Valentina Minnig. The living paradoxes of constructional implants

an interview by Ginevra Bria

From Just Making Chickens (2013) to your last project introduced at SALTS, during Based on a True Story (curated by Cassidy Toner for fiancé, July 4 – August 29, 2020) to even Just Technik (2017) and 3938 (2018), animals, into your practice, enhance an anthropomorphization and an objectification/ materialization of ethology. Where does this kind of approach comes from?

We lived right across a vineyard. when I was five years old, my dad killed plenty of my rabbits in our backyard for dinner. He hated it. There was also a fox coming every now and then to eat the cat food straight out of the pot. My cat Lea was not really amused of the food being gone, but she became 25 years old and made it almost into the Guinness book of records. One of our (Me and my siblings) favourite tasks was to cut out birds who entangled in the protection net of the grape vines. the dead ones we restored in the freezer.

Your idea of a progressist technology is sardonically imprinted in TURNUS (2015), how did you work for that project? Did you contact specific technicians?

As an artist, I am a very curious person by nature. To avoid the progress of technology, would be simply ignorant, as it became part of our daily lives, habits and social interaction already. I was always drawn to things I don’t understand or irritate me. Technology can be very confusing, that’s what I am interested in, the confusing part not the parts that we all can see or understand.

How could we reach a ‘perfect image’ through 43'820 lux :) (2016)? How to construct an imagery? Where do we start from?

From January to March a lot of people feel tired or depressed due to the lack of serotonin production. During these months, in 2016, there was less sunlight than usual, which made a lot of people suffer more from this common disease. All that I learned while I was watching Meteo swiss weather news on tv. That tv as an object, I used to deconstruct and replaced the picture source of the object with exact 43’820 lumen to make you happy while watching it.

In Vogelschreck (2018), the concept of repellent and repulsion offers a prismatic, ironic sample of your sculptural approach, where did that artwork come from?

Cable tides, timbers, rusted hooks, tension springs, engines. Those are all objects that tend to get lost in translation. I was always more obsessed with the more underwhelming than the obvious or spectacular in my collection of objects. They are always and literally playing a supporting role in the bigger picture of my art practice and my sculptural approach, but will never win an Oscar award.

You often compose installations and sculptures with re-used or recycled materials, where did this kind of research start and how do you practice/experience it daily? Which is your idea of ready-made?

First of all, I don’t like the word recycled in an art context. it makes me cringe. Quite often, I drive with my dog Gamba on my scooter trough the city to collect my treasures. From intermediate affairs to a piece of wood, everything builds up later to my work.

Visibility and camouflage strategies, as well as natural and artificial elements are incredibly emancipated by the perimeter you tracked for Wenn die Durchsichtigen die Wertvollsten sind (2018). How did you construct that installation?

I just made my driver license back then and was so excited, that I invited all my beloved people to join me on little trips. On the way we found objects and materials, I associated with these people I love and later on used for this particular installation. With my Father for example we found a piece of fence he stole for me.

Which kind of rituals or routine did you establish during your lockdown period? Could you please tell us something more about your working studio? Which is the most inspiring object you are actually keeping there?

As my studio is in a public institution, it got shut down very fast in the lockdown period, which forced me to work from home as many others during that particular time. Thankfully I live in a huge house with 20 people and a spacious garden in the middle of Zürich. I spent the whole 3 months quail breeding and building a three floored wooden cage for them. I now eat 20 eggs a day.

Insect Club at Saint Luke (Zürich, 2019) nurtured your practice of merging outdoor and indoor conditions/elements within the same circumstances. Which kind of highlights and insights did you show there?

The word insect club is a synonym for an exclusive party you pass by, while just hearing the buzzzzz buzz buzz. The whole work is built up starting from this idea. What should be more of a highlight than insects having a kiki?

As narrative activator, who is Gamba and which kind of elisir does pawnsecco represent?

I was super excited when Cassidy Toner asked me to be part of this exhibition. I mean, when does it happen that a dog curates an art show? The title of my work was Daily choices; which is the name of Gamba’s favourite treat. The installation took place in a garden, where I placed various filled doggy bags (rainbow poop bags). Of course, there was also pawnsecco, cbd cookies, and other snacks (for dogs), like in every grand art opening.

Could you please reveal something more about ADULT/SENSITIVE, the project you’re introducing at Kunsthalle Skt. Gallen on August 29?

I can’t say much as it’s still in progress, but the whole show is dedicated to Gamba, and it’ll be opening a new double exhibition at the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen. With works by two artists of different generations, social relationships in everyday situations are explored and questioned in different ways. Me as well as Gernot Wieland explore (hidden) power structures and question how we shape social relationships and our living together. Investigating and always with autobiographical traits, we also direct a critical gaze at the ambivalent relationship between “Western” society and animals. In Adult/sensitive I search for possibilities to break up habitual relationships and to propose different forms of encounter by means of a reduced formal language and often proceeding from subjective sensations. In the main hall of the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, I realize a site-specific room installation, which influences the behaviour of the visitors by using nets, e.g. as a protection from birds, and thereby I turn conventional force relations upside down in an experienceable way.

Could you please tell us something more about your further programs?

I am very single right now, and I never been to Milan.

Valentina Minnig

Valentina Minnig (1991 Chur, Switzerland) observes and seeks to understand the living systems in order to favour their spatial development. In such a way the form she configures simply self-generates constructively. In this way, she explores the conditions for a hypothetical domestication of the living that are symbiotic, structuralized, hierarchic or ingrained rather than exploitative. The formal fascination for the living underpins her thinking about the intelligence of survival and the frontiers between the inert and the organic is enhanced by specifics de-forming dimensions. In her practice, living and art have in common the fact that they both escape understanding to some extent; the artist is not trying to deliver an unequivocal message but to share an experience: the struggle with matter in the studio, provoking the complexity of encounters, of acknowledgement on living architecture realms. Involving the living directly in her artwork opens up ripples and flaws, modifying opportunities that question the status of her authorship, of researcher, of discover. For Valentina Minnig, if the figure of man seems to become discreet or even disappear from her work, that of the artist remains quite present. It is less a matter of ceding power to the living, of allowing it to happen, at the risk of nothing happening, than of creating the conditions for emerging, for encouraging matter in the manner of a creator. Valentina Minnig's installative works employ simple materials, partly found on the street, to create room-spanning interventions. Her pieces not only create a state of fragility, but often refer to the immediate surroundings of a place. At the same time, Minnig examines technical formations and syntaxes that reflect the tension in the human-animal relation between control and fascination and shows how these have an influence on animal behaviour.