Costa Vece: Kunstmuseum Solothurn

Article excerpt

In the picturesque baroque city of Solothurn, Costa Vece presented a dark take on the notions of cultural identity, religion, and Heimat (homeland), and, ultimately, on the very possibility of social inclusion. Born in Switzerland, the son of Greek-Italian immigrants, Vece seems to have experienced the chilly as well as the warm side of his home country. Yet he clearly retains a deep, if mistrustful, affection for its customs and traditions. His installation Heaven Can Wait (all works 2006) is made out of darkish gray wooden planks, recalling the covered bridges seen everywhere in the canton of Appenzell, where he spent his childhood. The romantic image here turns into a narrow, claustrophobic structure that, for an outsider, recalls barracks more than bridges.

Inside, one first encounters a sparsely lit chamber where uncanny heads with woolen hats stare out from the darkness. Their faces carved from loaves of bread, they evoke scary carnival masks or shrunken heads. A second wooden chamber has inscriptions carved into it: "Was stehst du hier und gaffst? War besser dass du schaffst. Anstatt hier zu stehn, sollst du weiter gehn" ("What are you doing, standing here staring? It would be better if you would work. Instead of standing here, you should move on"), and other phrases that evoke a strange combination of moralism and cynicism, not unlike the infamous inscription "Arbeit macht frei" on the entrance gate at Auschwitz.

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The path leads around a corner to where a looped sequence from Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964) is being screened on the rear wall of a chalet. It's the crucifixion scene. The hammering and the screams of the tortured and the cries of mourning are followed--after the image has disappeared--by lines from Isaiah beginning, "You shall indeed hear but not understand. …