Museum Tinguely in Switzerland presents Debris Field (2010–2016) by Lois Weinberger, from 17 April to 1 September 2019. Debris Field stands for the variety of approaches and modes of expression employed by Weinberger. In a fascinating way, this artistic-archaeological work explores and presents relics from several centuries of history found at Weinberger’s parents’ farm. The farm managed by the family until today is linked to Stams Abbey and reflects a history of mutual influence. It preserves and tells stories of piety, superstition and the sparse life full of privation between the high culture of the abbey and forms of behaviour linked to the late medieval period. Debris Field has the form of an excavation that takes place in the sedimentary layers of time in the attic and gaps between the floors of the building. Due to the lack of contact with the ground and dampness, this ‘archaeology of the housed’ reveals a wealth of objects much like a chamber of curiosities, an amazing universe of peasant life that enables a more profound take on everyday life.
Among the most fascinating relics are finds that have their origins in rituals of folk culture to ward off calamity. Such para-religious apotropaic objects, such as animal skulls, dog paws, a mummified cat and individual shoes of the dead kept in the false floor, assert themselves in their direct power alongside testimony of Christian belief, including holy texts, indulgence certificates and penitent notes, pilgrim badges and reliquaries.
Weinberger sees the house as an archive of life and the relics as marginalia that define the true focus of the archive, its gaps. He lends expression to these essential gaps and their spaces of memory with poetic works and thus illustrates an everyday surrealism with objects, drawings, texts and photographic works. Associative, playful-animistic stagings arise revaluations, including things that are not considered of import for classical archaeology. For example, snippets of newspaper chewed up by mice to build a nest which are then eaten by silverfish around the printed letters.
Lois Weinberger – Debris Field is the third exhibition in a series that seeks to engage in a dialogue with Jean Tinguely’s Mengele-Dance of Death (1986) and strives to emphasise the multi-layered aspects of this late key work. For the opening of the new exhibition space, the first presentation in 2017 with Jérôme Zonder directed attention at the aspect of the critique of totalitarianism; the second with Gauri Gill focused on the subjects of memento mori and the Danse Macabre. The third show with Weinberger opens a dialogue around the various farm biographies that served as material sources of inspiration for the two works.