What was your first reaction when Manifesta contacted you?
I’ve never heard of Manifesta before. In fact what triggered my interest was the title What People Do For Money. Since I’m a social worker who’s placing refugees in a work environment in Zurich, that question in particular raised the question on how we live. To me that question was almost philosophical.
I then looked up on the internet Manifesta in general and then the Manifesta 11 webpage to understand what exactly a European biennial of contemporary art is. I understood that it’s a large-scale art event – so I wondered what kind of people would work for this happening here in Zurich. During our first encounter, I was also immediately interested in the people behind the scenes. I quickly felt comfortable to talk about myself and my work – I felt free to express my thoughts about art in general. Thanks to a sensitive and open conversation I had with the Manifesta team, I was automatically able to connect without having this feeling of sitting with an elitist art institution. Also, I liked the fact that it all happened on such a personal level, which is often not the case when I think about contemporary art.
Most of the time I work with refugees from all over the world. Aslı Çavuşoğlu’s work caught my attention in particular because in my opinion there’s a socio-political message hidden in it. The collected oil paintings of an idyllic scenario of Switzerland, with mountains and woodlands, where she extracts layers beneath made me think about Switzerland and how we see it, as locals and people outside of the country. I felt even more connected to her once I had the chance to meet her and her work at her satellite at Zurich’s tourist office with the art mediators.
Who would you invite for your focus-based presentation?*
Certainly family and friends – as I can tell them now more and more about the artists’ practices. It strikes me that contemporary art can be approachable on different levels.
*Reto is only one of many different M11 storytellers who will introduce their own community and the general Manifesta 11 public to their favourite art project of the biennial. Every Wednesday evening, when the biennial entrance is free of charge, you can join one of our Manifesta 11 storytellers introducing their favourite artwork at one of the exhibition spaces.