Reality hacker Peter Regli’s terrific new tome documents 34 years worth of public disruption and displacement
Swiss-born artist Peter Regli is the very best kind of disruptive. The principal concern of his practice is in creating interventions in the public realm, subtly subverting the day-to-day experience of the every-man with indirect alterations, or surrealist confrontations. Whether that be throwing sealed bottles containing $5 bills stamped with his address into the ocean every six hours, on a ferry crossing from Montreal to Antwerp – “There has been no response thus far,” he optimistically notes of the project – or commissioning a series of 12 enormous marble snowmen, depicted in various stages of melting, from a traditional Vietnamese family who specialise in creating marble Buddhas for Buddhist temples, for installation in New York – there’s no limit to the breadth of his ideas. “I chose the snowman because of its Buddha-like nature,” he said of the latter project, SNOW MONSTERS. “They appear briefly in the world, bring joy and evoke memories of childhood, then disappear again, melting away without complaint.” Installed as they were in the middle of a busy New York street, the sculptures were intended to “interrupt the routine of the commuter and provide a humorous diversion within the wintry New York landscape.” Safe to say, they succeeded.
Far from a disparate set of ideas, each of these singular projects forms part of ongoing series Reality Hacking, an opportunistic series of anonymous experiments in public spaces. To date, the series comprises over 300 such acts, with more occurring every day – from 8,000 clown noses placed in the mailboxes of Switzerland's largest urban housing project, to a recording of roaring lions played from hidden speakers to a troop of holidaymakers on safari. The transient nature of his work means that often it lives on only in its documentation, and as such, lends itself neatly to book-form. Ephemeral Works: Journeys, Markers and Displacement, 1981-2015 records 34 years worth of the artist’s curiously confrontational work in satisfyingly full-bleed photographs, published by Kiito-San and preceded by a foreword from Darren Bader. Little explanation is needed for photographs of a bell installed in the centre of a sprawling desert, or a red pole piercing the otherwise empty sky above a mountainscape in the alps. Above all else, Regli's work is intended to encourage its viewer to ask questions, rather than to find answers, and as such it makes for the best kind of nourishment for an inspiration-hungry mind.
Ephemeral Works: Journeys, Markers and Displacement, 1981-2015 by Peter Regli is available now, published by Kiito-San.