The Roman period of the Swiss artist, some decisive years where she developed the sculptural approach to photography that would shape all of her later work.
Hannah Villiger lived and worked as a resident artist at Istituto Svizzero in Rome from 1974 to 1976. There she realized her early artistic ideas and developed the sculptural approach to photography that would shape all of her later work—namely large-format photographs of her own body arranged into blocks of several images, which show close-ups of sometimes fragmented and abstracted body parts. Villiger viewed herself as a sculptor rather than a photographer, and these Roman years were decisive in shaping her artistic practice. In her studio and in the garden of Villa Maraini, she first developed simple objects inspired by the materials of Arte Povera
, then gradually shifted to photography, perceiving it as a more sculptural method.
Published on the occasion of Works/Sculptural
at Istituto Svizzero in Rome, Villiger's first major solo exhibition in Italy, Hannah Villiger: Roma and afterwards
expands the horizon of the exhibition with unpublished materials from the artist's estate as well as images from her working diaries that offer insight into her artistic practice in Rome.
How do we draft a life, make of it a project, do our daily work? In what material and language does it arrive to us? And what if but it is done with one's own body, and that body becomes this material but not the subject? Villiger's autofictions––whether sculpture or image, human or vegetal body––prompt such queries. As Giselda Pollock writes brilliantly, "here are the collected works that form the project that we name
Hannah Villiger. She is not the originating and knowing cause of the work, but the site of its daily compulsion.
" — Quinn Latimer
Swiss artist Hannah Villiger (1951-1997) studied sculpture with Anton Egloff at the School of Applied Arts in Lucerne from 1972 to 1974. In 1974 she received the Swiss Federal Art Scholarship and a scholarship for the Istituto Svizzero in Rome. She lived in Rome until 1977, first at the Istituto Svizzero and then in the Trastevere neighborhood. After that, she moved to Montefalco, Italy, before returning to Switzerland. Starting in 1986 she lived in Paris, and between 1992 and 1996 she held a teaching position at the Basel School of Design.
Hannah Villiger's artistic work is recognized in Switzerland and internationally. In 1975 she represented Switzerland at the 9th Biennale de Paris alongside John Armleder
and Martin Disler, among others. In 1981 she took part of the group exhibition Künstler aus Basel (Artists from Basel) at Kunsthalle Basel, followed by the solo exhibition Neid (Envy) in 1985, curated by Jean-Christophe Ammann
. Institutional exhibitions have taken place at Centre culturel suisse
, Paris (1986); Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel (1988); Kunstverein Frankfurt (1991); and the 22nd Bienal de São Paulo (1994), where she presented her work in the Swiss Pavilion together with Pipilotti Rist. Posthumous solo exhibitions have taken place at Kunsthalle Basel (2001); Kunsthalle Bonn (2001); nGbK Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin (2002); MAMCO
Musée d'art moderne et contemporain, Geneva (2007); Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel (2008); and Centre culturel suisse, Paris (2012). In 2020 and 2021, Villiger's work was included in group exhibitions at Kolumba, Cologne, and the Museum zu Allerheiligen, Schaffhausen.