E-Flux Press Release

“I find a change in being, caused by a sudden outburst of power, extraordinarily fascinating. That’s a time sculpture”

This autumn Middelheim Museum is welcoming Roman Signer (Switzerland, b. 1938) with his solo project Projet pour un Jardin. Roman Signer’s sculptures are the results, the "traces" of a large diversity of actions which the artist has been performing for decades, with natural elements and physical strength as the most important companion and source of inspiration.


International exhibitions

International Archives 2nd half of 2016

Roman Signer, Project for a Garden

Middelheim Museum, Antwerpen (Belgium)

29.10.2016 - 02.04.2017




Roman Signer, Project for a Garden, Middelheim Museum, Antwerpen

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2016. All Rights Reserved

During the exhibition the time sculpture (which is reminiscent of Kugel mit blauer Farbe, performed during the 2012 Shanghai Biennial), can be found in the Braem Pavilion. The same venue is also screening The second trace, in which the action is converted to film, and the recording of Pendulum (2016), one of the artist’s earlier actions.

The Braem pavilion is also home to the result of the Spuren performance as a temporary spatial installation. The artist performed the action in the run-up to the exhibition, without the presence of any visitors. In a sand carpet we can see the traces which Signer has left behind as he zigzagged across it on skis. The journey ends with a ski cabin. There is no trace left of Signer, only his skis in the ski cabin. And the film of the performance.

Projet pour un Jardin is not just the name of the exhibition and the book about it, it is also the title of a new work of art that Roman Signer has made specially for the Middelheim museum. It looks like a detail of a maze and, when you look down on it from above, is reminiscent of the zigzag silhouette of Spuren (2016).

In Projet pour un Jardin it is not Signer, but the visitor who is the main character. The visitor gets to go around the exhibition in which, from above, it looks like the head has been separated from the trunk. In this new project time starts every time someone begins the journey. That results in another form of experience of time: the personal, physical experience. From that perspective Bidon Bleu, part of the collection since 2012, and Projet pour un jardin complement each other well. With Projet pour un jardin as a binding element between Bidon Bleu, the park and the exhibition.

Sculpture according to Signer
Using a limited number of elements Signer shapes a world which never fails to amaze the spectator. His austerity in choice of material is in sharp contrast to the highly imaginative execution of his projects. The result is often surprising, absurd and poetic. It produces an intractable oeuvre that doesn’t succumb to trends or ethical requirements.

Even though his actions aren’t functional, his oeuvre expresses a great interest in reality outside the art world, his actions—without a role but also not without danger - can be read as symbols or metaphors for an existential questioning: “I need to enter into confrontation with the ephemeral. Perhaps that’s because I’m sensitive to tragedy, the absurd, futility and meaninglessness which we as human beings are responsible for.” Signer uses small things to set something in motion which you can reflect upon in a broader context and which everyone can relate to.


Exhibition 29 October 2016 - 2 April 2017.  Middelheim Museum, Middelheimlaan 61 – 2020 Antwerpen (Belgium). Tel. : +32 3 288 33 60. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10h - 17h.





Roman Signer, Projet pour un jardin. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Ans Brys

What fascinates the artist most, is a change in "being." He always works in three phases, according to the same structure. First is the basic form, which has the potential to change. The action, often directed by the artist himself, is the impulse to the change which comes about in the course of the action. The "trace," the residue of the action, is the concrete work of art.

Roman Signer refers to it as a time sculpture: the transformation of materials under the influence of time. Through his work the artist approaches time (and space) in very diverse manners: Action with a Fuse (1989) lasts 35 days and covers 20 kilometres, at the closing event of Documenta 8 (1987) 300,000 sheets of paper were reduced to a swirling cloud of snippets of paper in seconds.

New time sculptures
For Projet pour un Jardin Roman Signer had two new actions in mind. One of them, Wer hat Angst für Rot, Gelb und Blau? Ja, ich habe Angst!, will be performed at the exhibition opening.

Roman Signer, Projet pour un jardin. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Ans Brys