Presenting data on death, entropy and authority.
Once, though long ago, the great scientists were also great artists and philosophers. Somewhere along the line, the method of scientific inquiry became detached from the creative process, and the act of creation became antithetical to the pursuit of absolutes. Fascinated by the act of creation, Eva Zornio strives to reconcile a cultural divide by conducting an ongoing investigation into what it means to be able to perceive. Having established an artistic practice rooted in her studies in biology and later in neuroscience, Zornio conducts research studies that blend rigorous methodological inquiry with a studio practice to form her approach to art making. The artworks themselves are stirring and soothing, uncanny and uncomfortably intimate in equal measures - data is gathered and presented within a defined framework, lending an authoritatively factual tone to the inherently subjective experience of viewing art. The slippage between what an artist creates and what a viewer perceives is a key component to the artist’s practice. Yet the way in which one can experience art is entirely fictional, as a viewer creates a narrative pattern through which to understand the work, be they in two dimensions or within the walls of an installation. Eva Zornio creates works that reach out in an attempt to understand the viewer, even as the work is being understood. In the process, the artist has built a bridge between two opposites, dissolving a centuries old dichotomy that exists between the creative arts and the scientific method.
My work is informed and formed by ideas of embodiment, affect, fiction and interaction.
Do as I say, not as I do.
The question of whether an artwork encapsulates its own universe, or exists as an extension and elaboration of a homogenous space shared by everything else is a fruitful philosophical topic. Eva Zornio harnesses that powerful mechanism that allows artworks to have a transformative effect upon those that encounter the work, to create often interactive and immersive artistic environments that push at the boundaries of established aesthetics. There is a further question, asked all too often in contemporary discourse, of whether we can trust the facts presented by experts. The artist is always the expert in their subject, and Zornio is no exception. Within the video installation To Poke Gently in the Ribs (2022) the artist presents a familiar figure, a gym instructor, or perhaps an influencer who suggests a series of follow along exercises that start as light stretching, and develop swiftly into highly charged eye gazing, weird and eerie facial contortions that one would only dare to make privately to oneself in a mirror. The title is a suggestion of what is expected, a hint that the artist wishes to engage and notice what can happen during moments of participation that would usually be considered inconceivable. In another video work, less viewer participation is advised; we step through a lens and into the microscopic world of single celled organisms, and watch a timeless struggle between order and chaos, characterised by equilibrium (death) and that which is far from equilibrium (life). Therefore in Paramecium's Death (2018) we follow what may be a typical observation of the biology student learning about the magical interaction of living things on the one-way journey to becoming non-living things. However, Zornio presents the artwork to revisit stages of life, reanimating these tiny squirming things over and over, before returning to the pointed moment of absolute annihilation, the moment of sticky stillness where we are left acutely alone and all too aware that the artist has, without putting too fine a point on it, murdered all her microscopic friends.
Text by Jonathan Ferguson
Biography of Eva Zornio
born 1987 in Arlesheim, Switzerland
Master of Arts, work.master, HEAD, Geneva, Switzerland
Bachelor of Arts, cinéma, HEAD, Geneva, Switzerland
Master of Science, neurosciences, Université de Genève, Geneva, Switzerland
Bachelor of Science, biologie, Université de Fribourg, Switzerland
Entangled Events, Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, St. Gallen, Switzerland
Pleure-moi une rivière, Soul2Soul/RU, Geneva, Switzerland (SOLO)
Study on Empathy #6, Backslash Festival, Zurich, Switzerland
Life lives in gaps, EAC - les Halles, Porrentruy, Switzerland (SOLO)
Swiss Art Awards 2021, Basel, Switzerland
Instabil II, Ausstellungraum Klingental, Basel, Switzerland
33 drawings of empathy, Grand Palais, Berne, Switzerland
Bourses de la Ville, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland
Unexpected Delivery, Espace Libre, Bienne, Switzerland (duo)
Nona Decima Morta, Sissi Club, Marseille, France
Etudes sur l’Empathie, Fondation Ricard, Paris, France
Sauve qui peut, LiveInYourHead, Geneva, Switzerland
Nothing is always something, LiveInYourHead, Geneva, Switzerland
Vedo Non Vedo, Istituto Svizzero, Rome, Italy
Image:Reading, Forde, Geneva, Switzerland
Residencies & Grants
Research, Recovery and Residency Grant by the City of Geneva, Switzerland
Nomination at the Swiss Art Awards
Artistic research grant by the City of Geneva, Switzerland
Nominated for the City of Geneva Scholarship, Switzerland
2019 à 2022
Studios of the City of Geneva, FMAC, Geneva, Switzerland
2020 & 2022
Residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, France
2018 & 2019
Summer Academy ISR x HEAD at the Institute Svizzero, Rome, Italy
I propose situations, I play at composing and decomposing interactions, I seek to unfold structures.
Works by Eva Zornio
2018 / Video, 1'20'' / Dimensions variable / €330
Life breath in break
2021 / Video diptych, 14'/21' / Dimensions variable / €2,450
In little slits lives the life (#1, #2, #3)
2021 / Print on plexiglas / each 115 x 81 cm / 45.3 x 31.9 in / €1,350
To poke gently in the ribs
2022 / Mirror screen and video, 16' / 211 x 81 x 12 cm / 83.1 x 31.9 x 4.7 in / €7,500
Oh life lives in gaps
2019 / Maple wood / 200 x 110 x 70 cm / 78.7 x 43.3 x 27.6 in / €4,500
High tide / Low tide
2022 / Glass / Dimensions variable / €2,300
Cahier d'Artiste by Eva Zornio
Who are you performing today, 210 x 260 mm, 160 pages (Japanese binding) (published by Jungle Books)
After studying biology and earning a Master’s degree in neuroscience, Eva Zornio turned to art. In 2015, she completed a Master’s degree in contemporary artistic practice at the Haute école d’art et de design Genève. Her artistic work includes installations, performances and videos. Influenced by her background in biology, and by her fascination with life sciences, she explores social realities, works with embodied microfictions and evokes affects.
Eva Zornio’s Cahier d’Artiste, entitled “Who are you performing today?”, is based on the answers to a survey, ‘Affective evaluation’, that she collected during the Backslash Festival in Zurich in 2022. The four questions that she posed to the audience and their corresponding answers established the book’s structure. Interspersed with excerpts from the survey is a conversation with Lucie Kolb, specially conducted for the Cahier d’Artiste. Eva Zornio conceived her monograph as an ‘empathetic book’, and this is reflected in its paper, format, weight and colour choices.
“Who are you performing today?” does not only provide answers, as its link to the survey might suggest, but it also poses questions to the readers and invites them to explore the various facets of their identity.
Lucie Kolb (Basel) is a critic and author. She earned her doctorate in 2017 at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, writing her thesis on the strategies of art publications since 1960. Recent publications include ‘Der radikale Katalog’ (Fabrikzeitung, 2021) and ‘Artwork as Institution. Stephen Willats’ (BNL, 2019) as editor, and ‘Study, Not Critique’ (transversal texts, 2018) as author. She conducts research at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design’s Critical Media Lab in Basel, teaches in the BA in Fine Arts programme at Zurich University of the Arts, and is co-editor of the online art criticism magazine Brand-New-Life.
Eva Zornio is part of the Cahiers d'Artistes selection. Eight artists were chosen by a jury to realize an artist book with the support of Pro Helvetia. Their artistic practice is presented online on TheArtists.net.
With the Cahiers d'Artistes, Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia enables artists from Switzerland to have their first publication and offers art professionals and the interested public a window to current trends in the Swiss art scene. For the first time, the Cahiers d'Artistes are not pure monographs, but artist books designed and produced by graphic designers Samuel Bänziger, Rosario Florio, and Larissa Kasper (Jungle Books) in close collaboration with the artists. More about the Cahiers d'Artistes on Pro Helvetia's website.