Almost unexpectedly for Wirz himself, there is strong connection between his biography and the themes addressed in the exhibition. From a young age, Pedro Wirz learnt a great deal about flora and fauna and the sensitive treatment of it. His father is an agronomist, his mother a biologist, and they both perform research on subjects such as compost, frogs and bees. After his first university degree (in public relations), Wirz worked in the PR department of a landfill site. But the biographical aspects don’t just concern biology, they relate to geography, too: Pedro Wirz gathers myths and artisanal traditions of the Pindamonhangaba region and laughingly merges them with his own experiences and the European-American image of Brazil. Born in 1981 in Brazil, where he grew up, Pedro Wirz returned to Switzerland, the birthplace of his grandparents, to study art. He currently lives in Zürich.
In his largest solo exhibition to date, a curbing wall of debris\landfilling, Pedro Wirz has created an immersive installation that extends over six rooms. Its central, connecting element is the natural-fibre carpet laid atop a layer of soil (coconut fibre-compost substrate), which perceptibly affects the visitors’ underfoot experience as they move through the exhibition. With this, Wirz makes reference to the question of our connectedness to “the earth”, as well as to the landfill site in the exhibition title. At the same time, the compost contains the circle of life – the energetic potential of new life made up of decomposed old life. Walking through the installation is like wandering through a landscape, on the one hand invoking images of a wasteland containing remnants of civilization and on the other playing with questions of exhibition presentation.
In the first room, with its photographs of Wirz’s object series from recent years, the poster An Egg for an Eye (Compendium), 2019, calls to mind a biological diagram. The egg, a symbol of life, is here categorised into the human classification system. This tension between the systematic, civilisation-based and the organically grown pervades the entire exhibition. In Ministério Morto (Dead Ministry), 2018, for example, we see the fusing of a houseand a nest, a human and an animal construction. His balls of soil connected to wires, Aquecedores (Heaters), 2019, seem to gather in congregation, while the coloured beeswax frogs and off-cast textiles of Consoantes Líquidas (Liquid Consonants), 2019, seem to take over the exhibition space. The imposing frogs evoke both the European fairy tale tradition and the breeding of bullfrogs for meat and leather, something the artist is acquainted with from his father’s research activities.
Wirz is also fascinated by the fact that amphibians undergo metamorphoses – from egg to tadpole to frog – and thus experience a huge change in their appearance as well as in their habitat – from water to land. The frog sculptures are presented upon pedestals coated with soil and glue, citing traditions within the field of art. As do the frames of the wall reliefs, a completely new type of object within Wirz’s oeuvre. The fabric-covered wooden frames contain objects made from the rejects of production and consumerismcycles and elevate them to objects of art or ritual. The first relief, Saci Baldio, 2019, refers to a character from Brazilian folklore. Initially stemming from indigenous mythology, it was later adopted and transformed by Afro-Brazilian slaves and is now part of popular culture. The impish, one-legged, dark-skinned Saci plays tricks on people and manages to escape using his red cap, which bestows him with supernatural powers. We encounter the second relief, Leihmutter [surrogate mother], 2019, inthe final room. Leihmutter is made using many materials, such as twigs, fabric and plastic bottles, andis also covered with beeswax. Its black colour conjures up oil spills, its title the imperilled presence of Mother Earth. The subject of ecology contains another biographical reference: the small tadpole sculptures in the relief allude to research carried out by Wirz’s mother on the effects of environmental pollution on tadpoles. To look at the relief close-up, the viewer has to step over a pile of old clothes onthe floor – which brings to mind cycles of excess, disposal, recycling and poverty.
The exhibition also ends here in the form of a large nest.
Photo by Alex Kern