Concerning the Human-Made Sky

[…] After a short walk, we enter the inner courtyard, which radiates a deep calm. Strange organ sounds emanate from the pavilion, which immediately captivate me.

Inside, we stand in front of a wall of votive pictures – paintings dedicated to saints – next to an oil painting by Melchior Paul von Deschwanden showing “Gottvater Wetter Föhn”. On the right, one by Jakob Joseph Zeiger with a naturalistic view of the Stans ground. On the ground, in the drawing by Theodor von Deschwanden, a man with his “heavenly gaze” looks transfigured upwards. There, a circle with flowing blue tones stands out from the tableau: the cyanometer, an invention of the enlightened Horace Bénédict de Saussure, who used it to measure the blue of the sky. What connects the various works is the sky. The interesting thing is that one might think they are from different eras, but in fact, with the exception of the reproduction of the cyanometer, all the works Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller have selected from the collection date from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Hemauer/Keller have already been working for eight years on the subject of the sky and the question of whether man changes the colour of the sky. While at the beginning the focus was mainly on scientific questions, in the meantime the cultural-historical level is in the foreground. Jana Bruggmann, who became aware of the artist:in duo three years ago, therefore thought: “In Stans, which has such a strong Catholic history, we could have a dialogue with the collection and explore the cultural-historical dimension of the sky.” The source of the organ sound is at the heart of the exhibition: Hemauer/Keller’s installation “Voyages atmosphériques (Concerning the Blueness of the Sky)” from 2016. They took a row of pixels from the recordings of a solar balloon and assigned a tonal value to each colour value. If you speak into the microphone, you can hear interference in the image. A metaphor for the influence of humans on nature and the sky. The climatologist Atsumu Ohmura, who became famous for the theory of global dimming, explains in an interview which factors determine the colour of the sky.

In the Winkelriedhaus, the process and method of Hemauer/Keller’s artistic research become tangible. You can also see the original aerial photographs of the solar balloon, which you could look at forever. On the upper floors, we follow de Saussure’s meticulously recorded expedition from Lucerne via Stans to Engelberg, view naturalistic images of Zeiger through the eyes of a meteorologist, and immerse ourselves in a distant and yet not too distant world by means of further votive images. After the passage, we sit in the inner courtyard. The sun is shining. The sky is a brilliant blue.

Text by Michel Rebosura, Das Blaue vom Himmel, 041 Kulturmagazin, May 05/2022, curated by Jana Bruggmann

Concerning the human-made sky
19.3. – 7.8.2022

Nidwaldner Museum
Winkelriedhaus, Engelbergstrasse 54a, Stans