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SMArt: Between culture and sustainable development

What better way to see and connect with the work of one fine photographer than to visit it with another? Here in Ernen, select images by the Mongolian photographer Tamir Bayarsaikhan (born 1985) are being shown through September in his first solo exhibition, «Shadow on Us.» I shared a viewing of it with Bernard Brand, the affable South African who is this year’s official photographer for Musikdorf Ernen. 

The show is a joint project between the Musikdorf Ernen, artBellwald.ch, and the SMART (Sustainable Mountain Art), a program launched in 2014 by the Foundation for the Sustainable Development of Mountain Regions (FDDM). Over a five-year span, FDDM targets growing an «international and multi-cultural network of artists, art residences, cultural institutions, and sponsors, each of them committed to the sustainable development of mountain regions.» The concentration is on four areas: climate change, water reserves, biodiversity, and migration, topics of great relevance to the Valais, whose glaciers are melting, and farmland acreage is increasingly exposed to harmful environmental factors.

Dating from 1776, Ernen’s Kaplaneihaus near the parish church makes an ideal venue for the SMART exhibition. Striking features of the building are its massive walled cellar and the bronze-colored wood paneling in many of its rooms. Just as appealing is the degree of light that filters in uninterruptedly through the, six-paned windows of the two upper stories. The «Shadow on Us» exhibition housed there explore the many challenges our mountain regions face. But more, the photographs promote an exchange of dialogue, one which proved particularly exciting with another artist working in the same genre.

Bernard Brand hails from Pretoria, South Africa. He’s easy to spot here in Ernen: the lanky guy with a baseball cap who’s transporting a tripod. As an independent art photographer in South Africa, he’s done multiple shoots of instrumental configurations—pop, rock, and classical—as well as portraiture, studio- and artist-promotional work. So, in the SMART exhibition, Bernard’s ably pointed out the subtleties of multi-exposures in a complex image, enthused over technicalities a rookie might not see, and marveled at the subtle beauty in Tamir Bayarsaikhan’s work. Black-and-white images are both artists’ preference. And as chance would have it, the two photographers share other commonalities. Both were born in 1985, and venture with their photographs into social commentary. Both have a tremendous command of ways to optimize their images. And finally, both photographers are showing and working in Ernen, a long way from their homes. Fine with me: one could do worse than be surrounded by such talents.

Ernen, Wednesday, 1 August 2018, by Sarah Batschelet

The exhibition is daily open from 10 am to 6 pm (up to 8 pm on concert days) till 16 September 2018.

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In cooperation with SMART, Swiss cultural partners welcome artists from the Southern or Eastern hemispheres. During their stays, the artists create works that portray the feelings and/or expression that a particular people or location inspires in them, but also point to specific challenges confronting that region. The concentration is in one of four areas: climate change, water reserves, biodiversity/food security, and migration. For more information visit the website of FDDM or artbellwald.ch.