If you click on the “Links” menu item of the Swiss Institute (New York) website, you’ll find yourself at once thrust into the curatorial sensibilities of Gianni Jetzer. The links are formatted along the lines of “Top Ten Lists” and toy with the often baffling correspondences of expression found on the internet. These top ten lists also reveal a fascination with the architecture of the everyday.
Helvetica Bold met up with Gianni Jetzer to take stock of his time so far as Director of the Swiss Institute, New York.

You’ve been here for a year (almost), what’s been your favorite moment?

There are many, there are favorite moments every day,

For example?

I think its about the intensity, and the ability to feel normal. In Switzerland high expectations are something special, here in New York, everything is so vivid and over the top that you feel normal. I’ve never felt so normal in my life—and those are the great moments, I think…

So are you catering to a New York audience, or do your concerns stretch beyond that?

The New York audience is a huge one. New York City is 8 million people—from so many different backgrounds, and that is a challenge in itself. I think it makes sense to focus on different things. I do care about this—we have a Swiss public, we have a New York public, an American public, Asian, European, African—from all over and that’s the important thing. I’d like to breakdown those 19th century ideas of nationality and Switzerland is a perfect model because Switzerland is a product of métissage, it’s not one pure culture—it’s a mix of different cultures, different languages, different mentalities…
I love the generosity of the Swiss identity.

Let me rephrase the first question. Are there any shows or events in the past year that you are particularly proud of?

Last Sunday, for example, we did a hike with Fischli-Weiss (two Swiss artists currently showing at SI). It was nothing in particular—some people expected the artists to show up in a costume or something. They did not. They were just hiking in the wonderful nature of upstate New York, made a fire, grilled sausages, swam in the lake and then went home. People were so enthusiastic, we got emails from people saying “I’ve never experienced anything like that before.” And today, I think you can. I’m very thrilled by the idea of doing very simple things—they spent the day with Fischli-Weiss, got to talk to them, hang out and share a wonderful time…
I’m very impressed by that simple, but very effective, concept .

How do you generally gauge the success of a show?

On the one hand you can count visitors, and it certainly makes sense to do so. On the other hand you can read press articles and see the impact in the press—the show right now(Fischli-Weiss) is very popular in the press. There’s also the guest book, how people react to it, the kind of comments they leave. Also within the staff for example, how they react to a show. But beyond that, I think a show can be a success even if it doesn’t have a review in the New York Times, because we always also try to present new and unknown positions, and sometimes the press has a hard time getting it.

A few months ago you presented the Swiss cult band, The Young Gods and the space was completely transformed into a performance lounge. There used to be a library—that’s gone now. Does this fluidity reflect a changing agenda?

To a certain extent, yes, but I don’t think it makes too much sense to say this is art, this is music. I’m more interested in witnessing contemporary life.
On the other hand we work with precise concepts and ideas— and try to give them maximum impact. I’m thrilled at the possibility of programming different media and to have also different audiences. Eventually we want to do more events with music, theater, performances and so on.

So what’s up with the French Brunch?

It’s a coincidence that the current show ends on July 14th. Our brand has a lot to do with national identities and it ends on a day that is known worldwide as Bastille day. So I thought we should make it the French National Brunch, and as it happens, there’s a very nice edition by Fischli-Weiss in the show that is a tape of one hour of French radio music out of a hotel room. Actually it’s just a radio tape—there’s also reggae and all kinds of music on it. We’re going to put the tape on and offer a guided tour through the show, drink champagne, eat brioches and croissants.
On one hand its fun to be in the Swiss Institute in New York—we’re an American not-for-profit, we have this Swiss name, we celebrate the French National Day to end a show with two Swiss artists and a German artist.  While we want to respect national identities, we also want to break them down a little bit. And I think we are allowed to do this as the Swiss Institute, if we do it in a respectful way.

Outside of SI, are there any shows, exhibitions, festivals that pique your interest?

There are always interesting shows worldwide.  For example here in New York, I saw a show at the Sculpture Center by a Polish artist, Christian Tomaszewski. He rebuilt the hotel in Blue Velvet, the David Lynch film and he reconstructed out of cardboard, each and every lamp in the film—it’s a crazy and uncanny vision, this reinterpretation of the film…
In Basel I went to see the Schaulager which is really an incredible museum. It’s beautiful: so precise and so different, I was shocked by the quality of this museum. I thought to myself “Wow”.

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