Wassili Widmer — Once a new life, please!

Like many artists, Vasily Widmer befriends the unknown during the current state of emergency. The eastern Swiss had to adapt radically to new living conditions. An opening performance for the Glasgow International Biennale was planned for April 2020.

This has now been postponed until 2021 because of the crisis. After graduating in Scotland in the summer of 2019, Widmer invested heavily in his art as a local freelancer. His life was already resembling a state of emergency in the months leading up to the lockdown. He worked a lot, barely went out and didn’t take part-time jobs. When Covid-19 arrived in Europe, Widmer decided to leave Glasgow at short notice and spend the isolation time with his parents in Appenzell Ausserrhoden.

The effect of the perspective

The parents, Birgit Widmer and Hans Schweizer, who are also artistically active, live in a spacious wooden house in the beamwood in the middle of nature. “It’s like a big studio,” says Vasily Widmer. Art and sources of inspiration are all over the house. The view of the green, hilly landscape invites you to daydream. Earlier, the 27-year-old spent moments of youth looking at the hills out of the window. He is still fascinated by the role of perspective. “If you look from A to B, you’re there in seconds,” he says. Obviously it takes longer if you walk the same way. This change from an apparent two-dimensional hilly landscape to the actual three-dimensional reality served as the inspiration for one of his latest performances.

Struggle between space and light conditions

The main role in this is the family Christmas tree, which has been in surprisingly good condition since Christmas. Through the constant confrontation with that tree, Widmer established a kind of relationship with this object during his time of isolation.

“I wondered what it would be like if this fir tree were to stand on those hills and run off at once,” he says.

For the video recordings of the performance, Widmer specifically imagined a light ratio in which the sun disappears behind a thick cloud. So he waited until one day the weather conditions were favorable. Unfortunately, he performed another work the day before. “I need space between two performances to recharge creative energy,” says Widmer. Nevertheless, this time he made an exception and put on his camouflage outfit to carry the Christmas tree down the hill. And how did it feel? “Strictly,” he laughs. The work, however, was in line with his ideas. On the video you can see the effect of the two-dimensional effect of these hills and the walking tree. He as a performer can only be recognized in the valley at the close-up.

Sometimes other journeys of discovery

Creativity seems to be sparkling. Vasily Widmer uses the time of this crisis for his art. He prefers to work deep into the night. Because everything stands still. His sense of time had dissolved anyway. “My life has become calculable. It makes me mad,” he admits. The only routine remains the meal time. Then the family meets at the table. There are no spontaneous journeys of discovery with friends that lead to new friends. Things that drive Widmer and fill his memories with new experiences and faces. There is only him, the family and his homeland. And just: A lot of time for creative tinkering.

Vasily Widmer is known for one or two unusual self-portraits.

Self-portrait on an armchair in the parental house.
Freedom of movement is also not a taboo subject for Widmer.
Often the scene of his performances is this small waterfall right in front of the house.
Baking bread seems to be the last cry in quarantine time.
Widmer is a co-founder of the Stereokop Performance Festival. Here he is in the middle of the first online livestream edition.
Just Widmer in black.