Reust, Hans Rudolf, Artforum International
Ulrich Gorlich's work often comments on the sociopolitical context surrounding the exhibition site, so it was not surprising that his recent photographic installation in Zurich took Switzerland as its theme. Cliches about Switzerland are ubiquitous enough: reflecting the image of hard currency and political stability, they tend to include a narrow range of scenes involving mountains, peasants, and local customs. After a long period of shuttling between Berlin and Zurich, Gorlich certainly can see through these stereotypes. Entitled Heimatschutz (Defense of the homeland, 1995), his installation suggested a society trying hard to reconstruct the narratives it spun about itself in the early '50s.
The narrow, subterranean gallery space was encircled by newly constructed walls; onto their unfinished wooden surfaces, using liquid photoemulsion, Gorlich copied a panorama of found black and white photographic images. These scenes included a clock in a church belfry, mounds of cheese, a lone wooden cross on a mountain peak, an apartment building, a chalet, and a view of the Swiss parliament. Along the upper edge of this panorama, a quotation from a postwar Swiss publication on "the defense of the homeland" ran, headline-like: "The series of illustrations, arranged along historico-evolutionary and typological lines, represent a cross-section of the material we have received. We would like to assist the user through the choice and arrangement of illustrations." This quotation seemed also to describe Gorlich's procedure, which was at once canny and self-consciously naive, as the installation's friendly didacticism quickly yielded to a deconstructive strategy. …