Abendmahl (The Supper)

Art project that brings people together

Imagine a large hall with 10-12 large pictures framed in dark, heavy wooden frames on the walls. The images differ in colour and style, but unite in theme and story. They show 13 people who had come together to break bread with strangers and to share communion. 12 stories of encounters and discussions , one story of a supper that brought them together. a community.                   

               a Clip out of the “Abendmahl” event that took place at the Kvalito consulting offices in Basel 16.05.24

For the last 10 years, I have been dealing with the topic of “community” and the role of the artist in the community. This was done by working artistically with sub-communities or subcultures, thereby enabling their inclusion in the general discussion. “Subcultures”/social groups I have worked with include Russian and Ukrainian mothers, adults with autism, Syrian refugee children, Swiss women leaders, Belarusian LGBTQ, and people with dementia.

A direct side effect of these art projects was the possibility of an informal shared intellectual experience through art with all participants. This often resulted in a strengthened personal self-awareness, which led to a constructive “we-feeling”. For me personally, this feeling became the main motivation for my art.

The series of projects mentioned was brought to a halt by the corona pandemic. After a break of almost three years, I was able to visualize a new art project in early February 2023:

Inspired by an article that explained that: When a couple sits together with their smartphones on, their brain actually sends a feeling of loneliness, so they are actually lonely even when they are together. I took an old idea and worked on an “intimacy” project, portraying couples and asking them what intimacy means to them.

Inspired by an article that explained that: When a couple sits together with their smartphones on, their brain actually sends a feeling of loneliness, so they are actually lonely even when they are together. I took an old idea and worked on an “intimacy” project, portraying couples and asking them what intimacy

L und C Mix Media on Paper 60x80cm , 2023

A key question that emerged from the project was whether our children could achieve the same intimacy that we can in the face of digital media and AI deluge. If they could even muster the patience and perseverance that is necessary to make a steadfast relationship possible?

The developments in the field of AI over the past few months and the more profound insight into our general relationship with technology that I have gained through the project have paved the way for the start of a new art project that I feel is of great urgency.

“Abendmahl” is intended to pursue the emergence of a congregation through art. From the creation of small family cells through the small communion process with 13 people, to the common self-awareness of a church with 150 members, which is very diverse but has a clear – if only artistic-cultural – common denominator.

“Abendmahl – in privaten Rahmen”
(Supper – in a privet setting)
88x176cm mix technique on canvas
was created during the painting session that was organized by supporters of the project on
September 23erd 2023

Here you can read the full concept: Abendmahl (The Supper) Concept in French

The project should address two main questions:

How are communities formed?

Will we be able to form or sustain a community under the influence of AI and the increasingly advanced “communication tools”?

Whether the project can actually create a community remains to be seen. However, the project was intended to bring people together both on the ground level and on the meta-level, both in the context of the smaller “Last Supper” events and in the context of the final installation.

The basic idea:

By painting different group pictures with 13 people each and putting them together to form an installation, a community with 120-150* members is created with the help of art.

Concept:

In reference to the story of the “Last Supper of Christ” and its artistic traditions through the millennia, 13 people are invited to supper. In an art action somewhere between performance and installation, this «last supper» is captured in all its facets as quickly as possible.

Such “Das Abendmahl”* events are repeated throughout Switzerland, each time with new guests, until a total of around 150 people have been painted (i.e. 10-12 times).**

By means of an installation of the various “Das Abendmahl” pictures and an event where all participants can come together, a new community will ultimately be created and celebrated through art.

Lipstick Leaders 2016-2019

Lipstick Leaders, a leaders portrait series

On the 1st of June 2018 Daniel Eisenhut’s “Lipstick Leaders” premiered at The Kraftwerk in Zurich. The concept for which was first conceived in October of 2016. The idea was to look at leadership in the most authentic way, and to present this vision to the public, without political agenda. When Daniel Eisenhut thought of leaders, he thought of women. Without hesitation or afterthought, for him there was a clear connection between the two. In this connection, he saw the idea for an art project. He would create an installation reminiscent of the walls of the past that were, as per tradition, covered with the portraits of prominent men. Austere portraits the focus of which were prestige and authority, rather than aesthetic beauty. This time the wall would be covered with women who so naturally took on varying positions of leadership.

Of course, as with any project, once it expands beyond the space of the artist’s mind it takes on its own life. Once open to the scrutiny of others, questions, and critiques flow in. One such question Daniel Eisenhut faced with regularity was: “why women?” The association of women in leadership is not one that has always been automatic in our society. Yet the purpose of the project was not to prove that women could be leaders, but that they already are.

Growing up Daniel Eisenhut saw plenty of strong female leaders. During his time in the Israeli army, the vast majority of those training to be military leaders were women. Eisenhut witnessed first-hand the strength and determination of these women, and it further cemented in his mind the symbiosis of femininity and leadership.

Growing up Daniel Eisenhut saw plenty of strong female leaders. During his time in the Israeli army, the vast majority of those training to be military leaders were women. Eisenhut witnessed first-hand the strength and determination of these women, and it further cemented in his mind the symbiosis of femininity and leadership.

“Why ‘lipstick’”, was the question that most often followed when people heard the title of the project. “Lipstick” was added to the title of this project rather ironically. The idea was to subvert the idea of women as merely beautiful. While cosmetics are often associated with external beauty, they can also be used to draw attention. The mouth is highlighted in these otherwise colourless portraits, and the onlookers are thus called upon to listen to what she has to say.

During the drawing sessions, Daniel Eisenhut interviewed each woman. Asking questions about her approach to leadership, her ideas of what leadership meant, and allowing space for each leader to tell her own story. Some women focused on their upbringing and beginnings, while others focused on their current careers and how the world viewed them in these roles. Each woman had a chance to speak and be listened to. All the while Eisenhut drew them as they presented themselves, and the result were serious, headshot like portraits, for the most part unsmiling. A streak of lipstick over their mouths, simultaneously reminding the viewer that these women have something to say, and that there is beauty in seriousness.

For the portraits Daniel Eisenhut chose what he believes to be humanity’s most prevalent and primal substance: charcoal. He employed the use of carbon-based charcoal to create portraits that would serve to connect us all in our humanity. Afterall we are all made of carbon. This medium, combined with the presentation of the works at The Kraftwerk Gallery, draws a clear line between primitive cave paintings from our past and the portraiture of prominent figures in our present. Society is key in perceiving these business-like portraits, in observing how women in leadership roles are perceived, and in how they present themselves. Daniel Eisenhut uses charcoal to remind us that we are humans first and that our society is what brings us together, just as cave paintings and campfires have done since the dawn of socialization.

Coming up to the show (June 1st, 2018) I got invited by Ana Aaria Montero to her show to talk about the project.

Daniel Eisenhut created “Lipstick Leaders” as an attempt to bring the pack back together. So often we focus only on our differences. The “lipstick” that makes some less serious than others. The high position that raises one above and away from the rest. The desire to be seen, heard, and understood is something that we all feel. “Lipstick Leaders” takes these often-opposing ideas of vanity and hard work, of female and business, of cave-painting and headshot, and brings them together to make a point. A multitude can be contained in each and every one of us. A portrait can be both black and white and colour. A woman can have a career and be a mother. Charcoal can be both primitive and revolutionary. Lipstick can be both beautiful and serious, subtle, and urgent, superficial, and profound.

By reminding us that many things can be true at once, that “and” is often more authentic than “but”, Daniel Eisenhut’s “Lipstick Leaders” is about so much more than maybe assumed at first glance. It is about women. It is about leadership. It is about society, history, and humanity. It puts a specific part of society on display and shows one part in a new light to remind us that we are a whole. Each portrait so obviously belongs to the same series, is uniform in its likeness to the next, and each woman is her own person at the same time. Each story is different, and there is a thread that runs from one to the next and through us all as humans.

After the initial show at The Kraftwerk Gallery in Zurich, Daniel Eisenhut has continued to portray and interview women in leadership roles. Over 150 portraits have been created over the years, and they have been displayed in various forms in multiple cities throughout Switzerland. Each exhibit allows the project and portraits to be seen in new ways. Art, and individuality, and community intersect at each event, and in every space, people are brought together.

When Daniel Eisenhut first set out to begin the “Lipstick Leaders” project, he received unwavering support from his men’s group. The belief these men had in his project confirmed Daniel Eisenhut’s idea that “Lipstick Leaders” could be a place of convergence for society. The women leaders were part a vast community and could be authentically portrayed as such. They were not seen as as opposition or outsiders, but rather were welcome as part of our society’s leaders.

Intim

From Friday to Sunday, February 3 – 5, 2023 Under the motto “Intim” I have portraited of couples in the “Kunstsichtbar” gallery.

Ulterior motive

Intimate: Following intimacy with my art is a long-cherished wish of mine. Above all, the question «how is intimacy captured/shown in my work? ». Can I see it? How is my perception reflected in the picture? This is thought outside of the usual pictorial compositions that are art historically intended for romance and “love relationships”.

L and S – Mixed Media on Paper 60x80cm 2023

In a past attempt to start such a project, I asked an acquainted mother of three how intimacy reflect in her relationship. She said, «When me and my husband watch a movie, each in his corner of the sofa and between us a big bowl of popcorn ».

This image intrigued me because it contrasted with any pictorial idea of ​​intimacy. When I sat down to write the current project version, this sentence was brought back to my consciousness. I don’t want to see the idea or the cliché about intimacy I want to see the true simple or complex reality.

This image intrigued me because it contrasted with any pictorial idea of ​​intimacy. When I sat down to write the current project version, this sentence was brought back to my consciousness. I don’t want to see the idea or the cliché about intimacy I want to see the true simple or complex reality.

Interviews

In addition to portraying the couples, I asked the what “Intimacy” means for them.

The Videos are the outcomes of the interviews, they are all in Swiss-German and German in time ill add a translation.   

Intim – Konzept – Concept

The Pink Mark – July 2015

Art Project on the topic of human rights and tolerance

When approaching a new project, Daniel Eisenhut values authenticity above all else. Before creating any pieces, he takes the time to look inside and discover if it stirs him. Self-reflection is important to his process, as is looking at the world around him. Daniel Eisenhut talks to people, observes, and investigates the nuances within a cause. If he feels there is something there, that speaks to him, he his driven to make art. Art that speaks to the people who see it on a deeper level than anything that is merely aesthetic. Daniel Eisenhut’s work has meaning to him first, and thus continues to carry meaning out into the world.

As with any project curiosity is the first step. One rooted in society and our collective past, as important to building a community as to rooting one, necessarily requires a conversation starter. With his “The Pink Mark” project of 2015, Daniel Eisenhut set out to start one conversation. How dangerous is a mark? How easily is it given? What can an artist do, to show the humanity of those once marked as “other”? These are some of the concepts explored by Daniel Eisenhut in his project “The Pink Mark”.

LGBTQ Rights Art-Project, Belarus

Many of the atrocities of the Holocaust during WWII are well-known. Millions suffered and died because the state no longer saw certain groups as people. Jewish people were forced to wear stars. They marked them and fed the growing fire of intolerance. People already so used to labelling one another, can more easily dehumanise a peer by focusing on nothing more than that. Once marked, they became dangerously close to less than human. Those very labels were used as to round people up and send them to their death. So many people were unjustly marked for death, because of their religious beliefs.

It’s often forgotten that there were others. Political prisoners, common criminals, Roma, Polish, French, Jehovah’s Witnesses, various “undesirables” including people with disabilities, were all given marks of their own colour. Marks that dehumanised and organised them for collection.

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The “pink mark” was reserved for people in the LGBTQ+ community. A triangle of pink cloth, to be pinned on those set apart by their sexuality. This mark sentenced these individuals to the harsh labour camps of Nazi Germany and labelled them as unwanted. In 2015 it was this very mark that Daniel Eisenhut chose to highlight and portray in his “Pink Mark” project in Belarus. “The Pink Mark” would strive to show those once marked as human and give them a place in history in which they would be seen.

Dead Men, charcoal on canvas, 270x150cm, July 2015

Initiated by the human rights organisations, BeQueer and Gay Belarus, the project was part of a movement to raise awareness for tolerance and human rights. Part performance, part exhibit, “The Pink Mark” project took place in Minsk and combined the spectacle of live portraiture with inquisitive gallery viewing. Lectures and workshops on the subject of tolerance took place, while Daniel Eisenhut drew members of a community that are so often left out of history lessons. Nude charcoal portraits humanise and immortalise the subjects in Daniel Eisenhut’s pieces. The people who would have once been marked for arrest for their queerness alone. For the pieces produced for this project, Daniel Eisenhut drew with charcoal, one of humanity’s oldest, most primal mediums. By fixing his canvas to the floor, Daniel Eisenhut can kneel and crouch over his canvas while creating. Using his whole body to create, Daniel gives life to his work. These portraits have a realness to them, that comes from the artist’s closeness.

Waiting Women, charcoal on canvas, 270x150cm, July 2015

The naked subjects and the minimalism of materials used all serve to bring the viewer as close to the original as possible. Very little stands between the people looking at pictures mounted on the wall, and people they portray. Any of the markers, so often used to judge a person are removed. Without clothes or surroundings to tell us what to think, we must look the person head on. The viewer becomes vulnerable in their own uncertainty.

Daniel Eisenhut then brought the viewers even closer to the people behind his art. The theme of the event was tolerance and human rights. Something that cannot be observed in an impersonal vacuum, cannot therefore be a merely passive art show. Instead, “The Pink Mark” required the interaction and participation, that tolerance in a community requires. It had to provoke and engage.

In order to bring awareness to the weight of intolerance, the dangers of marking, Daniel Eisenhut employed the pink triangles that gave his project its name. Visitors to the show, were given triangles to pin next to the portraits. Triangle of different colours were used to mark those they believed were queer, disabled, and so on. This active participation brings light to the significance of judging an individual on sight, and causes the people involved to observe within themselves, the role that tolerance and intolerance plays. For some, it even gave a sense of identity. Of being seen. Although push back was expected, in such a controversial concept, the public in Belarus, largely accepted the show along with the marking as an opportunity for “self-recognition”.

This was an open space, and the pink marks were pinned openly and kept beside the charcoal portraits throughout. Did the “vote” of other participants effect those of the ones who saw the same pieces, after they had been marked? Perhaps in merely highlighting the ease with which someone can be marked, one was also taught an important lesson in questioning the reasons for our own prejudices. Are our opinions ever ours alone? As the visitors went from viewer of art to subject of self-reflection, “The Pink Mark” served its purpose in bringing awareness to human rights, tolerance, and the forgotten victims of the Holocaust.

The exhibition ran for two weeks in July of 2015. More than 2000 visitors of varying backgrounds came to participate, and learn about the work of BeQueer, Gay Belarus, and Daniel Eisenhut. The project was both a great success and an important springboard for further activism through art. As an unofficial supporter of the project, the Dutch ambassador at the time, was both shocked and impressed by the concept and turn-out.

“The Pink Mark” project in Minsk served to honour the members of the LGBTQ+ community, while giving them a place in the memorial of the Holocaust. On these walls, they were seen, and not forgotten.

“la classe” September 2015

The “Syrian” Art Project – A Portrait Collection of Syrian and Swiss Children

Background

The idea to work on a Syrian project or rather on the Refugee crises that erupted because of it, was vibrating through me all along 2014. After working on a project in Kyiv focusing on Russian-Ukrainian Mothers, it was clear to me that this form of “à jour-art” (a mix of Art and Journalism) is something that I want to follow. There was something about seeing or sensing my models in their own reality where they live, in their “Now”, that I felt very attracted to.

It made me adjust and level myself to their state and made me as I have understood it a better artist. I had to listen.  

2015 Began for me personally on a good note, I had three shows booked and I was negotiating an Art-project in Belarus (the Pink Mark). At the same time, the Refugee crisis was at its height, and on the Greek shores and Hungarian border the suffering became even more visible than before. In the back of my head, I planted the idea to do something but I didn’t have a clear plan about it.

It wasn’t until my biggest show of that year, which was filled with some celebrities and the general richness of Zurich that I met Aicha Baakili and after a short talk with her, we found the common ground that created the premise for the “la clase” Project.

The concept for the project was conceived very fast and after Aicha`s reediness to finance it we set up a date for us to fly to the Turkish-Syrian border.

As with most of my art projects, it was a dive into cold water. The magnitude of the topic at hand was overwhelming but portraying was very new territory for me that I never worked on. The fact that I just finished a very intense month’s stay in Minsk, Belarus for “The Pink Mark” didn’t help much. I was raw, edgy, and shanked but at the same time also very clear and sober.

 We got in contact with acquaintances of Aicha`s in the border town of Sulinurfa (Urfa) that would help on our quest. For the next 10 days, we found our way to refuge camps, slums, and roadsides between the city and the blurry Syrian border. We had talks and encounters but mainly I did what I came to do, portray Refugee children.

Concept

Introduction of the problem to be explored

My family’s history is woven with stories of forceful immigration and deportation. My grandmother’s family had to seek refuge in Ottoman Palestine because of the ever-occurring pogroms in White Russia, and my grandfather’s family left Poland for the USA for economic reasons he on the other hand was seeking refuge in Palestine in the early 20s. He on the other hand like my father (and to some extent me too) was either making Palestinians refugees or keeping them in that state 

My grandmother used to tell stories about the mass deportation that the Turkish army organized for the Jewish population of young Tel Aviv to the north of the country.

Her childhood stories were never bad in some way, the soldiers beat up her father with all the other community leaders and they did take two brothers of hers to fight on their side, it was cold and they did gather undigested corn from the horse’s manure to roast and eat.

But her stories were always filled with small anecdotes about her sister’s misshapes about one of her brothers that was so pale and thin that the Turks were afraid to come to their hut (what saved her other brother, she had 7). There was no hate or grudge or fear just childhood memories.

When hearing these stories in my childhood a part of me wanted to be the same as her in her childhood, a refugee.

Concept

Children adapt, children forgive, and stories and pictures from the Warsaw ghetto showed children paling till the bitter end, even child soldiers when their guns are taken from them, are children and will sometime laugh and play.  A child is always a child; it is the stories of the grownups that make him hungry, abused, loved, embraced, and fed.

This is the center of “la classe” a child without a story and no origin; a refugee in a grownup world.

La Class

The installation would be a collection of children’s portraits made with Syrian children in a refugee camp and with children from Switzerland; the portraits will be done very simply with black pen on A4 paper and will be framed in a plain manner.

They will be installed on a wall as one group as if belonging to one class.

The Project was presented at the La Sud Gallery in November 2015 in Zurich and then in 2016 at the UN in Geneva during the Geneva Convention of the UNwatch organization.

Interview about the Project

Aicha Baakili; Daniel how did you come up with the “la classe” concept?

Daniel Eisenhut; The concept as such came about through our conversations; about my previous projects (in Minsk and Kyiv) and about your charity/volunteer work in the Middle East. But there follows a very fundamental principle for me and my work; we all carry different stories with us and we each carry this “burden” in our own individual way, but in the end, we are all the same.

AB; Why do you actually do such projects?

DE; I don’t have a concrete answer, but I often follow my deepest fears, for example in the “la classe” project; I am afraid of being a refugee, and often I have nightmares where I have to rescue my sister’s children from refugee camps. In addition, there is a very clear fear that results directly from this current refugee crisis.

AB; why do you follow your fear

DE; The way I see it, whether I like it or not, fear is the main motivator of human beings. Because fear isn’t exactly something I want to look at personally, I learned early on to look at it the more closely I gain my personal freedom.

AB; I’m an Arab and you’re Israeli how do you think this project influences you?

DE; Our cultural differences are less important, but our cultural similarities, directly and indirectly, give the “la classe” project it’s grounding.
Perhaps this very symbolic fact only underscores the project; it’s not about nations, flags, cultures, or similar nonsense, it’s about people, about children, quite simply.

AB; For the “la classe” project you chose very simple materials (pen on A4 paper), why?

DE; My work is basically an attempt to get to the heart of things. Especially when it comes to charged topics such as gay rights in Belarus, as in my previous project, or refugee children in the middle of a refugee crisis, even the slightest overstimulation can blur the whole thing.
Added to this is the practical consideration that in the “la class” project I could not know where and in what conditions I will work, with these materials I can react very quickly and adapt to the situation.

AB; You often miss working with the children very badly, why?

DE; The work as such is easy I just do what I’ve always wanted to do I draw people. What I completely underestimated is that these children are almost without exception traumatized, some more, some less. I know PTSD from the faces of adult friends and acquaintances in Israel where it’s relatively common, but here it’s children who bear the marks of trauma on their faces.
When I draw people I try to paint them as they are in front of me and try to be as neutral as possible. This means that I often see things that are not really funny to me.

AB; How does that affect the pictures?

DE; To my surprise, the pictures are often very naive, almost kitsch, you can see that they are about children, but they look very old.

The Motherland (2014)

A Portrait Art Project Featuring Ukrainian and Russian Mothers

Naked, sitting, frontal portraits of mothers. In his Portrait base Art project from 2014 Daniel Eisenhut went to Kyiv with a simple question; is there a difference between Mothers of different nationalities? By portraying Ukrainian and Russian Mothers naked, Daniel encourages us and his models to ask this question over and over again.

With this project, Eisenhut challenges our “ideas” about our identity and preconceptions of the cultural supremacy we usually carry with us. By showing us the unadulterated truth. In Our essence, we are all the same. But he does this not by forcing the spectators to accept his way of seeing things, but by asking them what they think are the differences.

I set with Daniel on a sunny day and asked him a few questions about the project:

Your 2014 first portrait base Art-project you called “Motherland”, why exactly?

Besides that, in the Art-Project, I focused on mothers’ portraits. The name comes from a Russian slogan from the second world war that basically goes “This is our motherland!” it comes to say: “This is it! There is no other place to go.”. It was something that I learned in my youth as a joke but stayed with me until I found a way to use it. 

Isn’t it harsh to use a fighting-moral-pushing slogan as a name for a project about Motherhood?

I can’t say that the project is about motherhood as such it’s more about the essence of humanity. Motherhood is in the way I see it the main pillar of our society. From today’s perspective, I think that the slogan from back then fits today even more. I have the feeling that today everything that is human is under some kind of attack, Motherhood is the last line of defense, “this is our motherland!” has a different meaning today but it’s not less urgent.

You went to Kyiv to paint Russian and Ukrainian Mothers just after the “Maidan-Uprise” and more or less during the start of the Donetsk war. How did you even get to do this project and how was your idea perceived there at the time?

These are two big questions. Starting the project was magically easy, two days after conceptualizing it during a coffee with a friend in Zurich. I called an old friend for another matter and mentioned the idea he just happened to host a group of Ukrainian women and said that if I want I can come and talk to them. I did and in less than two weeks I had Mothers who agreed to model, a studio, and a host in Kyiv.

As for how the project was perceived, I can’t really say, some mothers liked the ideas but the main feeling was more doubtful than hopeful if I can describe it like that. Most people involved were keener to show me the difference between the nations than to look for similarities. I had to show them the Portraits beside each other in order to show how my concept works.

You have to understand that I didn’t have a clue about the region in its contemporary state at the time. I knew some Russian (don’t anymore) and knew a lot of history and like most people my age in my head everything east of Berlin was one big Soviet country. What was reviled to me during my stay in Kyiv forced a total reboot of everything I thought I knew.  It was great.

How did “Motherland” influence the other Art-Projects you did after it?

More than anything it gave me a taste for more, it summoned and underlined how I want to do Art. The idea of using art as a tool to investigate and create my Art “on the field” so to say, was a very profound experience. It made me a better Artist; thanks to it I can serve my Tribe better now.

Interview about the philosophy behind the Art-Project, the interview was made prior to Daniels visit to Kyiv
Interview about the philosophy behind the Art-Project, the interview was made prior to Daniels visit to Kyiv

Beautiful Women

Popart and Streetart Art project on the topic of displaced Women

The concept for Daniel Eisenhut’s “Beautiful Women” project first took root in his mind, while he was still working on “Lipstick Leaders”. While portraying one female leader, he was referred to another and thus met many strong women. When he met Rachel Herzog, the founder of SAO Association he discovered a whole new network of brave women. The SAO Association is an organization focused on supporting refugee women and mothers with their children, in Greece. Women and children are especially vulnerable when displaced, and the work the SAO does is essential. They provide women and children with emergency shelter and resources. They also run workshops and training programs and help refugees get back on their feet and find new places to settle.

The SAO Association has two centres in Greece where women and children can go to get the support asylum seekers so often need. The Bashira Centre in Lesbos, and the Amina Centre in Athens. It was to the former that Daniel Eisenhut travelled to begin his project “Beautiful Women”. Having met the founder and learned of the good work the SAO did for refugees, Daniel Eisenhut was so touched and inspired to use his art to bring draw attention to their cause.

He wanted to raise awareness, not just for the organisation, but for female refugees in general. As with many of his other projects, Eisenhut wanted to use his art to bring people together. Often overlooked, or worse looked-away-from, refugees are so often seen as separate or undesirable. Travelling to Lesbos, Daniel Eisenhut met with the women that had fled their homes, and he saw beauty in their strength and humanity.

Getting to know his subjects on an individual level is important to Eisenhut’s process. It is what makes his piece breathe, how he brings raw materials to life and imbues his work with authentic human emotions. The goal of “Beautiful Women” was to create portraits that would help to humanize the way we look at refugees, and for that he needed to get to know them. He spoke with each woman while portraying them. He led workshops on self-awareness and self-recognition for the refugees. He was so impressed by the fortitude of these women, that he strove to create art that would be as undeniable as their presence.

I was asked by a Journalist about naming my Art Project Refugee Women – Beautiful Women. here are some answers.

In style and concept, “Beautiful Women” would differ greatly from any other project of Eisenhut’s. The original idea was to hang large banners of pop art portraits from prominent buildings around Zurich. In their day to day lives, those who weren’t usually faced with the struggles of refugees on a daily basis, would encounter the faces of women who had been displaced. The faces of the women Daniel Eisenhut met at the Bashira shelter, would look out over the city. They would be beautiful, inviting people to look, as well as colourful, not allowing them to look away. Pop art was not Eisenhut’s usual style. It is however eye-catching, aesthetically pleasing, “popular”, all the things he wanted to bring to a subject that often gets met with distaste. The perfect way to subvert the narrative of the drab asylum seeker, society tells us to ignore.

In this Project, I changed the original portraits to POP-ART Like Portraits. In the video, I explain why

During Eisenhut’s stay in Lesbos the island became a scene to civil unrests concerning the Moria Refugee camp. Large-scale and in part violent demonstrations that were described by locals as a “civil war” erupted overnight and general strikes brought all commercial life to a halt. For the first time, Daniel Eisenhut felt afraid and powerless. He had money, but that didn’t change his ability to move freely. All the things he could usually do to feel free were gone, and he had no other choice than to wait. He worried about being away from his family, and the unquiet around him made him worry about ever getting back to them. It was hard, and yet it was what made him truly empathize with the women and children around him. When one woman told him, “Now you know what it feels like to be a refugee,” he understood. They no longer had homes to go back to. He was unsure if he could get back to his. Feeling stuck forced Daniel Eisenhut to work harder on and move forward with “Beautiful Women.”

The portrait sessions themselves took place at a makeshift studio in Lesbos. It was important for everyone that this took place outside of the shelter. When one has nowhere else to go and is in a vulnerable state, shelter means so much more. It is important that it remains closed to intrusions. The goal of the project would be to make the struggles and faces of these women seen, without intruding into the safe haven of the SAO shelters. The art would be public, while the shelters would remain theirs.

Back in Zurich the Covid19 Pandemic and the omnipresent restrictions that came with it forced museums and galleries to close, it seemed that the “Beautiful Women” project was deemed to come to an early end. Daniel Eisenhut redirected the project and made it public in a different way than he originally intended. In lieu of large banners seen from coffee shops that would no more be open than the offices in the buildings from which they hung; the portraits were plastered on a wall on the streets of Zurich. The pop-art met street art, and anyone out for a walk in the area, living nearby, or shopping for essentials would pass it by. The faces of refugees from the Bashira Centre in Lesbos looked out onto Zurich Street. The colors popped and the faces told their own stories, while a QR code on the side referred passers-by to the website of the SAO Association. Daniel Eisenhut shared his art with the city and gained awareness for displaced women and children that seek refuge every day in various parts of the world.

Fathers and Leaders 2017-19

Also known as “Crayon Leaders” – Art Proejcet about Fatherhood

During my work on my Project Lipstick Leaders, I was often asked if I’m working on a “Men-Project” mostly during the talk with different Leaders I portrayed for this Project.

It was very clear to me how I want such a project to look, the goal of Lipstick Leaders it’s to show Women Leaders in a never before manner, and I wanted to do the same with men leaders:

  • If I have portrayed the women in a very serious and deferential manner in a Cathedral like style. The men’s portraits will be presented in a very chaotic, reachable, and heartfelt manner.
  • If during the Lipstick Leaders, I talked to the leaders mainly about leadership and day-to-day business. I want to talk with the men about matters of the heart.
  • If I portrayed the women leaders, with charcoal and with only red lipstick I will draw the men leaders with Crayons that should be colorful and almost naïve.

With that, I don’t want to show Men in a “softer light” or “belittle” them. I want to show Men as they “Also” really are, they are Leaders people who carry Social and Economical responsibility. And they are Fathers

The Covid19 stopped this project from flying, but I haven’t lost hope of its jet. For me, it is s very intimate and grounded Project that I would like to share. Personally, I find the portraits that I did very good and the stories collected are in my opinion a collection of intriguing insight into masculinity and the different facets of Fatherhood.

Concept 

Crayon Leaders – Concept

Crayon Leaders – Konzept

Recently a Journalist friend interviewed me about the project:

What made you decide to start the father’s project?

While working on Lipstick Leaders, I was often asked if I would do a «men» portrait project. How often do I take such questions very personally and seriously, I didn’t have to think long about whether I would do it, but I was still missing a “story” or the perspectives from which I want to do the project. When I then portrayed Rebecca Guntern (Head of Sandoz Europe) for Lipstick Leaders and she asked me this very question, I was able to give her an answer straight away. «There will be a father’s project showing leading men from their family-paternal side».

In my work process, there is often a long period of time between the proclamation of a project and its realization – but this was not the case here. The idea was clear and easy to communicate. I wanted to portray men leaders in their professional lives and ask about their relationship with their own father, specifically a story about him.

Why did you ask them about their father, why not ask them about their children?

The “Father” question came out of two ulterior motives. For one thing, I didn’t want to get too close. Family can get very close very quickly and I thought that some kind of a deviating maneuver would be offered to talk about the “topic” but not directly address it. My projects are not about “discovering” things, but about showing them as they are. I can only do this if the models or participants feel safe.

What was the other ulterior motive?

A feeling I had then and that is very present in my mind now is that masculinity and fatherhood and their meaning have changed a lot in a very short time. Social demands have changed a lot and by asking adult men about their fathers, I was able to capture three generations at once (grandfathers, fathers and children). Focused on Switzerland, this has gained even more emphasis.

Why do you think that – what makes Switzerland special in this respect?

Switzerland is a very conservative society where certain social norms that were common in the rest of Europe have only changed in Switzerland in the last 30-20 years (women’s suffrage is just a small example). For many Swiss, it is still normal for children to stay at home during early education, which of course has a great impact on the traditional male/female roleplay. A situation has been created where the differences between the generations are very clear and often very visible. In terms of the project, I find it very exciting.

The portraits are very colorful and color-raw. Why have you chosen crayons for the portraits? So far, your projects have been very monotonous or plain in this sense why did you choose to paint the fathers so colourful?

I often work with crayons and very consciously use simple, almost childlike markers. I often use it to «warm up» artistically it comes from the thought that on the one hand, I can’t do anything «right» or «beautiful» with this specific material – i.e. free of the norms of having to do something right, which only allows me to focus on the “doing”. The other thought, which as I understand in relation to this project, is very important. Is that for most of us these crayons are directly related to the first steps of creativity, and we often have a very positive reaction to it.

It was important to me that the fathers were painted in this almost naïve way so that the whole subject could produce a different dialogue right from the start. I wanted to show the fathers from a soft, almost childlike side.

I have the feeling that fatherhood is very cliché-burdened when it is shown in an art context. With this colorful portrait collection, I wanted to neutralize the whole theme of it and thus emphasize the human aspect.

You have done almost 50 portraits so far; did you notice anything in particular?

Actually, quite a lot, the project was or is full of surprises. For example, the first father I painted said he never knew his father because he died shortly after he was born. This was a bit of a shock for me because it was very unexpected. It struck me that many of the men found it difficult to relate a shared experience, not because he (their father) was violent or anything (there weren’t any storytelling problems regarding this topic) but because there simply weren’t any. A very heartwarming, but also a very frequently used sentence “My father was a very busy man, but when it came to something important to me, he always made time for me”.

Why do you find this sentence so special?

Men or fathers from the generation under discussion are often associated with the first aspect, i.e. rather absent or very disinterested when it comes to children or upbringing. This shows a side that is often not addressed: the father’s role in upbringing. I also have to say that there were often very beautiful human stories afterwards. It was just nice to be there and to hear.

The project hasn’t been shown yet, are there any plans to present it soon?

Yes, there were plans for 2020 to publish it, but Corona has put a stop to it. I’ve been asked about it again and again lately and the idea of ​​taking up the project again is not alien to me. Possibly with the developed gender topics he can even contribute something new. I’m definitely on the lookout for partnerships in this regard and who knows maybe next year.

The Club – September 2016

Portraits, Inclusion, Autism, and a Social Club

  • How can I communicate with people who are limited in their communication?
  • How can I include a group of such people in a highly communicative framework on an equal footing?

In Daniel Eisenhut’s inclusion art project from 2016, he addressed the topic of autism:
“With the project “the Club” I can – if only with pictures – create a social framework where everyone has an equal say, regardless of whether they have autism or not,” said the artist.

After cross-border inclusion art projects with Syrian and Swiss children and with LGBT people in Belarus, in 2016 Eisenhut tested his limits again by portraying people with and without autism and thus creating through art a “social club” in the tradition like the Lions, Rotarians, or created by the Round Table.

M. Huber, a man with autism, said about the project:
“Daniel Eisenhut’s project invites you to a round table in such a way that people with autism also recognize and experience themselves as desirable.”

The project was developed with the close support of Autismus Deutsche Schweiz and the Round Table Zürich as well as JCI Zürich and Zürichsee (Young Swiss Chamber of Commerce).

Personal motivation
Inclusion, I didn’t know the word for a long time, it was introduced to me by one of the first models that I portrayed for this project.
His name; is Mathias, he is a consultant at a Bern cantonal office, around 50 and autistic. In my everyday life between meetings, networking, dating ect. I hardly meet people like Matthias, let alone talk to them and deal with their everyday life.
The more I delve into this project, the more I understand the impact it has on me personally and on all participants.
We see one another, we perceive one another.
Art makes it possible to create things that don’t actually exist. It also gives me the freedom to look where I would otherwise not look and keeps asking me questions that I can only answer with works of art. With this project, even if only in a spiritual sense, a meeting between two worlds is made possible, and thus spaces for expanded consciousness are made possible for all involved. Just an inclusion.

The presentation of the Project took place at the Jedlitschka Gallery in in Zurich, October 2016.

The Club – Portraits

Tesetmonial of Mattiahs Hueber

“The Artist Daniel Eisenhut drew my attention to the fact that he is a member of the Zurich Round Table and would like to bring people with and without autism together around a round table in his art project, without it being regulated in any way as to who invites whom.
The idea that everyone can invite everyone, that no barriers or borders need to be defined by definitions of normal and handicapped, or are even obsolete, appealed to me.
The fact that a number of men with autism have already had their portraits taken for this project shows how much is possible.
People with autism are rarely invited by other people.
Because they often cannot show mimic, gestural, or verbal expressions that they are interested in their fellow human beings, it is wrongly assumed that they have no need for social contact.
In addition, the everyday world is only inviting on its own terms. Specifically: “You are invited if you say something, if you have an opinion, if you laugh if you show that you like us…”
With his project, Daniel Eisenhut invites you to a round table in such a way that people with autism also recognize and experience themselves as desirable.
If people without autism find out that autistic people are also part of it, sooner or later the prevailing, somewhat one-sided view of the autistic person will be changed.
In the “age of inclusion”, this art project is not only exciting but also of great importance in my opinion.

autismus deutsche schweiz ads

Matthias Huber, board member, diagnosed Asperger-Autismus www.autismus.ch

The Shoulders We Stand On

Questions:

In an urban world where the craving for youth is almost insatiable, a business world focused only on strength and success, it is often forgotten that we all stand on one another’s shoulders. Someone inhabited this world, for better or for worse, a long time before us. Someone made the same mistakes and celebrated the same victories as we are now.

But these people often live beside us, in retirement homes or other institutions on the fringes of society, where you hardly see them, old age and dementia no longer have a place in our midst.

How can I create a space in which we can perceive this? How can I create a place for these people in our midst?

Idea:

Large colored banners are stretched out on the facades of various buildings in the city of Zurich. Each banner is a portrait. Not by a celebrity or a political figure, not by a young model or a cute kid trying to sell something. They are portraits of almost invisible elderly people living in homes or other sheltered spaces.

During one or more visits to various retirement homes/flat shares, I will portray their residents and, if possible, also have a conversation with them. The portraits are made with pencil on paper.

10-15 selected portraits are then processed and carved into wood printing plates by another artist in a traditional artisanal manner

These portraits are then printed in 3-4 colors on paper in a similar way.

This series is then digitized and processed into large banners. These banners will be hung on various building facades in the city of Zurich.

As part of a celebratory vernissage, the portraits can be admired during a city tour. A project flyer will be handed out for the tour with notes on the respective portrait

Motivation-Justification


Retirement homes/Residentials: They are a part of our society. I don’t want to be critical, but rather create a space where questions can be asked: is it that good for us? Do we want/can we do it differently?
Pencil on paper, printing plates carved in wood: using traditional working methods I want to honor the “shoulders I stand on” and give space in my world.


Series of banners on building facades in the city: In addition to the obvious placement of the portrait series in the middle of the business and entertainment world, it serves to try to involve the local community in the thought process and to include them thematically.

Personal motivation: For me, this project is not about the clichés about old age. I don’t think that older people should always be smart and wise, or that they always have to have a lot of experience. By «making room» for this topic, I want to create a space for collective humility. Because I think that if we can’t consciously make room in our midst for the weak, all of our accomplishments and abilities are futile and hollow.
As I perceive our society today, we only strive for the beautiful and sweet, which in turn leads to callousness. But old age is not sweet or really beautiful and is therefore fought with all means and condemned to oblivion. What is often forgotten is that we all grow old and fragile and that without fragility there would be no true strength in society.