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Switzerland

When Contemporary Art Lands In A Highway Rest Stop

In Switzerland, a provocatively mundane location for top avant-garde art. But can you find something more important than a full tank of gas?

Some 30 works of art have been installed inside the rest stop
Some 30 works of art have been installed inside the rest stop
Jill Gasparina

MARTIGNY — There may be no location seemingly less appropriate for an art exhibition than a highway rest stop. Visitors are often in a hurry and far from the state of mind that an encounter with works of art requires. As for the spaces themselves, they're a long way from the large and enclosed white cubes we usually find in museums.

And yet, the decision to organize the fourth edition of the Valais contemporary art exhibition La Triennale at the rest stop Saint-Bernard, is far from absurd. First of all because the gas station has long been an object of interest for artists, since the 1960s. Second, because the American mythology around roads has a particular echo in the Swiss canton of Valais. And finally, because a rest stop is an excellent metaphor for a cultural world that's increasingly in pursuit of events such as biennials, triennials and the like, which wind up visited at the speed of light.

The Triennale commissioners were particularly clever to use the entire site. Some 30 works of art, from Swiss as well as international artists, have been installed inside the rest stop and its immediate surroundings. Well-known among the locals, the site offers an unusual, and curiously photogenic landscape with its two ponds, surrounding mountains, a cable car, power towers, a wind turbine, orchards, an industrial poultry farm, and even a military fort. "You have the whole Valais region inside one square kilometer," says Simon Lamunière, one of the three commissioners.

Spending more than 20 minutes is uncommon

The location brings together so many of the themes of a changing society, and especially that which regards our relationship to entertainment, nature, trade and tourism. What place can art have in these transformations? Should it be more "event-driven"? More commercial? Can it touch everybody?

By way of answer, a series of works offer an ironic vision of the "high-speed tourism" society. On the car park, Laurent Faulon's burnt and glossed Mitsubishi takes center stage amid functioning cars, while a series of tents installed by Jérôme Leuba offer a dystopian fiction.

Inside the station's shop, visitors will find a Jaguar that François Curlet turned into a hearse. It's the same car used in the 1971 movie Harold and Maude, in which a young suicidal man falls in love with an 80-year-old woman.

It's easy to appreciate the sweet paradox of using a space normally devoted to consumption for an exhibition, but we must also admit that the rest stop's daily activity often interferes with the access to the works on exhibit, and which aren't always highlighted, or even visible. The most convincing works are really the ones visitors can find outside.

Organized like a paper chase, the exhibition takes the visitors along the pond, where they can see Lang and Baumann's floating structure, then to the orchard until the natural reserve where the rivers Dranse and Rhône meet. There are also works the evoke the absence of body, like Delphine Reist's empty boots or Fabrice Gygi's Autoportrait, which seems to be resting away from prying eyes.

Spending more than 20 minutes in a rest stop is uncommon. But the experience the site offers is worth it. Even if the background noise from the highway is always present, it somehow also helps to progressively move us away from civilization.

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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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