Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Skull, 1979
Ceramic, Engobe painting, glazed
4 x 3,5 x 3,8 cm
Kunstmuseum Bern, Collection Toni Gerber, Bern
SIX FEET UNDER
Autopsy of our Relation to the Dead
November 2, 2006 January 21, 2007
Opening on November 1, 2006, 6.30 pm
Press Conference on October 31, 2006, 10 am
3000 Bern 7
Phone 41 31 328 09 44
Violence and death are everywhere in the media. However, direct contact with the dead is avoided in our society. The corpse has been firmly banished from our view and replaced by a new system of rituals and symbols that mediate the finiteness of human existence. Thus, for example, the skull has evolved from a sub-cultural emblem to an elegant mainstream fashion accessory. In other places and cultures a more direct contact with the dead can be found; here, a greater amount of ritual compensates for this directness. Repression, catharsis, devaluation of symbols, metaphorisation, the invention of substitute rituals, neutralisation, black humour and other means are re-used in new ways in order to deal with our natural awkwardness when faced with the idea of death and above all with the dead body.
Death is an ancient and universal theme in art. The fear of death and the desire to see/understand are the most important impulses in human action and thought; in fact, they are the origin of human culture. Two extremes are found in contemporary art: ritual, which had been abandoned by religion to service industry professionals or the media, has been reclaimed for art and restaged and reconstructed using the methods of art; alternatively, some artists have brought the unwelcome corpse back into view and they demonstrate to us in an often direct indeed intentionally crude fashion that (physical) existence (also) continues after death.
Contemporary art confirms that death is in again. Academic interest in the topic of dying, death and funerary practice has also increased strikingly in recent years. The newly-awakened interest of art, popular culture and academia in death is a sign that this topic is no longer being repressed and that a new visibility of death has developed.
Six feet under brings together works from different centuries from the collection of the Kunstmuseum Bern, loans from other institutions and artists as well as works created specially for the exhibition. The main focus however is on contemporary art from different continents and cultures: Europe, America, Mexico, China, Japan, Thailand, India and Ghana.
The exhibition is divided into 6 chapters titled: Corpses, Skulls and Skeletons, Bodies, Burials and Bereavement, Homage: The Beloved and Revered Dead, The Artists Death, Death and Lifestyle and Afterlife and curated by Bernhard Fibicher and Susanne Friedli.
David Altmejd, Cuno Amiet, Albert Anker, John Armleder, Keith Arnatt, Andisheh Avini, John Baldessari, Stefan Balkenhol, Miquel Barceló, Berclaz de Sierre, Olaf Breuning, AA Bronson, Arnold Brügger, Max Buri, Balthasar Burkhard, Com & Com, George Condo, William Nelson Copley, Benjamin Cottam, Hans Danuser, Franz Dodel, Marlene Dumas, Carl Durheim, James Ensor, Sue Fox, Katharina Fritsch, Christiana Glidden, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Neil Hamon, Ferdinand Hodler, Peter Hujar, Zuzanne Janin, Izima Kaoru, Martin Kippenberger, Paul Klee, Denis Laget, Ergy Landau, Robert Lazzarini, Sol LeWitt, Andrew Lord, Jorge Macchi, Edouard Manet, Raoul Marek, Teresa Margolles, Ana Mendieta, Claude Monet, Jonathan Monk, Gianni Motti, Claes Oldenburg, Gabriel Orozco, Paa Joe, Adrian Paci,, Raymond Pettibon, Srinivasa Prasad, Marc Quinn, Arnulf Rainer, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Ferdinand von Rayski, Gerhard Richter, Aida Ruilova, Joe Scanlan, Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Ene-Liis Semper, Andres Serrano, David Shrigley, Daniel Spoerri, Karl Stauffer-Bern, Paul Thek, Rosemarie Trockel, Kon Trubkovich, Gavin Turk, Francis Upritchard, Edouard Vallet, Félix Vallotton, Jan Vercruysse, Andy Warhol, Joel-Peter Witkin, Rémy Zaugg.
Catalogue: Six Feet Under Autopsie unseres Umgangs mit Toten / Autopsy of our Relation to the Dead
Edited by Kunstmuseum Bern and Kerber Verlag, Leipzig/Bielefeld
Texts by Elisabeth Bronfen, Bernhard Fibicher, Matthias Frehner, Susanne Friedli, Thomas Macho, Helga Lutz, Regula Tschumi, Hans Christoph von Tavel. German and English. 224 pages, 27,2 x 21 cm.
Curator: Bernhard Fibicher, email@example.com, Phone 41 31 328 09 42
Press Relations Officer: Ruth Gilgen, Tel. 41 31 328 09 19,
Images, Downloads: Laura Frischknecht, Tel. Tel. 41 31 328 09 53,
Administration: Rosmarie Joss, Tel. 41 31 328 09 18,
Media: Brigit Bucher, Tel. 41 31 328 09 21,