Shedhalle as a space for process-based art
Processes are a tool to open up unknown spaces of thinking and action. It is at the core of our work. We continue a history that allowed authority to be transferred from artists and institutions to the audience. Art takes part in the creation of actual communities.
The world is shifting, and art institutions are charged with negotiating social questions. Hence platforms, which dynamically promote social, technological and ecological change are increasingly important.
Essential issues converge in the cultural sector: debates around the inability to act politically, the empowerment of marginalised groups, and ecological sustainability. Museums, festivals, and theatres are laboratories for change and testing grounds for utopias. In this, we see the purpose of Shedhalle, and we respond to the need for new strategies of exhibition-making.
The idea behind process-based art begins with experimentations in the middle of the 20th century, i.e. the era when genres were dissolved in favour of a new conception of art. The genesis of the work was just as important as the final product—if not more so. Painters staged themselves in the process, sculptures became polyvalent entities, theatre approached performance art and the other way around.
The new definition of the artwork has left its mark on theatre and on music, and the integration of different media is by now a standard procedure of contemporary art. However, the permeability of works and disciplines cannot be told as a simple story of progress, much less as a neatly defined narrative, because it is due to much larger social, political, and cultural changes.
The Protozone as a format for process-based art
To consciously incorporate this thought in an art institution, we developed a new format: the Protozone. It gives space to collaboration and to exhibitions, whose openness is still visible. The Protozone can accommodate any form of art, and it gives room for workshops and scholarship, which in turn engage in a process with other elements in the zone.
The Protozones at Shedhalle are designed to be inclusive, and they enable the collaboration of artists and people with different backgrounds. They allow for slow and persistent action, they create a space where processes can unfold.
Shedhalle and its Protozones are places for unconventional practices and for experiments. They give a platform to artists who work in different disciplines, and whose complex biographies and identities we want to accommodate. We perceive the Protozone as a starting point for a community of artists and activists who do not conform to the demands of the art market.
Each year, there are four Protozones. They have their own topics and follow their own rules. They are subdivided into two phases. The first phase lasts from a few days up to a week, and it is supposed to initiate artistic processes and to activate installations and works. The house stays open during this time, the artists are present, existing artworks and situations are being presented and developed, new ones are being produced. The practice itself becomes visible.
In terms of intensity and immersion, the first week resembles an exhibition that has been opened too early. The second week recalls a conventional presentation, which is accompanied by a programme of events. In addition, each Protozone leaves something. Artefacts and texts will be preserved in the freely accessible archive of the Shedhalle.
The term Protozone has a twofold origin. The Greek prefix proto- signifies a preliminary or an early stage. Phonetically, the word recalls the protozoon—Greek for “the first animal”—a single cell organism that carries the potential of future evolution.
Another association is the zone, which is, beyond urbanism and land use, a recurring concept in science fiction. Zones, in this context, are frequently areas with rules of their own, where utopia seems possible.
The Protozone is not purely speculative. It is a means of anchoring the idea of process in the institution itself. Besides cooperations with international artists, we collaborate with artists from all parts of Switzerland, local initiatives and institutions—including the fields of technology, science, and activism—to connect our activities to the immediate surroundings.
With this, we continue Shedhalle’s history. The institution has its origin in historical struggles for autonomous spaces in Zurich. Our aims include the coexistence in a post-migrant, open society, as well as ecological sustainability, in order to continue the negotiation of social and artistic processes.