Swiss artist Andy Storchenegger’s artworks deal with the collective phenomenon of the idea of paradise on Earth. With a background in graphic design studies from the Master of Fine Arts at the École Cantonale d'Art (School of Art and Design) in Lausanne, Switzerland, he has created works in a wide range of mediums, from video to sculpture, performance, dance, and also installation.
Storchenegger’s pieces involve researching archaic customs in the South Pacific, South America, and Africa, which he directly visited. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, he tends to seek out the wild and primitive aspects of Swiss folklore. He is interested in how many pagan and other cultural customs have been preserved in Switzerland, charting the roles they play today.
In his early 2023 solo show at the Kunsthalle Wil in Switzerland, Storchenegger explores humankind’s relationship with the forest as its place of origin through a series of sculptures and video works. He traces how the forest is a place of community where so many different organisms coexist as parts of a larger whole. Trees, fungi, mammals, and insects live together all while they are collectively recognized as a forest.
These parts are simultaneously losing themselves and being recognized as individuals since their absence can be strongly felt, much like how humankind operates in a society, cultivating empathy from humankind to care for its mirrored half, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Life on Land.
Likewise, his piece Space to Replace aims to emulate what it feels like to reconnect with nature while camping out in the woods. According to the Kunsthalle Wil, the experience of going through Storchenegger’s works recalls a statement from German romanticist painter Caspar David Friedrich, who once said: “Nowhere is man more with himself than in the forest or in the view of it." Reminding viewers of their ancestors’ forest habitats, where all of humankind once stood, and weaving its way to cities and communities where it exists now.
Storchenegger’s video piece, Two Guardians, emulates the sentiment of humankind mirroring a forest perfectly. The video is a recording of a performance where a person dons a triangular mask made of mirrors. The mask reflects the surrounding forest they are in, while in the centre of the mask, where the person’s face should be, is a single all-seeing eye that constantly scans the forest, scrutinizing and reflecting.
It is as if the piece claims that the forest is mirrored in the human soul and culture. The person’s movement around the forest contemplates their origins, mythifying the forest as a place where humankind was created and was born for the first time. This piece forges strong symbolic images shaped by its characters of surreal codes and dreamlike stories—it is mysterious, abstract, and uplifting at the same time, hopeful for a coexistence between humankind and the forest.
In Storchenegger’s other video piece, Im Wald des Vaters, which translates to In Father’s Forest in English, audiences follow a tree stump as it decays and fungi grow and thrive from it. Eventually, the fungi make their way to human hands and emerge from the stump and soil around it, just like the fungi do. These hands eventually return to the earth, paving the way for more fungi to grow.
This video piece traces a connection between how fungi create connections in the forest and how humans forge connections with each other with their hands. Mushrooms on a forest floor are linked through a mycorrhizal network of plant veins, allowing different organisms to share nutrients. This ensures the survivability of a colony instead of just an individual, much like human life in society does. This video piece, much like the exhibition, again traces how there are so many poetic metaphors of human life in forests, since, after all, society did originate in them.
Overall, the presence of Storchenegger’s pieces cultivates within their audiences a sense of wonder and appreciation for forests, which will hopefully move them to pay more attention to these magnificent habitats, which are crucial parts of a planetary ecosystem.