The Radical Traverse of Space-Time Through the Picturesque Landscape:

A SHORTKUT walk, talk, and re-envisioning of J.M.W. Turner's Schöllenen Gorge

Nino Baumgartner & Rebecca J. Squires

The work SHORTKUTS by the artist Nino Baumgartner is created by choreographed "walks" that interact with the topography on the one hand and with private and public spaces on the other. Thus put their connections into a new context.

Together with his guests, he slowly explores the surroundings from the starting point - which can be a school or an exhibition space; he looks for the fractures in the city and the wilderness in the urban space.
Participants enter a city structure alone, with the help of GPS data, or as a guided group, become sensitized to an urban wilderness, and experience a neighborhood in a unique way. SHORTKUTS guides the walkers to seemingly inconspicuous places and draws attention for once to these supposed sideshows of urbanity. The experience of space through unusual routes opens up a new narrative through cities and landscapes for the participants.

Turner’s Turn by Nino Baumgartner. Commentary by Rebecca J. Squires.

Turner’s Turn, an aerial investigation by Nino Baumgartner, evokes the hovering, vertiginous view of Schöllenen Gorge encountered in J.M.W. Turner’s 1802 painting series. A drone surveys the span of the Devil’s Bridge, while the flattened planes of the canyon walls flicker between the second and third dimension, re-orienting themselves according to the trajectory of the drone, tossed about by the wind. Subverting the human-observation-centered, empirical legacy of the picturesque, Baumgartner shows the subject-objectification of the landscape through a non-human perspective. The instantaneous conversion from nature to art, intrinsic to the picturesque gaze, is now perceived and transmitted by the drone. Nature’s sublime, terror-inducing power, expounded by Burke and Kant, is registered in the disoriented wobble and audible reaction of the drone. The drone crash lands in the snow, struggling to right its artificial horizon.

J.M.W. Turner, A Ravine in the Pass of St. Gotthard, 1802, gouache, graphite and watercolor on paper, London, Tate Gallery.
The interstitial space of the picturesque functioned as a laboratory in which the perceptual, aesthetic, philosophical, and scientific innovations of the long eighteenth century could be tested and displayed. The spectator’s ramble bisected the picturesque landscape, fragmenting it into tableaux, creating a fugitive space which flickered between nature and art, the third and the second dimension, and linear and non-linear time. The traverse acted upon the topography of the landscape, which, in turn, transformed the consciousness of the participant, laying a foundation for the development of modern perception.

The picturesque view implied an instantaneous transformation from landscape to image, creating an in-between space which hovered between the apparent contraries of the picturesque. The visual transposition involved in the picturesque represented a greater transformation of perception and consciousness. This was effectuated not only through visual means, but along a multisensory scaffold invoking the aesthetics of the sublime and the beautiful, eliciting a synaesthetic state that stunned and disoriented the spectator, suspending them between dualities.

William Turner, while not strictly a picturesque artist, responded to its problematics with innovation, effacing the boundaries between worlds, transcending the dichotomic precepts of the picturesque. Turner’s reconciliation of topographical representation to the visual experience of the landscape, the roving three-dimensional view to the single perspectival prospect, and absolute and relational time, seem a manifestation of Hegelian sublation, in which Being, as a stable moment, passes to its opposite, Nothing, and is destabilized, forming Hegel’s “unity of distinctions”.

The Radical Traverse of Space-Time Through the Picturesque Landscape: A SHORTKUT walk, talk and re-envisioning of J.M.W. Turner’s Schöllenen Gorge seeks to demonstrate the subject-objectification implicit within the landscape traverse and its manifestation in art. This ramble through space and time will challenge the continuity of the gaze and linearity of the promenade, creating a trajectory that continually re-orients and re-envisions the traverse in space-time. This fluttering, or papillotage between competing points of view is exemplified in J.M.W. Turner’s 1802 A Ravine in the Pass of St. Gotthard, where the hovering gaze is deflected between planes in the rock stratae, dissolving and re-materializing according to the oscillating focus of the viewer.

Photo Credit: Nino Baumgartner

Nino Baumgartner (b. 24.02.1979 in Bätterkinden, Switzerland) is based in Bern.

Baumgartner studied at the Hochschule der Künste in Bern (2004-2007) followed by his Masters in Contemporary Art Practise at the HKB in Bern (2010-2012).

Selected solo and group shows and performances: 
Biennale de Bregaglia, (2020); Shortkuts, Zürich/Basel/Bern/Stuttgard a.o. 2015-2022; Water Yump, Tinguely Museum, WW&ShanghArt; Energy Rescue Manuever, Vitrine Gallery, Basel (2018); MANEUVER / GROOVE SPACE, Kampnagel, Hamburg, (2016); Maneuvers and Formation, Rockbund Museum, Shanghai, (2014); Dallas Biennale, Texas, (2014)

Selected grants
Continuer, Canton of Bern, (2022); Working grant, City of Bern, (2017); Working grant, Canton of Zürich, (2014); Swiss Performance Award,(2013); Travel grant, Canton of Bern, (2009)
Rebecca J. Squires is an artist-researcher and curator at LUCA School of Arts, KU Leuven, Brussels, where she is investigating the traverse of the eighteenth-century landscape and its role in the development of modern visual perception. Squires’ papers have been presented at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Baltimore;  and III International Congress Architecture & Landscape, Granada in 2022; The Gardens Trust, UK; and Architectural Association Visiting School, Venice in 2021; and KU Leuven, Brussels in 2019. Peer-reviewed publications include: “The Radical Traverse of Space-Time in the Eighteenth-Century Picturesque Garden”, Arquitectura y Paisaje: Transferencias Históricas, Retos Contemporáneos (Madrid: Adaba Editores, 2022) and “The Picturesque Deception: The Eighteenth-Century Picturesque View as Imperialist Mechanism”, Unearthing Traces (Lausanne: EPFL Press and Centre d’art Neuchâtel, 2022).  With a background in art, design, and curation, Squires has been a curatorial and exhibition team invitee to the Venice Art Biennale in 2019 and 2017, and is currently an artist in residence at the BAC Art Lab, Leuven. Her curatorial work includes the 2017 Nordic premiere of Swiss artist Klaus Lutz at Alvar Aalto’s beta Space in Espoo, Finland.