17 Feb — 18 Mar 2017 at Von Bartha in Basel, Switzerland
Von Bartha, S-chanf, announces Hospital Equipment, a new exhibition from the Danish collective Superflex, running February 17 - March 18 2017. Working closely with the Salamieh Hospital in Hawarti, Syria, Superflex have sourced necessary surgical tools -a mobile lamp, a surgeon's table and a surgical bearing - which are exhibited within the gallery space. Following the exhibition, the tools - conceived as a single artwork - will be shipped directly to the hospital where they become a functional part of the centre, used by staff and patients. The artists describe the work as "a ready-made, upside down".
Known for their subversive analysis of our economic and social structures, Superflex powerfully re-examine the boundaries of art practice. Whilst installed within von Bartha's gallery space, Hospital Equipment exists as an artistic installation. Once shifted to its new context (that of the Syrian hospital), the work reassumes its initial purpose -providing medical relief. Transitioning from a Duchampian 'ready-made' to a potentially lifesaving medical instrument, the equipment oscillates between artwork and functional object, highlighting the role of context in the definition of artistic practice.
Mirroring the fatal consequences of the Syrian conflict, Hospital Equipment presents the viewer with a similarly mortal situation - a life or death operation. By positioning the viewer as voyeur, Superflex call into question our relationships towards seemingly remote world crises; "we are constantly being confronted with a heavy stream of images of war and conflict through news, social media, and humanitarian fundraising campaigns," they ask, "to what extent does this endless repetition affect the receiver?"
Described by Superflex as "an act of exchange", the work further challenges notions around object-based art collections and ownership. Once removed from the exhibition, the installation exists for the 'owner' as photographic documentation, rather than a physical object. The work sustains an ambiguous identity across different - often divided - worlds, whilst the process engenders a philanthropic approach to collecting.
The exhibition follows Hospital Equipment at Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen in 2014; the work was then transported to the Al-Shifa Hospital in Palestine. The Den Frie Centre exhibition has been nominated for the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, 2017.
Superflex are currently showing the work Euro on a 110m2 billboard outside of the Southbank Centre, London, until March 31, 2017. The work, commissioned by the Hayward Gallery, is part of Nordic Matters - a year-long programme of Nordic arts and culture at the Southbank Centre in 2017.