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«Firewater» at the pyramids

By Shirley L. Kearney / Stephan Theurich from “Feuerwasser”

The video and sound installation project “Firewater”, which took place at the pyramids in back of the Basel Theatre during Art Basel, will be repeated until 31 December. The time is from 5:30 pm to 11:30 pm. The visual effects combined with the sound heard through individual earphones, produce moments of complete involvement and rapture.

Stephan Theurich studied sculpture in Germany from 1994 to 1998 and Media Arts at HGK Basel from 1998 to 2002.
Most of the time, Stephan Theurich is working on a site-specific basis, i.e. he thinks and designs his video installations specifically for a particular site. He may for example find his inspiration from the spatial structure of the site, which can of course be a completely individual interpretation of the site. The four tetrahedrons (pyramids) impress him since he moved to Basel in 1998.
For many years, the tetrahedron fascinates Theurich as the first possible space-body uniform: with only four corners the tetrahedron opens the tetraeder to the third dimension with one further point above the surface. The idea to play with it from the inside out with a light / video installation came up in 2001. It’s also at this time that Theurich had the idea to install it during Art Basel, a time where he feels the city is longing for night art and media installations, a time also where an international audience would have the opportunity to see it. Since then, it has been the matter of a love affair for Theurich, who always had an internal conflict with it.
When meeting Dieter Zimmer in 2013, it turned out quickly that Theurich and Zimmer (project manager) both could understand very well and had similar ambitions for this collaboration. Then things fell into place: in 2014 Theurich had the opportunity to make experimental video recordings with the model Joanna Deborah Bussinger (Basel-Oslo), which represents a large portion of the content of the work.
Also in 2014, the sound designer Amadis Brugnoni and the Swiss vocal artist Christian Zehnder 2014 came on board for the sound composition and to finalize the acoustics, ensuring consistency with the original sound concept developed by Theurich.
Since immemorial times, elements of fire and water have been a great artistic source of inspiration, either as a theme or from a content or qualitative perspective.
With this work, Theurich’s desire is to connect these elements in a passionate and sensual way, to make it a sensually tactile spatial experience. It is not about reassuring any intellectual concepts or making relations – that could be endless.  Rather, Theurich’s intention when installing “fire water” is to enable an individual sensual experience of harmony between the sound and the images.
Stephan Theurich’s approach of connecting the two elements and mixing them is rather unusual, as both elements are often perceived as oppositional forces according to human experience.  In water and fire resides the whole spectrum of life and growth, rest and relaxation but also the possibility of unlimited destructive power.
Fire and water, or in other terms combustion processes in an aqueous environment, are also an inherent part of our human experience and our human bodies: our own life processes are completely unconscious to us.
This is what Theurich would like to achieve with this installation: diving under in unconscious processes and feelings.



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