An ode to nature


In response to a year of rediscovering the landscapes around us, by force of circumstance, MBAL celebrates the mountains as a popular destination for the Swiss, as well as for like-minded visitors from abroad. The natural landscape, a source of inspiration for artists for many centuries, is at the heart of our programming. The exhibition Montagne Magique Mystique draws on the historical photographic holdings of 18 public and private collections in Switzerland, and reveals rare daguerreotypes, a variety of print media, albums and related objects which have mostly never been previously shown. Inspired by painters who depicted majestic Alpine panoramas, the first photographers took their heavy equipment with them on their Alpine adventures. Mountain photography developed in the 19th century in close parallel with mountaineering, responding to the image needs of a fast- emerging tourism industry. Although 19th-century photographers struggled with difficult conditions, working with cumbersome equipment that forced them to carry chemicals, glass plates and darkroom tents up and down daunting cliffs, they managed to produce extraordinary images, while offering a variety of novel viewpoints and perspectives. The exhibition bears witness to the infatuation of the first generations of photographers with the high peaks: until then they had been seen as dangerous and inaccessible spaces, but now, thanks to the efforts of the pioneers, they were increasingly seen as places of glorious nature and intoxicating beauty. The exhibition pays tribute not only to the artists who often risked their lives to photograph the power of the mountains, but also to the institutional and private collectors who have preserved their images to this day.

Today,contemporary practice reveals itself in a deconstruction and questioning of the very notion of landscape. Some artists work directly in nature, others react to ecological concerns or directly seize the plants to experiment with new artistic processes. The MBAL has invited 4 contemporary artists to intervene in relation to this theme: Mauren Brodbeck (Switzerland, 1974) makes her works float in space; the natural landscape allows her to question the intangible. Rudy Decelière (Switzerland/France, 1979), made up of large dry grasses that quiver thanks to magnets and a network of copper wires, is experienced through the sounds and vibrations it generates with paintings from the MBAL collection. Ester Vonplon (Switzerland, 1980) creates photograms with photographic paper dating from 1907. Her images take on unexpected forms due to the aging process. Finally, Anastasia Samoylova (Russia/USA, 1984)has created a monumental installation for the facade of the MBAL. Her mural piece evokes the Grand Canyon against the backdrop of climate change.

Of course, contemplating nature is not just a matter of seeing pictures. The MBAL invites its visitors to continue their visit of the museum by going to the heart of the Jura landscape. In September 2021, the 6th edition of the contemporary photography festival Alt. +1000 will be held in the valley of La Brévine. To complete these exhibitions devoted to landscape, the MBAL is publishing an original text by the Italian philosopher Emanuele Coccia, author of the remarkable essays The life of plants and Metamorphoses

Happy exploring!

Nathalie Herschdorfer, Director