Art Basel 2014 (4) – 14 Rooms

Imagine a large empty factory hall  in the middle of which you have a square room with doors into 14 smaller rooms…

The entrance to 14 rooms

The entrance to 14 rooms

You are of course curious about just what is happening behind these doors and there is a brochure explaining it in details. But still – you have to get in, be there…experience the mysteries that a closed door always evokes (and not the least when there is a guard who let’s you in one-by-one after having been waiting in a queue for some time).

“14 Rooms” has been created by Foundation Beyeler, Art Basel and Theater Basel, three very prominent cultural institutions in Basel and it is curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Hans Ulrich Obrist. It is situated close to the main Art Basel Fair but independent of it and the one-day entrance ticket is CHF 18. 14 Rooms is about performance art.

Here are some examples of what you actually experience:

In Yoko Ono’s room you see nothing. The installation, or whatever you want to call it, is pitch dark and called “Touch Piece” which she created for the first time in 1963 and now here. You walk in a see nothing – also not when your eyes have adapted. In the brochure you are encouraged to touch whoever you bump into there and thereby challenge your sense of intimacy and privacy, as it’s expressed. The touches I experience were very avoiding – a little laughter perhaps, an “Oh, sorry” and no attempt to really touch, rather a confusing about meeting some stranger there in the dark and avoiding a touch.

As I had been in there a couple of minutes and carefully set one foot in front of the other I sensed not another human being but a wall. I followed it around to the entrance point and think that by then I was alone there.

I honestly can’t tell you what I felt or thought. It was merely a little fun, a little tickling and I liked to hear people’s laughter or nervous “Sorry” – remember, we are in Switzerland and everything is uptight even in an experimental setting like this. Perhaps there is something outdated in 2014 about an idea from 1963 and that at that time it was revolutionary and lead to more than avoidance? (No photo possible).

Otobong Nkanga’s “Diaspora” (2014) was more lively: two black women carry a Queen in the Night plant in a pot on their heads and sing, speak to the plant and, sometimes perhaps, to each other and the visitors. Much of the text is about loneliness and feeling to be outside , being picked at. And the floor is painted as a topographical map. (Photo possible – as all other visitors did it against the rules). Continue reading “Art Basel 2014 (4) – 14 Rooms”

Art Basel 2014 (3) – SCOPE (B)

This is the second article about SCOPE in Basel, June 2014, the first here. And among the artists I’d like to introduce to you here is Patrick Tschudi who lives and works in Lima, Peru. At first his works may appear flat and cool, all the people have a round black head and colour is applied very sparsely and never mixed. They are C-Prints in limited editions.

At the same time there is something touching about them.

Patrick Tschudi

Patrick Tschudi

It seems that he is occupied with the role of individual human beings in cities and other spaces where there are masses of people, strangers. The black ball heads are not necessarily a sign of de-humanization but, perhaps, more a way of saying that while we are all individuals we are all exactly that: human beings who don’t have to feel alone but may enter into relationships because of what we all share as human beings?

I find the two people on the bench overlooking a harbour with that huge industrial complex and bridge far away quite moving although I don’t see any obvious attempt to appeal to the spectator’s emotions in Tschudi’s work.

You may see many more on his homepage. The various series and categories have titles such as “believers”, “nowhereland” and “signs”. Perhaps I am attracted to these prints because they are so clearly affiliated with photography.

I have no idea how Tschudi goes about creating them but the point of departure could be a photograph which is processed or, rather, re-created in Photoshop. But that’s just speculation.

What is also interesting is the attempt to reduce everything to its pure forms. His images of everyday activities are reduced to shapes, there are no details. There is a kind of haiku quality to  Tschudi’s works also in the sense that they are not supposed to convey any emotions. They are factual and you may put whatever “meaning” into them you like, if any.

Here are two such works from his homepage.

Patrick Tschudi    trippin' away, lambda print under acrylic glass, (diptych) 50cm x 50cm each

Patrick Tschudi
trippin’ away, lambda print under acrylic glass, (diptych) 50cm x 50cm each

Oh, simplicity and sophistication in one! Continue reading “Art Basel 2014 (3) – SCOPE (B)”

Art Basel 2014 (2) – SCOPE (A)

Compared with the main Art Basel space, SCOPE is a joy. Much less commercial, more diverse, more open space – and you can often meet the artists themselves, not only their gallerists. And there is more humour and no posh attitudes.

SCOPE is artist-driven. It is situated a good long walk up along the Rhine River’s right side well beyond the Johanitter Bridge – and with the Novartis company on the other river bank. Here you can take as many photos as you like and with any type of camera … 🙂 And – it is a rather  large building but you never get lost, it doesn’t have the labyrinth character of the Art Basel space downtown.

At SCOPE everything is less Continue reading “Art Basel 2014 (2) – SCOPE (A)”

Art Basel 2014 (1) – It’s the money, stupid

Basel, June 19, 2014

Prelude: You can’t use your camera unless you pay – rip off!

The commercialisation of the art market is rampant. A work that suddenly a very high price at an auction is considered – by people who have little or no knowledge of art, much less love of it – to be great. This type of art is concentrated these very days in Basel at the Art Basel 2014 – the world’s largest fair for contemporary art fair that opened today here in Basel.

Art Basel Mirror

Art Basel Mirror © Jan Oberg 2014

Not that I ever dreamt about being able to buy a piece of art here today, but this absurd commercialisation hit me in a peculiar way before I even got inside.

At the entrance, showing my pre-purchased electronic ticket, the young lady say: But you can’t have that camera – pointing to my Nikon D 7000 around my neck – with you inside. Excuse me, I said, truly suprised – I could last year, what has changed? Since she can’t explain to me why I can take my iPhone with me and take pictures of anything I like at the fair but not an DSLR, she tells me to go to the cloakroom and I’ll get it back when I leave later today. And she has the nerve to add that that won’t cost me anything! Thank you very much.

Before leaving in the late afternoon, I went to the information and asked for an explanation. Continue reading “Art Basel 2014 (1) – It’s the money, stupid”

Art Basel 2014 – will write about it

I’m happy to provide you with this good excuse to rest your eyes for a minute on various kinds of beauty and new insights, small and big, about the world we inhabit together:

My latest works are now on my homepage under “Recent editions” – rather diverse in terms of style and themes.

Browse a bit, see what you like and click the blue top-right button for information about each work (whether you want to buy one or not, that’s where the info is).

Next, the event in the global art world this week is Art Basel. 286 leading galleries from 34 countries present works by more than 4,000 artists, ranging from the great masters of modern art to the latest generation of emerging stars. The show’s individual sectors represent every artistic medium: painting, sculpture, installation, video, multiples, prints, photography and performances.


Art Basel 2013 © Jan Oberg

Art Basel 2013 © Jan Oberg

I’ll be there for as long as it lasts – Thursday to Sunday – and post some notes the next few days on my art photo blog.

The beauty of modern technology is that we can share and tell stories that enrich others at no cost.  Writing these posts about Art Basel helps me process the overwhelming impressions and also share with anyone interested and those who can’t be there themselves.

There will be lots of photos in my posts and of course they will also be on my Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts. Hope you will take a look if yu have time!

My very best to you! And welcome to Art Basel…
Oh yes, it’s not only the Fair itself. It’s also Scope, Volta 10 and other places all over town…
Here some useful links

Bigger – now 5 years old

I went public with my photographic work and opened my little studio five years ago, in May 2009.

Part of my plan was that I would devote 20-25% of my time to that, the rest I would remain with my peace work at TFF, The Transnational Foundation. That’s how it has been.

What have I learnt? Is it something that can be useful to you, dear reader?



When I started out in 2009 it was a kind of ”let-me-try-it-and-see-what-happens.” Today I know it’s a ”for-the-rest-of-my-life” endeavour. That’s # 1.


Split personality

It’s problematic to not be able to give 100% of your time to something you love and I have not been able to solve that issue and probably won’t for the next few years either. I can’t just abandon my peace work, travels, teaching etc. But I can push the balance towards 30, 40 or higher percentages in the future.


Peace and photo

Shall peace and photography be completely separate? Continue reading “Bigger – now 5 years old”

Black girl with a pearl earring

This post is about the pastiche I’ve made on Johannes Vermeer’s iconic painting from around 1665 of a Girl With A Pearl Earring. There is both an interesting discussion about how it was – perhaps – painted and a movie inspired by the painting.


And there is a discussion, of course, about who the girl is, or could have been – nobody seems to know. Was it Vermeer’s daughter Maria – who was likely also a gifted painter – was it a maid in the house, a lover?

It is a pastiche – defined by Wikipedia as “a work of visual art, literature, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists. Unlike parody, pastiche celebrates, rather than mocks, the work it imitates.” So it neither reproduces in details, nor satirizes. It’s an inspiration, perhaps an homage and it is, above all, eclectic – using elements known from here and there and putting them together but, simultaneously, offering the viewer something that has references to another work of art. It borrows freely and can be see also as a hodgepodge.

It is a challenge you set yourself. The black woman in this series doesn’t want her name mentioned but was once a student of mine. I too have never done something “staged” like this before.

Continue reading “Black girl with a pearl earring”