Eric Hattan Works. Werke Œuvres 1979–2015
English / German / French
Swiss artist Eric Hattan (born 1955) creates his work from the everyday. He needs only the most simple things: packaging that he turns inside out; furniture that he pins against the ceiling with wooden poles; shoes that walk up a wall; or his own clothes as an image for the artist’s presence. Everything is life-size, also in his video works that take a close look at common details and incidents. It is not an innocent gaze, though, and spectators have to be fully aware of what they perceive, if it is an actual room or just a small model behind the spy hole, if it is a structural column or just a plaster stand-in. There even seem to be traces of violent intervention: breeched walls, giant street lamps bent or torn out of the floor ... if aesthetics are an ordering of the world, then here that order is stood on its head.
Eric Hattan became an artist the practical way, by engaging with the world and organizing the local art scene, especially though the off-space Filiale, which he first opened in 1981. This book presents the artist’s complete journey, an overview of works always reinvented in situ, in hundreds of installation images and video stills and a collection of essays that for the first time present the artist’s oeuvre from all angles. There emerges an artistic approach that is not about the conquest of ever new spheres, but about the open exploration of sidelines. Hattan’s work develops seemingly familiar terrain and inspires us for our own encounter of the everyday.
If I had to select an emblem for Hattan’s work, I would take the motif of the mattress stemmed against the ceiling. I consider it emblematic because it combines several artistic questions raised by Hattan. What usually lies on the floor or on a bed, to support our body, is now held in place by some poles, tucked against the ceiling. Does it mimic architecture? Or does it play with our perception, because after looking at the ceiling for a while we start to ask ourselves if we are looking upwards from down below, or actually downwards from high up? Is the mattress no longer useful? Or does it help support the ceiling – like a capital on a Doric column, like Atlas bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders? Do we sympathise with the effort of holding the mattress high above our heads, because of the anthropomorphic aspect, because it could be us, squeezed between the necessity to hold things together, to perform, yet also tired and waiting for relaxation? ... Hattan is aware of the ambivalence of art to both complicate and simplify life. His scepticism towards abstractions, generalisations and definitions runs through his entire oeuvre and his writings. It is not only evident in the friction between the human body and its environment, but also between the individual imagination and the generalising system of language.