The best way to find out what holds the world together at its very core is to cut it open. Cathedrals, skulls, the hulls of ships, the circles of hell, volcanoes, blossoms, caterpillars or even entire mountain chains – nothing and nobody can escape the exploring cut. Be it a cross section or a longitudinal section, the most important thing is that it runs right through the middle. The world opened up in this way is presented as images, models or at the object of curiosity itself.

The exhibition shows how the cross section functions as a visual principle of insight. It is presented as a versatile and effective method of visual communication, be it in medicine, architecture, biology or geology. The works in the exhibition tell an exemplary story of the symbiotic relationship between art and science. While scientific researchers adopt many of the established methods, techniques and compositional strategies of art in order to visualize their findings, artists, in turn, appropriate the specific visual syntax of the sciences in a way that at times seems to verge on expropriation.
The method of obtaining certainty about invisible inner worlds by cutting clearly through it, not only connects art and science, but also very different epochs. The exhibition shows cross-sections from the 15th century to the present. Not all of them come from the Graphische Sammlung: important loans from a total of eight different ETH collections and archives enter into a dialogue with them.
Curator: Dr. Susanne Pollack

In her work, Lara Almarcegui (*1972) investigates urban zones, she explores the relation between construction, decay and regeneration of our built world and engages with property situations of natural resources. In 2013, she became famous for her work created for the Spanish pavilion at the Venice Biennale. There, she heaped up mountains of construction rubble inside the pavilion, which were equivalent to the amount of material used to erect the building. Visitors were able to see the building as well as the raw material. Materiality and construction became tangible in a physical and direct way. Almarcegui describes her approach as follows: “I am searching for a way to talk about architecture while avoiding images.” She succeeds in doing so by meticulously doing researches, by gathering information and creating a dense net out of them – comparable to a scientist.

Since the middle of 1990s, the artist, who lives in Rotterdam, collects historical, geographical, ecological and sociological facts on buildings and peripheral areas, on materials and natural resources. Almarcegui often moves at zones of transition. She draws our attention to abandoned, mostly empty and often forgotten sites in a city or on the periphery. These wastelands, with or without modern ruins, become overgrown and – simultaneously – bear first signs of the possibility of urban development in a near future. She interrogates experts on such “terrains vagues,” and notes all these information in small artistic guides, in which one can find a matter-of-factly alternative interpretation of the history, presence and future of such a zone.

In ETH’s collection of prints and drawings, such guides will be on view together with other projects of the renowned artist. For the first time, there will be a particular focus on the impact of drawing. Abstract drawings, which came into being in conjunction with her purchase of mineral rights, are displayed next to nearly expressive ones, which make the projects of heaped building material a subject of discussion. Almarcegui always takes up issues of great importance: She renders visible that the built world is never detached from political, social and ecological changes. For the simple reason that neutrality is an illusion.

Curator: Dr Linda Schädler, Head Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich

Exhibition generously supported by: Ernst und Olga Gubler-Hablützel Stiftung