Full steel profile
About 60 m (length) x 2 x 2 cm
At first, you perceive it as a long curved line in the space, starting as an abstract squiggle wiggling across the otherwise immaculate architecture until you notice the snake heads with their almost cheeky expressions – one at each end! One protrudes out of the foyer into the corridor, greeting anyone coming in, and the other bends down elegantly to a bench, offering its services as a kind of armrest.
- Zurich, Swiss Re Next
© 2015 Valentin Carron
Image copyright: Stefan Altenburger
Subtlety and ambiguity are typical qualities of Carron's art: things are often not what they initially seem. Beginning with the way Carron tends to work with found materials: he takes other artworks, craft objects or architectural elements, imitating, translating and reworking them. In some cases, these source materials are copied one to one, in others they are modified, in others still merely quoted as a recognizable style. And it comes as no surprise that the heads of the snake, too, are not Carron's invention. They are cast from an Art Deco grille at the head office of Zurich's Fire Police.
The relationship between humans and snakes is a difficult one. Their near soundlessness, their stony gaze and their tongue-flickering trigger deep-seated fears, especially from a western perspective shaped by Christianity and its myth of the expulsion from Paradise. In other cultural milieus, however, snakes have been admired throughout history: for their elegance, for their wisdom and intelligence, and not least for a certain subtlety and discrete humour. So when the artist Valentin Carron is installing a long, elegant wrought-iron snake in the foyer outside the auditorium at Swiss Re Next, winding its way in gentle curves around the high-ceilinged space, he is referring to the fact that things often have two sides, that they can be ambiguous and multifaceted.