Text aus dem Buch riverrun / Irish days von Sebastian Utzni und Bettina Mürner, erscheint im Februar 2011 in Kooperation mit Swissberg - attorneys at law

von Lic. phil. Marcel Bleuler

Bettina Mürner and Sebastian Utzni took five weeks to walk across Ireland. For that time, the 500 kilometre distance between the east coast and the west coast became their artistic space and walking their basic method of exploration. And though they moved along the same roads, each took a different approach to this project and side by side, they uncovered two entirely different worlds.

Sebastian Utzni walked systematically. His way led from bridge to bridge, until he had traced and depicted all the bridges between Castletownbere and Dublin. His purpose resulted in a meandering route and a slow, but also a very predetermined progression. He knew exactly what he was looking for. At his side, Bettina Mürner moved in a completely opposite manner: without any plan and without looking for anything in particular. While he always headed for the next bridge, she lost herself in seemingly unrelated details; while he revealed a geographic structure, she treasured
normally disregarded moments. With their individual ways of moving forward, they developed each their own landscape and finally two very different works of art.

Sebastian Utzni’s mapping of the bridges from Castletownbere to Dublin is a complex system of subtle stripes, veiled shapes and concrete bridges that emerge from timeless, dark spaces. With his archaic woodcut print technique, he creates a sequence of frames that give an almost filmic vision of his movement. Despite their linear set up, the numerous prints form a cluster the viewer’s gaze meanders through like a river through a landscape. Sebastian Utzni does not prescribe any direction. His conceptual walk is transformed into an intuitive topography of enclosed sceneries and ambiguous connections.

Bettina Mürner highlights the hidden sights she found on their journey by means of painting, photography and etching. Rather than the actual landscape, she discloses her very own way of seeing it. Her lingering gaze turns a woodpile into a breathing organism, a beguiling congregation of lights and shades. A group of empty chairs come to life appearing to celebrate an event unknown to the viewer. An uninhabited house becomes an unpersuasive pretence of family idyll, a two-dimensional illusion lacking the comfort of real substance. Bettina Mürner depicts objects that are not being used or that have been forgotten at least temporarily. The one thing Mürner and Utzni’s art work have in common is that no actual person appears in it. During their stays in Ireland they explored moods and physical leftovers of human presence, varying from the poetic to the grotesque, such as a pink hiking trail Utzni portrays in a number of photographs. It is a world ruled by objects, nature and movement, and a space largely left to the viewer’s imagination.

The people they met in Ireland and on their trip home, mostly others who consider themselves artists, are documented in a joint section. They form a system of their own, a network of short stories about activities, promises and different identities.