Novartis rooftop

A new kind of photograph taken by someone apparently lacking legs or bodily presence.

It’s strange to be up here – we were below this building, locked outside the campus, looking up and wondering under what scenario they’d be using the loudspeakers.




From research into a new version of LEST WE SEE WHERE WE ARE for Basel – a collaboration with Tim Etchells, with research assistance by Jessica Huber.

Found this photo in the Basel archives – Spelterini going up from the gasworks, now Voltaplatz, where Novartis have their global HQ, and where we’re considering siting the project.
Having made this show already for Dresden, Gent and Utrecht, I know when a photo is going to work… the more you look at this one the more you see, and the more you look into what’s going on, the more you find.

It seems that by this point he was no longer working with the acrobat LEONA DARE. They met in England, but ended up travelling widely.

Here’s a strange entry in the NY Times about Leona before they had met.

Spelterini’s brief wiki-entry life story is at first heart stopping, then heart breaking…

The outbreak of World War I put an end to Spelterini’s travels. Borders were closed, and Spelterini’s balloons remained grounded. He retired as an independent gentleman to Coppet near Geneva with his wife Emma (née Karpf), whom he had married on January 28, 1914 in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.[12] But although he was well off financially, his savings diminished in the war years, and what was left of it was eaten up by the post-war inflation. The airplane had surpassed ballooning, nobody cared anymore about his pre-war exploits, and Spelterini was all but forgotten. In 1922, he hired out as a showman at theTivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, posing for photos and taking people for short rides in a captive balloon. He detested it.[13]Disappointed, he retired to Zipf near Vöcklabruck in Austria, where he had bought a small house and lived from the sale of the eggs of his 300 chickens. In 1926, he tried a last time to revive his old ballooning adventures. With the financial help of some friends, he started from Zurich in a rented balloon. But he fell unconscious during the voyage; his passengers just barely managed to crash-land the balloon in Vorarlberg. Spelterini returned to Zipf, where he died impoverished and largely unknown in 1931.[13]


Back to the photo above… the paragraph below suggests his basket was stuffed with scientists at this time. It wouldn’t be suprising – Basel’s pharma companies were already getting big, and very curious…

In 1891, Spelterini returned to Switzerland. By that time, he was famous for his ballooning adventures. On July 26, 1891, Spelterini made his first ascent in Switzerland, starting at the Heimplatz in Zurich.[7] The initial skepticism of the people vanished quickly, and his starts soon attracted crowds wherever he turned up: Zurich, Winterthur, St. Gall, Interlaken, Vevey, …[6] His endeavours also caught the attention of scientists. On various occasions, Spelterini made ascents with scientists solely for the purpose of conducting experiments: with physicists to study the atmosphere, with physicians to study human blood cells at low atmospheric pressure, with geologists to study the earth from above.[8]


From Aernout Mik >

I am intrigued by the figure of the extra because the extra has a certain dignity. That suits me because they are happy to be on screen and that’s enough for them. They have a certain modesty about them that they don’t want to put themselves so much in the foreground. They don’t disturb the group too much by having too much presence, and yet they still relate to objects in space. They have presence but not too much.

Aernout Mik –



I’m thinking about extras. And audience – as extras.

also getting inspiration from Phillippe Quesne’s Garden Party

last days – Lest We See Where We Are

My new work with Tim Etchells, called LEST WE SEE WHERE WE ARE continues for another 20 days (until 26 October) at Vooruit in Gent. It’s only the second time we’ve shown it since Dresden last year, and the first in English (Dresden was German only).

We’ve radically reworked it for Gent – partly due to the new site and the archive / local photography it incorporates, but also to try out something new. It takes place in two places – indoors, in the main theaterzaal, and outside on the street. You do it alone, it’s only for one at a time. The difficulty of really thinking about or imagining the future is explored by a voice coming from the boombox you hold. It takes the risk of speaking ‘for you’. I’m just standing here, leaning against the wall… holding a portable stereo.

It really sounds like the voice is coming out loud, echoing in the little passageway to the side… and that people passing by in the street must be able to hear it. This very complete illusion is created through binaural recordings and a synchronised bass track which causes the stereo to vibrate against your chest as you hold it. We imagine being responsible for a voice saying such things, thinking through speaking, albeit at times rather clumsily. No, no… that’s not what i wanted to say.

We’re proud of the work and happy to have created what can also be seen as a celebration of this great building, 100 years old this year.


‘Lest…’ is for one at a time and lasts about 45 minutes, but the cycle permits 3 per hour… so there are slots starting every 20 minutes. The hours vary – see the website below – mostly 10am until 5 or 6pm. There are late slots running to 11pm or midnight in the coming days – 10th, 11th and 13th October.


FULL project info (my site) >

monday to friday > 11:00-18:00
saturday > 15:00-18:00
T. 0032 9 267 28 28

Lest We See Where We Are

I give my print-at-home ticket to the inspector of the German ICE train as we travel at 300kph. As he unfolds it I notice some blotches on the reverse side, and worry that my printer has gone wrong and started leaking ink. Later I notice it’s not a stain, but rather Robert Walser, lying dead in the snow on Christmas day 1956… a hasty black and white printout of the famous police photograph that i’d made while working with Tim on ‘Lest We See…’

Walser never made it into the piece. There’s something off limits about the photo, like it really shouldn’t be disseminated any further. But mistaking it for a mistake – a stain on a folded, dog-eared, white sheet of paper – somehow feels right, like a ghost having found a new way to slip into reality.

variations on a binaural storm

To be played together.

A storm

Goldberg Variations (Aria Da Capo )

Summer 2009, Argiano, Italia


Who said German isn’t a beautiful language?

A snippet of Britt’s voice indeed speaking for the new version of THIS IS NOT MY VOICE SPEAKING  which she’s producing almost singlehandedly for the upcoming festival in Bern, Auawirleben.