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Artists in Residence

 In October 2011, Tyree Guyton came to Basel for a one year residency supported by the Laurenz Haus Association. Guyton is the founder of the 'Heidelberg Project' in Detroit. In Basel he had time to contemplate his participation in this 'street art project' over the past twenty five years. This process of stepping away and looking back manifested itself in different fields.

Tyree Guyton - Two Countries, two Cities, one Spirit

Tyree Guyton, stipendiary of the Laurenz Haus Association, 2012. Photo: Cat Tuong Nguyen

The light, inviting space in the grand house at 25 Eulerstrasse in Basel offers lots of quiet and the possibility to withdraw or socialize in equal amounts. Here live the winners of the Laurenz Haus Association grants, artistically or scientifically active people from all over the world, always two at the same time. The residency serves the advancement and realization of an important project, free of material constraints.
Tyree Guyton (born 1955), who at the same time as Danh Vo (born 1975, Vietnam) lives in the Laurenz Haus, and is working here on his PhD, part of his honourary doctorate, which was conferred on him in 2009 by the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. It would be wrong however to expect a lengthy written dissertation.

Enriched and amplified by photography, objects and installations, his scientific approach is now in Basel strongly influenced by Rudolf Steiner and Joseph Beuys. The forms of expression are multi-faceted: the walls of the work spaces are covered with colourful drawings and sketches. The circle, the symbol for closeness and repetition, also plays a role in the residency studios at 50 Gärtnerstrasse in Basel: here the colourful circles have spread out across the whole room and on to the floor, just as they once began to overgrow on the houses on Heidelberg Street in Detroit. Basel stands naturally in stark contrast to the infamous 'Motor City'. The name stands for the failure of a complete branch of industry, for depopulation, ghettoization and decline. Guyton grew up there: as the seventh child of ten of a single mother he knew bitter poverty and hardship. They lacked everything. Then he discovered what was in the middle of the void, if one looked at it with searching eyes: beauty, sense and comfort, in the midst of the rubbish and the refuse, which he started collecting at the dumps, left behind from the decaying houses, which stood in Detroit in their thousands after riots in the sixties burnt down almost the whole city. Decades later the ruined buildings still stood, nobody cared about reconstruction or demolition. A suffocating standstill.

Guyton started to restore the buildings in his street, Heidelberg Street, in his very own way. With colour and junk. There were facades which were completely covered with cuddly toys or which looked as if they were sprinkled with Smarties, and trees in which hundreds of old shoes were left to dangle. And painted faces: on the wall, on the asphalt, everywhere. A panopticon of colours, which are gathered on the collapsing buildings, helping them to a new beginning.
Hope of movement and change went along with Guyton's intervention. The flow of colour spread over the whole street very quickly and had an effect, making people stop and look around them, enquire, talk and soon to be connected through communication, participation and interest which seemed impossible outside of Heidelberg Street.
A moving story follows: in 1991, initiated by the mayor of Detroit, Coleman Junior, the colourful houses (a source of annoyance for the neighbourhood and community) were demolished. Bulldozers came, helicopters hovered in the sky, while below the wrecking balls were furiously at work. A few hours later everything was rubble, steamrolled and flattened into the ground. A battlefield. The opponents of the 'Heidleberg Project' were triumphant, "Art belongs locked up in a museum". The project's supporters were in tears. But Guyton continued. And in 2012 the 'Heidleberg Project' is thriving with better organization than before.
And now a break: the invitation to Basel took Guyton away from his street, which long ago became a highly sophisticated centre for meeting and art production. The invitation allowed him to anchor himself in the city as on an island, promising recreation and creativity at the same time. He used the time to catch his breath, take stock and organize. And for observing: here he has insight into everyday life, which in spite of all the differences (superficial prosperity, material security and a different mentality) connects people. These same things move people all over the world.
This insight coined the title of a small presentation which will be given in the gallery of Tom Blaess in Bern: 'Two Countries - two Cities - one Spirit'. Tom Blaess grew up very close to Tyree Guyton in Detroit. He later emmigrated. In Switzerland, far away from their hometown, work on their common project connects the two again. It almost seems as if they have always lived in the same street.

Bis: 19.11.2012

Druckatelier/Galerie Tom Blaess, Bern, 21.10. bis 19.11.

This interview is published with the support of the Swiss cultural foundation Pro Helvetia Moving Words for the Swiss advancement of translation.

Translation: Paul Harper

Deutsche Version


Anfang Zurück zum Anfang
Ausgabe 9  2012
Ausstellungen Tyree Guyton [21.10.12-18.11.12]
Institutionen Tom Blaess [Bern/Schweiz]
Autor/in Isabel Friedli
Künstler/in Tyree Guyton
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