Some activities at Hard Hat: A HR Giger show, a Stephen O’Malley concert and new members. by Jeanne Graff

view of the exhibition, photo by Hard Hat.


1971: Giger’s exhibition is held at Bruno Bishofsberger in Zürich. 1979: Ridley Scott’s Alien is released worldwide. Since then: 1.3 teenager out of 7 has a HR Giger Poster in his bedroom. 

Posters, films, photos, sculptures and all kinds of gadgets: HR Giger is the most pop, and certainly the most famous of all Swiss artists working today. His work is undoubtedly important for an entire generation of artists and teenagers, who have placarded HR Giger’s posters on their bedroom walls. With this exhibition, Hard Hat makes its intention to include HR Giger in an historical context, as “late surrealist pop” artist, quite clear. Somewhere between Jim Shaw, Blair Thurman and John Armleder. The works hark back to a specific time, the late ‘60s, when Pop art was shown for the first time in Switzerland by gallery Bruno Bishofsberger, a period when HR Giger– a figure emblematic of the Zürich underground art scene– rubbed shoulders with Andy Wahrol and Roy Lichtenstein. That was long before he left to work for Hollywood.

Giger’s silkscreens shown by Hard Hat can be read on different levels.

By showing them again in their original contemporary art context, Hard Had forces us to reconsider these objects as “art.” This loop exposes HR Giger’s atypical career, and how working for commercial film led to his estrangement from high art spheres. Seeing these works at Hard Hat creates a strange feeling, close to time-travelling. Finally, this exhibition exemplifies Hard Hat’s interest in painting, drawing and comics, with an eye for popular and self-taught arts.

The show consists of two series of silkscreens, which were probably perceived at that time as very contemporary. Biomechanoiden, eight plates from 1969, epitomize HR Giger’s work. The plates depict states of gestation of a creature made of flesh and machinery, exulting a dark Sci-Fi eroticism. Two years later, Passagen, four photographic silkscreens of a detail of the back of a garbage truck, take on a nightmarish quality, as if one was staring at doors to another dimension. The flat and acrid colors echoes Andy Wahrol’s Car Crash series.

Balthazar Lovay, Stephen O'Malley, Fabrice Stroun. Photo by Josef Hannibal.


To position oneself at the limit between different aesthetic categories could describe one aspect of Hard Hat’s program– one of Switzerland’s most interesting ones. This non-profit space embodies, to borrow the painter Vittorio Brodmann’s motto, l’esprit de Genève.

Hard Hat has until now been run by a mixture of curators and artists. This exhibition marks the departure of its one remaining curator Fabrice Stroun, who will be leaving for the Kunsthalle Bern. Balthazar Lovay, who has been the space’s co-director since 2004, will then be joined by three fellow artists: Marta Riniker-Radich, Kim Seob Boninsegni, and Paolo Hurtado.


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