon, 2018 White Marble from ZhengXing County (China)
Galeria Nara Roesler

Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Not Vital, Che fasch? at Galerie Urs Meile, Lucerne
Open Now
12 September–2 November 2019 Not Vital Che fasch? Galerie Urs Meile, Lucerne
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Reflections on Space and Time at Galeria Nara Roesler, São Paulo
Closed
1 April–11 May 2019 Group Exhibition Reflections on Space and Time Galeria Nara Roesler, São Paulo
Contemporary art exhibition, Not Vital, Saudade at Galeria Nara Roesler, São Paulo
Closed
12 November 2018–16 March 2019 Not Vital Saudade Galeria Nara Roesler, São Paulo

Represented By

In Related Press

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Not Vital and his soaring House to Watch Three Volcanoes go to extremes in pursuit of a view Related Press Not Vital and his soaring House to Watch Three Volcanoes go to extremes in pursuit of a view Wallpaper* : 8 October 2019

Not Vital is in the habit of stressing that he isn't an architect. 'I never went to architecture school,' he told me the last time we met in Bataan, where he'd just completed a chapel that resembled an Aztec temple but contained a deconstructed rendering of The Last Supper and a statue of a local harvest deity. 'That's why I'm so free to do this.'

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Holy orders: Not Vital’s installation in a remote Filipino province is worth a pilgrimage Related Press Holy orders: Not Vital’s installation in a remote Filipino province is worth a pilgrimage Wallpaper* : 7 June 2017

At first blush, the decision by the Swiss artist Not Vital to build his latest installation–a concrete chapel set high on a windswept slope–in Bataan was entirely appropriate. Not far from this spot, in April 1942, the victorious Japanese army ordered around 76,000 Filipino and American POW soldiers to begin what eventually became known as the...

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The art of management: Interview with Jennifer Flay, Director of FIAC 2016 Related Press The art of management: Interview with Jennifer Flay, Director of FIAC 2016 AMA : 18 October 2016

Director of FIAC, Jennifer Flay shares with AMA the spirit of this 43rd edition. AMA: What are the FIAC’s strengths this year?Jennifer Flay: We’re very proud of the creation of On Site, found inside and around the Petit Palais; we’ve given the project this name to distinguish it clearly from the Hors les Murs...

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Wandering sculptor: Not Vital arrives at Yorkshire Sculpture Park Related Press Wandering sculptor: Not Vital arrives at Yorkshire Sculpture Park Wallpaper* : 3 June 2016

For a man who was born in the remote Swiss village of Sent, Not Vital is a seriously global sculptor. The nomadic artist has ongoing projects as far-flung as Rio de Janeiro, Bataan, Niger–and now Wakefield.

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In Video & Audio

Not Vital at Yorkshire Sculpture Park Related Video & Audio Not Vital at Yorkshire Sculpture Park Yorkshire Sculpture Park : 9 June 2016

An exhibition film showing interviews with Not Vital and Clare Lilley, YSP Director of Programme.

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Not Vital Interview: Moments You Never Forget Related Video & Audio Not Vital Interview: Moments You Never Forget Louisiana Channel : 22 October 2015

Swiss artist Not Vital is an intriguing example of how the gap between art and architecture is narrowing. The artist, who is renowned for his unorthodox architectural structures around the world, here describes how his projects derive from moments in his own life.

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