Peter Liechti - Signers Koffer (1995)




Signer’s "action sculptures" involve setting up, carrying out, and recording "experiments" or events that bear aesthetic results. Following carefully planned and strictly executed and documented procedures, the artist enacts and records such acts as explosions, collisions, and the projection of objects through space. Video works like Stiefel mit Rakete (Boot with Rocket) are integral to Signer’s performances, capturing the original setup of materials that self-destruct in the process of creating an emotionally and visually compelling event. Signer gives a humorous twist to the concept of cause and effect and to the traditional scientific method of experimentation and discovery, taking on the self-evidence of scientific logic as an artistic challenge.



SIGNERS KOFFER is a kind of road movie across Europa. From the Swiss Alps to eastern Poland, from Stromboli to Iceland. Always following the scenery's magically charged contours. Immersing yourself, letting yourself be infected, then travelling on. Roman Signer determines the route that we are moving on and the film improvises along the way.
Being on the road also means tracking down the right places. Signer brings them alive using his own personel instruments, brilliantly simple operations full of subtle humour. «Simple» poems being transmitted into space with INSTRUMENTS as gunpowder, fuse, rubber boots, balloons, stool, small table ... and a three wheelded Plaggio.
SIGNERS KOFFER is also a journey through the state of mind. A tightrope walk between fun and melancholy. Danger also mental mental danger becomes the stimulus of the senses. Sudden crashes, abrupt chagnes of mood determine the rythm and atmosphere of this cinematic journey.

«On the balance between Schalk and melancholy... On the way with the artist Roman Signer - an attempt to the ideal cruising speed.»

"Signer’s gestures are not heroic, although, appearing as a dramaturge of suspense, he causes an explosive release, even a psychosensual detonation. He does not fill the expected role of the ingenious, individualist artist; in every situation, he is, and remains, the ironic, modest Homo faber. We may admire Signer’s skillful manipulation of dynamite. When an exploding umbrella shoots into the ceiling and stays there without blowing up the entire building, the charge is so precisely calculated that his audience gasps in relief ."

Bice Curriger

On the road with Roman Signer

by Peter Liechti


Art critics have often characterised Roman Signer as a «maximalist of modesty». He works with the very simplest of props, that don't claim to have any artistic (but certainly aesthetic) worth, and are used in a purely functional manner. In his performances we i can experience how Roman Signer, or rather his constructions and landscapes, are exposed to elemental natural and physical forces. He specifically puts them to use and includes them in the creative process thus giving his 'sculpture' shape. After a long preparatory period full of suspense the real event is like a stroke of lightning great expectation before and then an even greater longing afterwards for 'it' to happen again…

Roman Signer has never conformed to any kind of trend, he has never simply followed current ideas. His personal way of life and his work are conspicuously unfashionable, albeit absolutely modern.


His own timelessness is an expression of his independence and gives a clearer more undistorted view of the prevailing signs of the times.

In the seemingly simple arrangements of his 'performances' Roman Signer serves only as the trigger nature and time do the rest... Which also means: Roman Signer's work is mainly creating shows and very often films too. For the past 15 years he has documented his performances himself in short super 8 films. Impressively simple short films full of fun and poetry, often no longer than 30 seconds. Using our own cinematic resources we aimed to take the essence of those short films and transfer them into a geographical/cultural context, that extends beyond the limits of the art sphere. Beside this his performances are particularly engaging visual events that have a certain parablelike approach to human destiny and certain natural phenomena. His performances are never just a show to be seen but also make us see in a deeper sense. What primarily seems to be a demonstration of energy takes on a highly meditative character when further contemplated: actually a continual reminder of transience.


As a film maker I saw my task in the preservation of work that so resolutely resists commercial evaluation (also on the art market… ) or at least in capturing it photographically, so that in some way it would endure.

The sensuality and simple clarity on the one hand as well as this unimpeachable, almost religious being on the other were the challenge of filming Roman Signer's work On the cinematic journey we made together Roman Signer in a way dictated the route; the film improvises as we proceed on our way.


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