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4 Exhibitions We Liked at the Zurich Art Weekend

On Ahlam Shibli, Anna Jotta, Dineo Seshee Raisibe Bopape, and Nairy Baghramian.


Last Friday, the organizers of the 7th edition of Zürich Art Weekend openly wished for a more spectacular celebration of contemporary art. “We encourage the city representatives to invest in our annual event in this time of crises.” The plea was surprising given that this is Zürich, where every war feels far away. The Zürich Art Weekend, regardless of its financial limitations, offered an intense three-day experience with more than 75 exhibitions and 130 events across 65 venues, showcasing the works of upwards of 180 established and emerging artists. That’s a lot for a tiny, rather unaffordable but cosmopolitan city. Free and open to the public, the festival brought together artists, curators, collectors, and enthusiasts, creating a vibrant hub of artistic exchange in an exclusive atmosphere of conviviality, between visits to the exhibition rooms and a splash in the ice-cold Alpine waters of the Limmat river for a refreshing break.

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In spite of this uncanny amiability, and in the light of the lack of coherence between socio-political realities and the role of the arts within them, some of the exhibitions offered whimsical, yet profound, reflections on identity, art, and the multifaceted nature of human experience. This was especially true of Ahlam Shibli’s "Dissonant Belonging" at LUMA Westbau, Anna Jotta’s "Composição" at the Kunsthalle Zürich, Dineo Seshee Raisibe Bopape’s "(ka) pheko ye – the dream to come" at the Migros Museum, and Nairy Baghramian’s "Modèle vivant (Se ployant)" at Hauser & Wirth. Below we share a glimpse of these 4 exhibitions cohabitating in a former Lowenbräu brewery.

Ahlam Shibli: Dissonant Belonging

The city of Al-Khalil/Hebron, seen from the hill on which Ahlam Shibli photographed it, evokes a romantic landscape full of ruins. Here, as Imad Hamdan, the director from the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee puts it, lies all the calamity of the Israeli occupation concentrated in a single site. I will never forget the unbearable tension and the constant horror of seeing the target of the settlers at the checkpoints, or of the evocations of the old market, the gazes of the passers by if one is an Arab. Identity, here, entails being a target. Occupation is one of a series of photographs and annotations that Shibli is showing at LUMA Westbau after a residency in Arles. Occupation, centering Israel-Palestine, addresses Israeli settler encroachments and the continuous measures of deterritorialization and expulsion directed at Palestinians. Adam Szymczyk, curator of the show both in Zurich and in Arles – together with Vassilis Oikonomopoulos – and a longtime collaborator of Shibli, brought this photographic "reportages" to Athens for the documenta 14 in 2017. At the EMST—National Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as in LUMA Westbau, the images show how essentially problematic (Shibli does not thematize, wrote Jean-François Chevrier once) the relation of home and borders, both mental and territorial, are.

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Shibli recreates the real world tensions; looking into the photographs and the texts she writes to accompany them – the texts are hung so close to the images there is no space between the frames for misunderstandings. To see this is to witness a demonstration of her greatness, her obsessive realness: wherever she goes, she photographs what is, and yet, the work is always about Palestine, a place she belongs to, even if the only thing that currently belongs to her there is a washing machine. “Belonging is a construction,” said Szymczyk during a guided tour through the rooms. He referred not only to what was seen, but what is not supposed to be seen. Through an abundance of colors and details Shibli's obsessive search for justice is manifested. Chronicling desire and dismissal in environments defined by physical borders and dehumanizing regulations.

Shibli’s work is characterized by a documentary aesthetic, combining photography with contextualizing writing to narrate the traumas of marginalized and oppressed communities. Her most recent series, "Belonging" (2022-2023), created during her residency at LUMA Arles, continues this exploration, offering a fragile space of resistance for her subjects and viewers alike. Dissonant Belonging, was a particularly poignant highlight of Art Weekend. Shibli’s collection of images features a further seven significant photographic projects that explore themes of home, loss, and identity.

Anna Jotta: Composição

Miguel Wandschneider’s enthusiasm for Jotta's artistic practice - and the exhibition he just curated - sizzles like the lightbulbs of a Christmas market, shining a light on her absolute freedom and technical irreverences. At the show’s opening, Wandschneider highlighted the importance of understanding Jotta's 45-year artistic trajectory. Wandschneider also acknowledged the limitations of the current exhibition - as the Kunsthalle spaces are too small for the importance he sought to give her. The exhibition’s title, Composição / Composition, emphasizes an artistic vision that is radically playful, arising from a simple yet powerful question: how does one introduce a polymorphous body of work to a largely unfamiliar audience? Rather than adhering to a specific theme or style, the exhibition is constructed as a process and an outcome, reflecting the artist's eclectic and intuitive approach.

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Jotta’s work defies easy categorization, characterized, as it is, by the incommensurability of her artworks, and her versatility with different materials and techniques. Her pieces lack a unified style, presenting a kaleidoscopic array of forms that could easily be mistaken for being components of a group exhibition, and resembling what she calls an “international career of fun”. As with the making of a foam sculpture based on a Philip Guston painting, which, coincidentally, is being exhibited, along with other works, at Hauser & Wirth next door, appropriation lies at the heart of Jotta’s practice. She recycles and transforms found objects, images, and texts. Her choices are driven by identification or affection rather than aesthetic indifference, resulting in works that feel like personalized quotations from life. Jotta views art as a reflection of her own life experiences, and this sensibility permeates her diverse and idiosyncratic body of work.

Dineo Seshee Raisibe Bopape: (ka) pheko ye – the dream to come

For this body of work, the artist asked the curator Michael Birchall to talk about his dreams with her as she was preparing her exhibition. The moment where dreams end and reality begin lies shrouded in the smoke depictions on the walls of Dineo Seshee Raisibe Bopape’s solo exhibition at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst. She invites visitors to dream along within an immersive installation addressing multiple senses. “Ke lorile, ke lorile ke mmona Mme bana baka,” runs the lyric of a Southern African folk song: I dreamt I saw the mother of my children.
 The familiar encounters with the unconscious - softly, under low, purple neon lights - the universality of communal human experiences, and the making of the gallery a place for collective dreaming and introspection all inform the works on show by Dineo. Whether entering the clay structures, reminiscent of traditional Sámi dwellings, or sitting on wooden benches made from Finnish logs, or inhaling herbs from Frantsila farm diffused as incense and tea, the exhibition is immersive and encompassing.


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Experiencing art as an encounter with a dream underwrites Bopape’s celebration of indigenous practices and makes the works strong, both physically and spiritually. Such personal and collective perspectives offer a profound meditation on the essence of dreaming, which can be thought of as letting the universe's memory and potential manifest as one’s own thoughts. “Meeting physical force with soul force.” Bopape quotes this phrase of Martin Luther King, taken from his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech from 1963.  Although the work “(ka) pheko ye – the dream to come” borrows materials from the Finnish landscape and seeks to celebrate, as well as imitate, the fading light of Finland’s winter, the exhibition demonstrates that one "nation" potentially represents and hosts many; one "land" implies and is formed by multitudes. A single natural or synthetic object embodies an infinitude of meanings, functions, and lives.

Nairy Baghramian: Modèle vivant (Se ployant)

This is Baghramian’s first exhibition at Hauser & Wirth in Zürich, and, for me, it already surpasses all imaginable expectations for what art can look like in this gallery. Nairy Baghramian’s works exert a presence that emphasizes many things at the same time. Firstly, the importance of absence and emptiness in sculpture, making negative spaces as significant as the forms she creates themselves. Secondly, the interstices and gaps, not only as aspects of the physical structure of an artwork, but as sites of reflection and critique. These resonate with the dynamics that define the human condition in the current moment of war and alienation. These sculptures, which carry and repeat the photographs of what looks like the fur of a horse, on which a mass of flies appears looking purposefully decorative and psychedelically alive. These are strategically placed throughout the gallery space of Hauser & Wirth, interacting intricately with their surroundings, highlighting the interplay between the sculptures and windows, and the ventilation pipes on the ceiling, as well as the noises of the people in the corridors of the Lowenbräu. 


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The subtle use of cold and warm tones, called “blue horizon”, “gris de lin,” “givre,” and “soufre” by the artist, enhances each material of the piece’s distinctive presence. These works continually accrue complexity and allude to the tension between conformity and resistance in a sensually awakening confrontation between their identity as sculptures, and everything else. They are a continuation of her "Modèle vivant" series, which began at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas in 2022, where Baghramian won the Nasher Prize for excellence in contemporary sculpture. Baghramian's sculptures, while abstract, evoke poses and postures without resorting to gesturality or figuration. Her pieces often draw from diverse aesthetic fields such as theater, dance, fashion, and architecture, creating contemporary allegories of sculpture that reflect the circumstances of their own making.

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The Zürich Art Weekend of 2024 thus offered a vibrant and multifaceted experience, celebrating diverse expressions of contemporary art. The exhibitions of works by Ahlam Shibli, Anna Jotta, Dineo Seshee Raisibe Bopape, and Nairy Baghramian stood out as particularly exemplary of the best of the Weekend. This edition of Art Weekend reaffirmed the importance of art as a space for dialogue, reflection, and resistance, even in places where wealth is accumulated, yet only selectively shared.




This review has been proofread by William Kherbek.

  • Zürich Art Weekend

    Exhibitions run through the summer. More information, here.

    Ahlam Shibli, “Dissonant Belonging” at LUMA Westbau, 07.06.2024 - 08.09.2024.

    Nairy Baghramian, “Modèle Vivant (Se Ployant)” at Hauser & Wirth Zürich, 07.06 - 07.09.2024.

    Ana Jotta, “Composição” at Kunsthalle Zürich, 08.06. - 08.09. 2024.

    Dineo Seshee Raisibe Bopape, “(ka) pheko ye – the dream to come” at Migros Museum Zürich, 08.06. - 08.09. 2024.



    Cover image: Ahlam Shibli, untitled (Belonging no. 42, Suspended Time), Arles, France, 2022–23. Courtesy the artist.

    Fig. 1: Press Lunch. Courtesy of Zürich Art Weekend, 2024.

    Fig. 2: Ahlam Shibli, From the series Occupation, Al-Khalil/Hebron, Palestine, 2016–17, 32 photographs.

    Fig. 3: Ana Jotta, installation view. Photo: AWC.

    Fig. 4: Dineo Seshee Raisibe Bopape, “(ka) pheko ye – the dream to come” installation view. Photo: Urs Westermann. Courtesy of Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst.

    Fig. 5: Nairy Baghramian, S’accrochant (bleu horizon), 2022. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth.

    Fig. 6: Press Lunch. Courtesy of Zürich Art Weekend, 2024.



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