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Swiss Artist Opens Exhibit at AAAS;
Bridges Worlds of Art and Science
Christian Blickenstorfer, Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States, and Norman P. Neureiter, former Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, were among the guests who attended the opening reception at AAAS for Swiss artist Max Grüter on 19 November 2003.
"The exhibit shows another face of Switzerland and allows the American public to understand that there is more to Switzerland than chocolate, mountains and cows," said Flavia Schlegel, Counselor, Office of Science and Technology at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, DC.
The 23 works of sculpture, animation, murals and print work in the exhibition, "Max Grüter: My Private Space Program," incorporate realistic interpretations of the astronaut at home and at work.
"I always work with the figure of the astronaut," said Grüter, the artist from downtown Zurich. "Astronauts have fascinated me since I watched the moon landing as a small boy. That image never leaves my mind…People need to broaden their experience, play with everything and explore the possibilities of life. I don't limit myself to one medium. I incorporate sculpture, painting, text, drawing, and modeling."
Since 1998, Grüter has worked with a 3-D modeling computer program to create virtual metaphors of the astronaut. Grüter blends the figure of the astronaut with his own image to depict an explorer who is at once reaching beyond boundaries and grounded by personal experience. He blends art and science to inspire others to overcome obstacles and reach beyond the reality of routine.
"I've become the explorer of virtual space. See that astronaut, his face is my face. It's a form of virtual performance," Grüter explained, pointing to the series of three animated 3D electronic sculptures.
As she made her way among the 100 diplomats, artists, policymakers, scientists and AAAS staff at Grüter's opening reception, Schlegel described her reaction to the artist's work. "I like Max's art because it reflects questions of trying to expand limits and go over barriers," she said. "But he also captures the feeling that your personal life is linked to Earth, and you're always pulled back home,"
Grüter said his attachment to space travel is based on the notion that the astronaut, "exists in the 'now.'"
"This exhibit reflects that," he added. "I decided to use the computer program because it's very important that I convey the present moment. These pieces can exist only in this contemporary time because this technology wasn't around in the 1980s or 1990s."
Much of Grüter's work is comprised of lambda prints in aluminum of 3-D electronic sculpted tableaux; 3-D electronic sculptures made through laminated object manufacturing; and animated 3-D electronic sculptures. In addition to the computer art, the mixed-media exhibit includes a hand tufted sheep's wool rug crafted with footsteps that represent Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, and traditional images in blue paint drawn on to the walls of the rotunda in the AAAS gallery.
AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner noted that artists can "bring life to many of science's wonders."
"We are delighted to emphasize the ways in which science and art enrich each other," Leshner added.
Walking among the artworks that comprise Grüter's interpretation of the world of space travel, Norman Neureiter was thinking about the real astronauts who have inspired the Swiss artist. The exhibit had reminded the scientist/diplomat of a hearing he had attended in the wake of the Columbia space shuttle disaster.
"Space exploration is a risky business," Neureiter said. "The men and women, the astronauts, understand the nature of what is expected of them. They don't expect a guarantee of absolute safety on their missions. But they do anticipate that the engineers preparing their flight will do the best job possible to keep them as safe as possible."
The exhibit, "Max Grüter: My Private Space Program," curated by Shirley L. Koller of the AAAS Art of Science and Technology Program, opens to the public on 20 November and will run through 1 March 2004. This exhibition is co-sponsored by the Office of Science and Technology at the Embassy of Switzerland, the Swiss Science Agency, and Presence Switzerland. Elements of animation, installation, sculpture and digital imaging are featured. Grüter's show is one of three that the AAAS Art of Science and Technology organizes each year, under the direction of Virginia Stern, who is also director of the Project on Science, Technology and Disability for the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs.
Viewing hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the AAAS building at 1200 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. For more information, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Virginia Stern at 202-326-6672.
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20 November 2003