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(german language version)

Disegni di Piuma
(italien language version)
Galerie Walsch
Monte Carasso

Béatrive Stähli

Galerie Walsch, Wien 2000

Reprinted in:
PUNTI CARDINALE VERSO SUD: Catherine Berthelot, Franco Lafranca, Béatrice Stähli

Antico Monastero della Agostiniane.
I Sotteranei dell' Arte
Monte Carasso / Ticino, CH 2001

Text on the work of Béatrice Stähli.



A found feather provides joy as only a few objects do with such immediacy. As signs of flying, feathers hint at possibilities, at lightness, at hovering. They are linked with notions of how the space turns when you are in the air and all horizons, all perspectives lose their reference to a fixed point of view. The feather is a symbol of the negation of erverything that is heavy, of all hindrances, a symbol of talking off without effort and a controllable fall. Men have always thought it unfair that birds have feathers and they do not. Imitating birds has thus remained one of man's lasting goals. Since feathers make it possible to fly, protect against heat, cold, and wetness, and are both disguise and adornement, a comlex cosmos of communicatively erotic signals, they are to be regarded as "artifacts" of another world in its own right. The world of eagles, falcons, pigeons, swallows, and birds-of-paradise with its enormous impact on all forms of symbolizing has left its mark on patterns, even on patterns of utopian mobile societies whichbelieve in having found their rules forever. Yet, the mechanically reflexive processes only resemble freedom even in the feathered world. Nevertheless, this world still holds many secrets: Despite all successes of investigation and copying, nobody knows how flights coordinate their wild and, as it seems, often completely unmotivated maneuvers or how the navigation of migratory birds works.

The comprehensive collection of feathers Béatrice Stähli draws upon in her recent works dates from a time in which rules of conservation had not set certain limits to the decimation of endangered species. Treating the feathers almost as relics, Stähli increases the value of her finds and emphasizes their melanconically aura. But what they stand for at first sight is laconically minimized and transformed through the way they are presented. The exotic character of their material and its seductiveness, the stereotypical images of beauty, pride, and natural freedom each original plumage triggers, are exposed to a present-day differentiating gaze. What one remeins aware of is the fact that romantic approaches shape meanings independently of all deconstruction. And, at the same time, one is irritated that a lot of things have happened to the feathers and the associations linked with them, as a number of them found in one place, be it in nature or in a store, generally points to some tragedy. Being declared to be something artificial and traded as merchandise, the differences to the natural are blured. In some cases, the colors and the marking of the feathers still correspond to the original condition; in others, they have been changed. What seems to be rare becomes more valuable, dearer. Feeble gray and black shades are regarded as too trite. Stähli uses such differences in order to let the material show itself off to advantage. It is what it is. Forming feather surfaces, feather bodies, or mobile objects, the material, even if it has been colored, reveals how subtly it reflects light and how its qualities, in a very nuanced manner, allude to the functions in which the existence of feathers is grounded.

Among birds, part of the more conspicuous plumage is female, part male; among men, the more impressive plumes were reserved for chiftains and kings who wanted to distinguish themselves clearly from others. The feather itself has preserved a female aura.

Translation: Wolfgang Astelbauer


Béatrice Stähli: Supermarkt
© Christian Reder 2000/2002