Between 1975 and 1989, the Swiss film and video pioneer Roman Signer made 175 Super 8 films of short actions, in which he has various objects catapulted, exploded, collapsed or sunk, in endless amusing variations. Signer calls these actions ‘Kurzzeitskulptur’ or ‘Dynamische Erscheinungen’. The seriousness and precision with which each work is carried out lends his oeuvre a sense of urgency. His recent videos are somewhat less hilarious and reflect on what it means to be an artist, for example. One example of this is the video-Piaggio Nachtfahrt from 1999. A film projection on the back of the van shows a night-time journey from St. Gallen, where the artist lives, to the mountains near Appenzell, where Signer recorded his first Super 8 films in 1975.

Water is a leitmotiv in Signer’s life and work. Of all the natural elements he likes working with, water is by far the most important. It appears in a great many guises: as a rhythmic element, a structuring principle or an all-destroying force. As a boy, Signer dreamed of navigating white-water rivers. As an adult, he embarked on strenuous kayak trips in isolated mountainous areas, until, one day, one of his friends failed to return from such a trip. The kayak has been a recurring element in his work ever since. Wasserinstallation creates a vacuum where the beginning and end of an imaginary journey converge. In this domain of silence, meanings flow into one another effortlessly, without ever taking definite shape. In contrast to the fleeting character of Signer’s Aktionen, time has no hold on this stainless steel basin with the gently floating kayak.


  • Title: Wasserinstallation
  • Creator: Roman Signer
  • Date: 1999
  • Physical Dimensions: 12 m.
  • Provenance: Acquired with support of WML. ©Roman Signer, Peter Cox/Bonnefantenmuseum
  • Medium: Stainless steel, water, kayak, peddle, video

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