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Quelqu'un qui s'occupe de moi

Museum Galerie Baviera, Zürich, 2018
Curator Silvio Baviera

A buoy is mercilessly exposed to many situations. In the endless beauty of the ocean, natural forces such as rain, wind, storm and strong sunlight leave traces of weathering. Birds pollute the buoy's body with bird droppings, mussels infest it. If the chain breaks, the buoy crashes against rocks or is washed up on the sandy beach. And finally man himself: fishermen who collide with the buoy out of carelessness and damage it. The buoy remains at its location for four years, after which it goes into revision, where it is maintained. Dents, scratches, deposits, dirt, rust, paint flaking are eradicated again. It is cleaned, sand-blasted, repainted and ottgemacht before it is abandoned at a new location and starts its service again. The life of a buoy usually takes place in a cycle of four years in the sea and a few months on land. The service life is about 60 years.

A buoy is a traffic sign and signals dangers in such a way that seafarers can move safely at sea. Different shapes and colours correspond to different signals and are either mandatory or prohibited. As late as the 19th century, pilots had the task of making seamen aware of sandbanks, reefs and other obstacles. However, these were not always successful. Alone on the stretch between the Gironde estuary on the West French coast and Bordeaux there are still more than 50 sunken ships. It is certainly no coincidence that the iron processing made possible by industrialisation not only produced the Eiffel Tower or the construction of bridges, but also favoured the construction of spherical or conical hollow metal bodies.

The buoys on Simon Beer's 21 photographs (102 x 77 cm, lambda prints) are relics from another era. They were all made between the end of the 19th century and the 1960s, weigh between 400 and 1200 kg, are welded or riveted. As in classical object photography, the bodies are illuminated neutrally, they float freely in space and reveal their beauty of form and surface condition down to the last detail; a number indicates the coordinates - longitude and latitude - of the last place of use. Basically, however, they are portraits of buoys whose lives are written in their faces. Not only the pure external appearance is depicted here, Simon Beer lets its actual essence emerge. In addition, he gives them feminine-masculine, French double names - Marie-Baptiste, Laure-Dominique, Marie-Stéphane, Anne-Edouard, Marie-Eugène, Lise-Claude, Jeanne-Alix - making them even more recognizable as independent personalities.

In this context, the sentence "Quelqu'un qui s'occupe de moi" (Somebody takes care about me) acquires a double meaning: who or what cares about whom? Who is speaking here? Is it the sailors, or rather the buoys, who, after being exposed to the threatening and uncertain, to fears and loneliness, but also to beauty and silence, are granted a breather and a phase of regeneration? In this case, their maintenance and accommodation is the responsibility of the Interregional Directorate of the South Atlantic Mer, Service de la Sécurité et des Contrôles Maritimes, Division Sécurité, Navigation et Prevention des risques, Subdivision des Phares et Balises du Verdon - the equivalent of a road traffic office for shipping.In the pictures, the metal colossuses float weightlessly and silently in the air. They are removed from their natural habitat, dematerialized, as it were, and captured on paper. And yet the sculptural presence of the bodies, the colour reliefs and the pigmentation of the metal skin overwhelm our senses. Size and beauty evoke an experience of the sublime that triggers astonishment, almost awe.

Simon Beer has lived on the French Atlantic coast for almost five years, half the year. For a long time he had intended to realize an artistic work with buoys. When he encounters a washed up, 15-metre-high buoy on the Atlantic, his original fascination flares up again. For him, the buoys represent an ideal-typical sculpture and fit perfectly into his ongoing artistic engagement with the found object (objet trouvé). Moving from their original, purposeful context into a poetic space, they are charged with meaning and appreciation. Simon Beer sees his exhibition less as a photographic work than as an exhibition of sculptures.

Mirjam Fischer

45° 00’ 30’’N / 0° 35’ 04’’W
Lambdaprint mat

45° 01’ 07’’N / 0° 31’ 39’’W
Lambdaprint mat

44° 56’ 18’’N / 0° 25’ 50’’W
Lambdaprint mat

44° 54’ 20’’N / 0° 18’ 49’’W
Lambdaprint mat

View Gallery space
21 Lambdaprints mat
each 77x102cm