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Myriam Bargetze

sculptor, painter, performances, Liechtenstein


Myriam preparing for her performance,
Herzskaräus (Heart Scarab),
Innsbruck, 1995.

"...for any movement animated by love moveth from the periphery to the center, from space to the Day-Star of the universe..."

Selections from the Writings of
'Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 197-8.

...The cloak or skin form emerges in much of her work. She often creates skeleton-like forms, sometimes relief forms that seem to cover carved-out negative forms in wood, such as in her Backs series of 1985 - 7. In many of these reliefs she has sewn stocking thread across a metal structure...
These backs relate to Matisse´s back series where he was concerned with deconstructing form. In contrast, Myriam emphasizes the surfaces... ...the association of surfaces with the content, meaning or function of a particular form or body, and in particular to all these female bodies...

...some cloak objects are so contorted that they become entities rather than shells or surfaces, again leaving open how we wish to interpret an altered relationship between surface and interior or between object and subject.

Her performance pieces are more clearly symbolic-poetic references to the body-self...

In her performance Ein Schifflein im Garten Wartend (A Barque (a three masted boat)
awaits in the garden) (the title refers to Baudelaire´s Le Voyage, where he writes of the soul as a three masted boat in search of its ideal country), she hung from a halter outside the top window of the Pully Museum (Switzerland)...
Then took gulps of water from two bottles hanging from ropes beside her. She swallowed the contents of the first bottle and spat out the contents of the second onto the audience below.

The audience would associate this act of acceptance and rejection with wine-tasting and applauded when she swallowed and showed shock when she spat the water out. Then she took two sheets of paper and folded paper boats out of these and then these fall. Then she was lowered slowly to the ground to land with her feet into a pair of gumboots that had been placed at the top of the steps. Each gumboot was full of coloured water, one blue, the other red: the national colours of Liechtenstein. As she ´landed´ there was a splash of colour as each foot slid into each boot.

She then disengaged herself from the ropes and walked slowly and methodically along a path marked by strips of cloth resembling an extended zebra-crossing.

Ein Schifflein im Garten Wartend (A Barque (a three masted boat)
awaits in the garden),
performance made at the Pully Museum and City Chambers, Switzerland.

The formal path symbolized daily life in a bureaucratic society. She followed the path, walking into the city council chambers, then to the gravelled garden behind the museum with the public following her. She walked to a circular table and laid herself across this to face a paper boat that was waiting for her on the ground. She then picked this up and placed the chain that was connected to it in her mouth so that it hung from her while she turned her whole body around in slow circles on the table. The piece finished with a garden sprinkler starting up, spraying everyone there: they were ´given´ water.

Myriam says that the boat was like the Bahá´í Faith. It was something she was searching for and yet she did not really know what she was searching for. At the same time the whole piece referred to nationhood and identity -something that each Liechtenstein citizen is highly conscious of, being such a small country set in a valley between Austria and Switzerland.

[image of Argus to come here], 1988.

She said that her ideas are often just flashes of a colourful and sensual world, and that it is difficult to fix on a particular point or moment when everything seems to be like a moving carousel. At the same time, she is aware that it is easy to get distracted and lost in turmoil when working in such a way. She believes that there are essential forms or essences that the artist strives to reveal or indicate.

"Argus" was a sculpture which dealt with her search for her identity, with the two wire legs, each representing her biological and her step-father.

Myriam was born in Triesen, Liechtenstein in 1963 and after taking a foundation course for art school in St Gallen, Switzerland, studied sculpture at the Innsbruck Technical Institute in Austria from 1981 until graduating in 1985. Then she went to Paris intending to do more study but instead met the Uruguay performance artist Hector Solari, who inspired and supported her, so that they started making performances together.

Three months later, back in Liechtenstein, she and Hector did their first performance, Häute und Morgen (Today and Tomorrow. Haut also means 'skin').

Here six individuals walked along the Rhine wearing enormous cloak-dresses made out of waxed paper and wire until they reached the last remaining wooden bridge which crossed the Rhine in Liechtenstein.

Myriam (on left) with the procession - performance Häute und Morgen, 1985.
Häute und Morgen, 1985.

This is also the location for the inter-regional Austrian-Swiss- Liechtenstein arts festival. The six then processed to cross the Rhine on the bridge to where six gallow-like wooden forms were erected, and each hung their cloak there. It was now dusk and then each cloak was lit and burnt leaving a circle of ashes and wax under each frame. The work related to ritual and to the transitory nature of our outer selves. We shed our skins, constantly change our thinking or form of living, as do all organic forms. The burning symbollized transformation, leaving or revealing the wire skeleton form underneath. The forms were not destroyed, just the skin. It was important to Myriam that the cloaks had been peopled during the performance because it was not just a reenactment of a ritual, as processions are often seen to be, but a performance about transformation in which the burning as the final part.

Another performance, "Sonnagsgeschichte oder kein wort zum Sonntag" (1989) (Sunday's story/history or no word for Sunday) also involved cloaks and the theme of transformation. Located in the Swiss Pfaffikon Museum, it began with a man cycling around the gallery space wearing a cow's skull tied to the top of his head. Then Myriam and Hector walked into the space wearing huge wire and paper wings and then laid these wings on the floor behind two centrally placed chairs.

Häute und Morgen, along the Rhine, 1985.

While they walked out of the space, another man crept anxiously along the walls, as if he was scared or looking for something to steal, until he reached a wall painting of a rock-like cloud and then stood still as if transfixed. At this moment Myriam and Hector re-entered the space wearing each other's clothes. They then sat at the chair, putting on snorkels and flippers and then while holding up rosary beads appeared to be reciting the rosary. Their voices were muffled by the snorkels so no one could hear that they were actually swearing and cursing in Spanish. Here the theme of transformation takes on a strange twist.

It was Myriam and Hector's response to hearing that Catholic mass was now transmitted by radio. They saw this as absolving Catholics from attending mass - a substitution of form for the reality. The performance began with a spoken reference to the story beginning on a Sunday, but that there was no word for Sunday. Their actions were intended to show ritual where the form was dislocated from the meaning and the rock-like cloud painting symbollized a blocked spiritual view. The piece ended with two men crawling into the wing-forms and Myriam and Hector getting up from the chairs to hang their rosary beads on hooks on a wall. They then pulled the two men out of the space, by the wings. This performance and installation then toured to Luxembourg and Munich.

The quest for the spiritual has always been an important aspect of her work, even when it is not a conscious aim. Many of her performances contain multiple references, sometimes consciously delibrated over, sometimes felt intuitively. Such as the paper and wire wings in this performance. The wings, normally associated with flight or transcendance, here, removed from a body lie on the floor, seem heavy, useless and end up cocooning the two men. In her performance work she usually works in collaboration, so that her creative process is in active relationship with others either as collaborators or as performers.

She was awarded a residency scholarship to go to Portugal in 1990 and while in Lisbon made a performance in the city botanical gardens with the Swiss artist, Rolf Konrad. The Lisbon choreographer Margarida Pinto Coelho, the poet Luc Benazet and the composer Nuno Rebelo also worked with her on this. The piece, "Atras de um arbusto um papa - formigas esverdeia de vergonha" (An ant eater hiding behind a bush -turns green out of embarrassment), involved about twenty collaborators and performers. It began with the opening of the gates of the gardens to let the public enter and walk down a path. Along the way objects hung from trees, creating sounds, and music and poetry could be heard as well.

Then at the top of some steps, ten performers lay on the ground. When the public had gathered around them, they began skimming on their backs, wrigglingly their way out of their loose clothing, down the stairs, to reveal white clothing underneath. They then stood up and walked down the remaining stairs to step into gumboots filled with white fluid, making a series of movements before walking to the edge of the circular pond in the centre of the gardens. The public followed and watched. Myriam was seated in a very high chair in the middle of the pond, engaged in cutting pieces from a very long grey beard she wore and letting the pieces float away in the water. Some of the performers also walked into the pond.The route took about twenty minutes and the actions, music/sounds, poems (heard at various points) all contributed to this sense of another world. During the whole time, Rolf walked around dragging a bath so that for the public he seemed to come into focus and go out of focus. Each of the performers were invited to themselves in the work so while the general choreography was clear, they did not move in unison but rather seemed to be involved in a process, beginning on the ground at the top of the steps.

Myriam performing in Atras de um arbusto um papa - formigas esverdeia de vergonha, Lisborn, Portugal, 1990.

Meanwhile while Myriam was cutting away something aged and masculine from her face she sang an old war song Nina Hagen had re-recorded about transformation, awareness of one's past and the need to detach oneself from the past to move into the present. Once she had completed cutting off the beard, she got off the stool and walked into the park to turn on a sound installation which the public encountered on leaving.

The performance was repeated three times over three days with about 50 members of the public attending each time. The reference to embarrassment in the title of the work was to her own embarrassment in not being able to explain what she was doing, as well as her own feelings towards to the Bahá´í Faith which she was investigating at the time, as well as to her own confusion about her identity. She had just discovered that her biological father was Portugese, not the father she had been raised by.

Herzkaräus (heart scarab),
performance made at the Innsbruck (Austria) Art Pavilion residency, 1995.

As painful as the discovery was, it helped her to understand things about herself. But it was a very hard time for her and she went into a depression for about 6 months after this. At the end of this, she decided to join the Bahá´í Faith and soon after started work as an art and craft teacher in different schools in Liechtenstein.

In 1991 a process of a new orientation in her life began and after a few years on a 'art fast' where fulltime teaching during this period also helped her to work on her emotions and her investigations. Joining the Bahá´í Faith was overwhelming at first, and then in 1994 she then got back into exhibiting doing a three month sculpture residency in Innsbruck and combining her two loves: performance and sculpting.

Excerpts from Arts Dialogue September 1995

In 1996 she spent several months sculpting with Zimbabwe sculptors at a symposium in Harare and through her BAFA got in contact with some of these sculptors.

Currently she is based in Liechtenstein, exhibiting regularly, doing commissions and teaching three dimensional studies to architecture students. In the last few years her main medium has been sculpting in stone and illuminated paper and wire installations.

Leaning on another world, stone sculpture, 1998,

"Anftrag", (licht bilder) (Illuminated image), 1998 / 9,
translucent paper, wire.

"Im Schwung", (licht bilder, nr. 19) (Illuminated image, number 19), 1999,
translucent paper, wire.

"Freude üder das Nichtwissen", (licht bilder, nr. 16) (Illuminated image, number 16), 1999,
translucent paper, wire.

"Weite", (licht bilder, nr. 13) (Illuminated image, number 13), 1999,
translucent paper, wire.

"Anftrag", (licht bilder) (Illuminated image), 1998 / 9,
translucent paper, wire.

Carried Sleeping Spirit, 1999 Stone sculpture by Myriam Bargetze.

The Titel is "Medusa is seeing", 2003.
In 2003 she worked on themes related to myths and portraits.


  • Sculpture:One, Arts Dialogue, November 2002
  • Sculpture: Leaning on another world, Arts Dialogue, October 2000
  • Sculpture: Carried Sleeping Spirit, Arts Dialogue, June 2000
  • Illustration: Sculpture in clay, Arts Dialogue, June 1999
  • Illustration: Sculpture, Evolving, 1996, Arts Dialogue, December 1998
  • Illustration: Sculpture in springstone, September 1997
  • Illustration: Installation, The Curtain Falls, 1988, March 1997
  • Hanging Forms: Passajero im Wind, Arts Dialogue, December 1995
  • Artist Profile: Arts Dialogue, September 1995

Arts Dialogue, Dintel 20, NL 7333 MC, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands