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Exhibition on the theme of the counter-culture in Switzerland at The Musée de l'Elysée
Plonk & Replonk, The colors of tomorrow. Plant operating at enriched Geranium, 2005. © Plonk & Replonk. Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne.

LAUSANNE.- The Musée de l’Elysée offers an original exhibition on the theme of the counter-culture in Switzerland, expressed through photography and the visual arts from 1950 to the present day. The exhibition is a contextualization of the work of twenty-five photographers, artists, film and video makers. It shows the various aspects of the counter-culture in the 1960s and 1970s, and the photography critique that succeeded it.

The counter-culture of the 1960s challenged the traditional values in private and public life; it redesigned cultural and political boundaries, from projects of empowerment to sexual liberation, from realism to utopia, from the possible to the impossible. After this long period dedicated to the conquest of freedom, notably artistic freedom, counter-culture disappeared during the 1980s, to be recycled by fashion, consumerism and the market economy. Society switched from patriarchal domination to an ideology of desire and consumerism. The global village of the 1980s has now become the environment for globalization. When everything is measured with the same scale of value, everything can become the subject of appropriation. Contemporary culture blends tradition and modernity, and is now integrated very directly into the market economy. In a politically correct environment, critical visual and contemporary approaches usually use unconventional perspectives.

From subversion to critical expression
In the historical section, the exhibition examines the life of Swiss ‘ Hell’s Angels ’ photographed by Karlheinz Weinberger. It also discusses Luc Chessex’s political utopia in the 1960s, who left Switzerland and moved to Cuba, and addresses the controversy caused by Harald Szeemann at the Venice Biennale in 2001, when he decided to present the work of Arnold Odermatt, a police photographer from the Nidwalden canton.

In the contemporary section, the exhibition presents recent work by Swiss photographers who constantly question the issue of Swiss identity, through landscape, the environment, security and even the Swiss chalet, the ultimate symbol of the sense of Swiss identity born in the late 19th century. Each viewpoint is confronted with another and it is their accumulation that makes the exhibition. Ruptures, fragilities, unconventional approaches or second level perspectives undermine the certainties and draw, between the lines, another vision of society, its customs, its politics or its artistic expression. Although true counter-culture does not exist anymore, contemporary artistic expression uses with intelligence and originality critical tools such as humour, irony, editing, collage or unconventional perspectives.

The exhibition aims at examining counter-culture in Switzerland in three thematic sections.

Culture and behaviour
The first part of the exhibition offers a vision of themes such as behaviour, politics and religion. It includes the photographs, films and videos of Karlheinz Weinberger, Yann Gross, Luc Chessex, Gianni Motti, Arnold Odermatt, Francis Reusser, Nicolas Savary & Tilo Steireif, Emmanuelle Antille and Christian Lutz. The Musée de l’Elysée also recreates the exhibition of the thirty-two photographs by Arnold Odermatt that Harald Szeemann exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2001 on the theme of car accidents.

Humour, irony and unconventional perspectives
The second part of the exhibition shows unconventional work, using humour and irony. It shows series of photographs, collages and projections by Claude Baechtold, Andri Pol, Plonk & Replonk and Nicolas Crispini.

Questioning signs of identity
The third section includes a selection of photographs that present a critical point of view on typically Swiss identity values, such as the landscape, the railway, the Swiss chalet, the army or the post. Series of photographs by Léo Fabrizio, Christian Schwager, Jean-Luc Cramatte, Matthieu Gafsou, Jules Spinatsch and Martin Stollenwerk are exhibited, in parallel with the 19th century photographs of Fred Boissonnas, Adolphe Braun and Francis Frith, all taken from the collection of the Musée de l’Elysée.

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