Boundary crossings of the gentle kind

Konrad Tobler, Berner Zeitung, 17 February 2005

Communication is a fine art. And as a fine art it is indeed able to give expression to art in such a way that the art of communication becomes art in itself. Adela Picón manages just this. That is why she has been awarded the Prize for Female Artists (Frauenkunstpreis) 2004.

Phone box after phone box. There are people inside them; gesticulating, listening, looking up and throwing a quick glance, or just sitting there, lost in thought. It is a scene often to be observed at train stations. Most of the persons speaking on the phone are – you can easily tell by their appearance – immigrants, refugees, people that are able to talk to their nearest and dearest only by phone as they live a long distance away. We can only surmise what is happening behind the glass doors of those phone boxes: It will be about hope and homesickness, love and sorrow, birth and death. About quite everyday things.

From all over the world
That is the kind of situation Adela Picòn staged for her video work “Locutorio” - the phone box. In it people are coming and going, taking a seat in one of the three cubicles the artist set up as accessories. Men and women are sitting in the cubicles and talk. Some leave. Others are coming. Some of the faces are familiar, we recognise artists from the local art scene: Fatma Charfi, for instance, the installation artist, or Natsuko Tamba Wyder, who has recently shown her installation made up of bars and gates in the Stadtgalerie. The two women from Tunisia and Japan respectively are joined by a man from Tibet and a woman from Russia and other artists who, for whatever reason, have ended up living here. Just like the 47-year-old artist herself, who was born in Barcelona but has been living and working in Switzerland for more than twelve years.

Although in stations it is not possible to listen in on the conversations in the phones boxes, “Locutorio” allows us this privilege. Four receivers invite us to eavesdrop. Only, there are not many that understand Russian or Japanese. We can only guess at what these mysterious telephone conversations might be all about when hearing the English or French snippets of conversation: about art and the role of artists. Communication between cultures about images and sounds – non-communication about language: This here, quite incidentally, is made the subject of an altogether everyday scene.

Say it with flowers
It is entirely convincing that this extensive video work has been awarded the Prize for Female Artists endowed with 10’000 Swiss Francs. And it is no coincidence that the jury selected just this very artist out of 27 applications. For years Adela Picòn has been working consequently on how to transform the art of communication into images. For example with her long-term project “Still Life” she presented last year. Here, too, the artist involved several different people in the process of image making.

Out of an array of flower images she creates a complex setting by superimposing images in a slide projection; the result looks as if digitally produced. Into this sea of flowers she invites people, not in the first place those who think to be familiar with the language of art, but people from her everyday surroundings. When they pose as models and merge into the flower scenery projected onto them, there is inevitably a complex communicative exchange: artist with models, models with the unfamiliar setting. Thus they become part of a work of art – and in doing so the private, the “flowery” intimacy is automatically rendered public. 
Here just as in the video installation “Locutorio” borders are pictorially crossed in scenes that in an everyday situation would not necessarily be experienced as borderline – which is the core - the art - of any kind of communication.