The Doors of Perception, 2011
Artists: Sofia Izrael, Arkadiy Nasonov, Sergei Nikokoshev, Cora Piantoni, Maria Pomiansky

“That humanity at large will ever be able to dispense with Artificial Paradise seems very unlikely. Most men and women lead lives at the worst so painful, at the best so monotonous, poor and limited, that the urge to escape, the longing to transcend themselves if only for a few moments, is and has always been one of the principal appetites of the soul. Art and religion, carnivals and saturnalia, dancing and listening to oratory – all these have served, in H.G. Wells' phrase, as Doors in the Wall.” Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception

Under the title “The Doors of Perception” - a clear reference to Aldous Huxley's book bearing the same name – the exhibition investigated notions like unconsciousness, dreams, awakening, desire, fantasy, fears and changes in perception. Using different media and different narratives, the artworks described moments of losing balance and seeking for a new perspective, moments that occur during dreams, panic, as a result of ecstatic experiences, alcohol, drugs, sensual pleasures, or simply by contemplating the Alps, a flower, or drinking a glass of water. The works investigated what happens when we become aware of what we have not been aware before. In those moments, attained by natural or artificial means, we manage to unmask the fictitious, unreal character of our “normal” consciousness, of our “normal” lives.  

With the exception of artist Cora Piantoni, the show presented a Russian “version” of these moments of escaping the conscious and rational world, Russia itself being seen by the art critic Boris Groys “like a dream, like the time and space of dreaming, but also like a sphere of Lacanian psychoanalysis, a sphere of free combination of signifiers, a practice of Surrealism's automatic script.” (Boris Groys, Russia as the Subconscious of the West). All four Russian artists have strong relationships to Switzerland, two of them living in Zurich for quite a while. The experience of relocation or simply of coming in contact with another culture are also moments of unbalancing one's mind and producing new perspectives - a topic omnipresent in our globalized age.

Arkadiy Nasonov, one of the leading artistic figures in the Russian scene today, is an artist, writer and curator with many exhibitions and projects in Russia and abroad. He was a member of the “Medical Hermeneutics” group, as well as founder of the Cloud Commission group. Exhibiting for the first time in Zurich, the artist presented twelve portraits of different personalities during their visits to Switzerland, drawings made while the artist himself visited the mountain regions of the country. The characters and the places mentioned in the drawings were real, but the substances these personalities are supposed to have been used are fictitious and sometimes “harmless” (for example Hoffmann is depicted "after drinking a glass of water"). Nasonov's project was about the role played by Switzerland in the collective (un)consciousness.

Maria Pomiansky is an artist born in Moscow, who lives and works in Zurich and Tel-Aviv. Within the frame of “The Doors of Perception” exhibition the artist showed paintings and sketches depicting those moments in a housewife's life, when she discoverers that there is much more to life than being a perfect wife, as well as the video “The End of Light”, in which the artist investigated some of our most common fears. 

Sergei Nikokoshev is a video artist living and working in Zurich. He showed a video installation depicting an apparently “classical” and stable architectural structure, which, at a closer look, proved to be unbalanced, conflictual (the combination of styles) and somehow “fake”, duplicitous. One could read in Russian: “Attention, the roof is shaking!” In colloquial Russian, the word “mind” is often replaced by the word “roof”. Thus, losing the stability, losing the “roof”, stands for the beginning of a (dramatic) change of perspective. 

Cora Piantoni works with photography, installations and video. For The Doors of Perception she created a series of photographs depicting short-time sleepers who are taking a rest during the day. Piantoni was interested in sleep as a time-out, as an entrance into a world with its own rules, possibilities and anxieties. She was fascinated by the body as a mediator of this passage, in moments like those when the body is kept still while the mind gets the sense of rapidly falling lower and lower, without ever touching the ground. 

Sofia Izrael is a ceramic artist, who uses this “joyful” medium for dealing with serious subjects. Her works show a constant dose of humor, as well as a certain poetic atmosphere. At artfoyer she exhibited a model of the molecule of LSD in ceramics and created painted ceramic warming bottles, bearing the portraits of famous neuroscientists. Her work talks about physical experiences, which can create doors into the walls of perception.