Daniele Buetti
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Presented courtesy of the artist and Bernhard Knaus Fine Art

Contact: Bernard Knaus

Daniele Buetti (*17.11.1956 in Fribourg; lives in Zurich) had his international break through with the workgroups "Good Fellows" and "Looking for Love" (1994 - 1998), which he has shown in numerous exhibitions, foremost abroad. He started by transferring names of multinational groups such as Nike, Coca Cola, Sony or Ralph Lauren as "ballpoint pen" tattoos onto the real skin of New-Yorker passersby, who showed an interest in his "Tattoos 1 $" offer. Soon after, he was applying "pseudo-scarifications" to the skins of fashion models, whose photos from magazines he amended with scrawling handwritten logos.

This ironic treatment of the cult of the trademark (or literally, of branding) was followed in "Looking for Love" by a graphic treatment or overworking of much photographed model skin with ornaments, arabesques, scarifications, and ulcers. The private appropriation of these public images reached a wide public, because Buetti's "operations" even enhanced the beauty of the models in that he - on behalf of us all - set them in a personal relationship to himself, thereby bringing the "models" of entranced perfection back to reality. By suddenly confronting their beauty with cancerous tumors and horrid skin complaints, he indeed also referred to the exposure and vulnerability of the models. In addition, by touching the untouchable, Buetti points to the status of the model as a public projection surface for private desires; a condition that is readily used by the beauty industry.

Should one choose to understand Buetti's work as a criticism of civilization, then only in the original sense of "criticism" as a discourse that functions through analysis, altered duplication, and exaggeration. The simplicity of Buetti's technique of drawing in mirror image on the back of the photo with a ballpoint pen is both amazing and characteristic. The workgroup "Looking for Love" embraces the complete emotional spectrum from the child who blackens the tooth of a TV-star with a scribble, through an adult's absentminded telephone-drawing that alters the face of a model, to the violent injury of an actual physical assault on media stars.

Daniele Buetti has always been an artist, who has had a socio-political approach to the present, who has invested himself and his art, has been in search of the friction between art and life, and has understood his job of an artist as one to be exploited to the extreme (just as other jobs). This, he does with a passionate commitment if not to make our times more bearable, then at least to give us a better understanding of them. His basic existential nature is already quite clear in the early "Flügelkreuz" project (1989 - 1993). The Flügelkreuz, a sign invented by Buetti, infiltrated all possible contexts and was therefore an exemplary sign that could be used and also misused for various purposes. The ultimate expression of the polyvalence of the Flügelkreuz - and this is a bit of the irony of fortune - seems to be that the sign has now found large circulation in the context of a Swiss publicity campaign for waste disposal.

As "A man is his job" (title of a Flügelkreuz piece from 1993), Buetti also always reflected his role as an artist. This he did - in his guise as salesman or religious representative, for instance - in a serious but self-ironical, humoresque and tragicomic way. Appearance and reality, illusion and disillusion, construction and deconstruction of feelings, all these focuses of Buetti's action question the nature of suggestion. First of all, in surface reflections: skin, wrapped consumer world, medial shine, and the world of apparent pleasures as the final value of a disorientated and drifting society.

Buetti's light pieces run under the name of "Dreams result in more dreams" - almost a Hollywood slogan - that seen at closer quarters is of ever more intense insidiousness. As a further development of the pseudo-scarifications, Buetti perforates his source images from the magazine world with light, still the most seductive and magic of all media. The light pieces swell out to excrescent installations, which, on a soundscape background, take up entire rooms. And in this twilight between appearance and reality, catchphrases questioningly shine out into the art world: "Is life really worth living?" or "Can I get satisfaction?" or further "Did you ever consider suicide?" These great existential questions, the questions of authenticity and maybe also of pretense, the questions as to real desires that risk getting lost under the cover of consumerism and its excesses, Buetti presents these questions, and that is the true refinement of his work, in a concealed way, virtually disguised in a deceptive pseudo-kitsch.

Under the saturated surface of consumerist satisfaction, the abyss winks. And it is not so that Buetti doesn't have any understanding for the constructions, with which our society shapes its apparent satisfaction. He very well knows that no one will get around accommodating to and resting in these provisional arrangements. Buetti himself offers these spaces of illusion. And one cannot accuse the artist of equipping them with trapdoors or of delivering disillusion on the reverse; on the contrary, he presents us with a sharp analysis, diagnosis, and maybe even prognosis of our times.