Roman Signer

Switzerland 1938

Installation, Sculpture

Roman Signer
Roman Signer
December 25, 2016
Web journalist, coffee junkie and art fanatic. Cares about the environment, writes for Widewalls. Alias of Milica Jovic

Roman Signer is the Swiss visual artist whose artworks are rooted in the finest tradition of Swiss engineer-art. One of most famous Swiss artist and the finest representatives of Process art, Roman Signer is known for producing dynamic sculptures also known as time sculptures that include fit ropes, exploding objects and papers and chairs being catapulted into the air. Though he calls himself a sculptor, the artist works in a variety of media and his body of work spans to include sculpture, installations, photography, and video. His art was originally inspired by natural phenomena such as fire, stone, and water by in time Roman Signer also began employing a variety of everyday objects in his pieces. The artist combines three-dimensional objects like tables, boots, containers and bicycles, film stills and moving-image to simultaneously convey the notion of undisputed energy and restrain.

Roman Signer – Heufieber, 2006 via

Education and Main Influences

Roman Signer is born in 1938 in Appenzell, Switzerland and studied art at the Schule für Gestaltung in Zurich and Lucerne and Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland1. He was an architect’s draughtsman, a radio engineer apprentice, and even worked in a pressure cooker factory before he decided on visual art career path at the age of 28. Roman Signer’s works range from land art and performance art but it even spans behind that to include elements of technical sciences. His background in architecture and engineering shows as the artist sets up an array of sculptures and installations reminiscent of Swiss engineer-artist, Jean Tinguely and Peter Fischli & David Weiss.2 The roots of Roman Signer’s dematerialization of art can be found back in the sixties when artists shifted away from the actual form of the artwork and turn toward exploring process and acts. His works represent a unique poetry of destruction as they focus on the transformation of the material trough time that present the viewers with the artistry of the creative process and the forces used in that process. His action sculptures represent controlled experiments that include objects exploding, colliding or being catapulted into space.

Roman Signer time sculptures explore the process and acts of creating an artwork

Peter Liechti made new video interview with Roman Singer that's on view at his YouTube channel
Roman Signer – Wasserstiefel, 1986 (left) / Kayak, 1988 (right)

Time Sculptor from St. Gallen

In 1989 the artist created one of his first famous sculptures Action with a Fuse. By placing a fuse between Appenzell where he was born and St. Gallen where he now lives and letting it burn slowly from each end accompanied by an almost invisible set of fumes, the artist created the metaphor for his both life and life in general. The slow burning of a fuse and the violent action of the explosion that occurred when both ends meet represent the path between the meditative and the eruptive two interchangeable dynamics of life. He continued along the same path in 1992 when he catapulted the chair of a window to create his Kurhaus Weissbad masterpieces and two years later when he launched a table into four buckets.

Chairs fly into the air in the video of Roman Signer’s Kurhaus Weissbad installation

The Process Behind Romans Singer’s Work : Three Phases of Art Creation

In 1999 Roman Signer presented his work in the Swizz pavilion on Venice biennial. For the occasion, the artist has created a minimalist sculpture by placing 300 stacks of paper containing 1000 pages each precisely arranged in 50 centimeters intervals. But this was just the first stage of the creation of his dynamic sculpture. In the following phases, this static objects were charged with explosive and with one simple click they were fired into the air and transformed into a multifaceted white wall. This ephemeral wall only lasted a moment before the papers sunk back down to earth and magically turned back to thousands of paper sheets. By juxtaposing the vigorous energy of the explosion and the meditative decent of the paper the artist managed to turn the atmosphere in the pavilion from frantic to serene in just a few moments3. The artist installations are executed in several stages. First, he chooses the objects with a potential for change like bicycles and paper stacks. The second stage refers to the actual new prospect of change, the explosion or the catapulting. The third and final stage show the result of the previous process like the decent of papers or the chairs to the ground. From a restricted array of processes and materials, Roman Signer produces a poetics whose tones range from the melancholy to the excitement, from the amusing to the violent. Roman Signer work was on view at numerous galleries and museums including a solo exhibition in Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA in 2011, and shows at Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai (2016), Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore, Co. Waterford, Hauser & Wirth, London (2008) and a solo exhibition in Rochester Art Center (2008).

The artist lives and works in St . Gallen, Switzerland


  1. Anonymous., Biography, Roman Signer Official Website [December 14,2016]
  2. Anonymous., Roman Signer Neue Arbeiten, Hauser & Wirth [December 14,2016]
  3. Signer R., Zimmermann P. ROMAN SIGNER XLVIII. Biennale di Venezia , Swiss Federal Office of Culture, Berne (1999)
  4. Featured image : Roman Signer – Portrait via
    Images courtesy of the artist unless otherwise credited

YearExhibition TitleMuseum / GallerySolo/Group
2017Le futur doit être dangereuxMusée des Beaux Arts de Dôle, DôleSolo
2017Rupture or Continuity?Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, BrusselsSolo
2017SCRIPTBorusan Contemporary, IstanbulSolo
2017SPOT ON 1 vom Schatten ins LichtZentrum für Gegenwartskunst, ScuolSolo
2016Solo WalksEine Galerie des Gehens, Bündner Kunstmuseum Chur, ChurGroup
2016tout le mondeCentre d´art contemporain d´Ivry, le Credac, Ivry sur SeineGroup
201613ª exposição de verão: “ Sem Saber Quando Virá o Amanhecer ...Silvia Cintra + Box4, Rio de Janeiro, RJGroup
2016Roman Signer Films and InstallationsMuseo d'Arte di Nuoro (MAN), NuoroSolo
201630 Jahre PeriferiaEdizioni Periferia, LucerneGroup
2016Why the Performance?Ming Contemporary Art Museum, ShanghaiGroup
2016The Gestural21er Haus, ViennaGroup
2016The Way Things Go | About cause and effectKunsthal KAdE, AmersfoortGroup
2016Das Kapital. Schuld Territorium UtopieHamburger Bahnhof ,Museum für Gegenwart, BerlinGroup
2016DoppelpassGalerie Luciano Fasciati, ChurGroup
2016Besser Scheitern.Museum bei der Kaiserpfalz, Ingelheim am RheinGroup
2016Echtzeit Die Kunst Der LangsamkeitKunstmuseum Bonn, BonnGroup
2016Emscherkunst 2016Emscher Kunst, EssenGroup
2016Am OrtART PUBLIC Chur, ChurGroup
2016Ski, Surf & FunL'Abbaye, Espace d'art contemporain, Annecy le VieuxGroup
2016Another SprayHäusler Contemporary, Zurich, ZurichGroup
2016Deck VoyageBorusan Contemporary, IstanbulGroup
2016Magie und Macht Von fliegenden Teppichen und DrohnenMARTa Herford, HerfordGroup
2016Zeit verstreichenMoment und Dauer in der Gegenwartskunst, Kunstmuseum Solothurn, SolothurnGroup
2015Der besondere Blick Künstler als SammlerKunstverein Wilhelmshöhe Ettlingen e. V., EttlingenGroup
2015Slow MovementBarbican Art Gallery, LondonSolo
2015Early WorksGalerie Martin Janda, ViennaSolo
2015Group ExhibiionGalerie Barbara Weiss, BerlinGroup
2015Enhanced! Photographic Works from the Drapkin Collections with Contemporary Light Based MediaUniversity of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, FLGroup
2015Raum 3Stampa, BaselGroup
2015Verkehrte Welt GruppenausstellungHäusler Contemporary, Zurich, ZurichGroup
2015Second AutumArt Stations Foundation by Grażyna Kulczyk, PoznanGroup
2015The Slow BurnDitch Projects, Springfield, ORGroup
2015Trial / Error / ArtHolden Gallery at Manchester Metropolitan University, ManchesterGroup
2015Art Strikes Back!Fundació Gaspar, BarcelonaGroup
2015Void: There’s Nothing More Left, But A Little Trace From Human BeingGinkgo Space, BeijingGroup
2015ArtZuid 2015Foundation ArtZuid, AmsterdamGroup
2015Ghosts in the machineFRAC Limousin, LimogesGroup
2015Station to StationBarbican Art Gallery, LondonGroup
2015Arquitecturas Y Espacios En La Colección RACCentroCentro Cibeles, MadridGroup
2015The Transportation BusinessJane Lombard Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
201545 Jahre Sammelleidenschaft: Peter Und Elisabeth Bosshard Und Ihre Sammlung Schweizer GegenwartskunstKunst(Zeug)Haus, RapperswilGroup
2015Constructeurs d’absurde, bricoleurs d’utopieAbbaye St André Centre d'art contemporain Meymac, MeymacGroup
2015Collector’s Choice: Andy Jllien | «My Shoes Are Your Shoes»Häusler Contemporary , Zurich, ZurichGroup
2015Culturescapes Island 2015Stampa, BaselGroup
2015Roman SignerArt:Concept, ParisSolo
2015Roman Signer InstallationsDundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee, ScotlandSolo
2014ConstellationsFRAC Nord Pas de Calais, DunkerqueGroup
2014Unikat Unicum. Artists’ books from the Prints and Drawings DepartmentSwiss National Library, BernGroup
2014Kunstgenuss Essen Von Der Linzer Torte Bis Zur Bosna NordicoMuseum der Stadt Linz , LinzGroup
2014The Event SculptureHenry Moore Institute, LeedsGroup
2014Shit and DiePalazzo Cavour, TurinGroup
2014In The Here And Now! Swiss Art Of The Last 30 Years From The Kunst Heute CollectionKunstmuseum Bern, BernGroup
2014Rumeurs du Météore49 NORD 6 EST Frac Lorraine, MetzGroup
2014Tegnebiennalen 2014Tegnerforbundet Drawing Biennial, OsloGroup
2014A screaming comes across the skyLaboral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, GijónGroup
2014Reines Wasser, Die Kostbarste Ressource Der WeltLentos Kunstmuseum Linz, LinzGroup
2014ShortGalerie Martin Janda, ViennaGroup
2014Hier steht ein Sessel Sessel, Stuhl, Hocker in der KunstGalerie im Traklhaus, SalzburgGroup
2014VanitasGeorg Kolbe Museum, BerlinGroup
2014Fixing a HoleKoenig & Clinton, New York City, NYGroup
2014Projects #5 Zeichnung 1970 2013Stampa, BaselGroup
2014Beating around the Bush Episode #1Bonnefantenmuseum, MaastrichtGroup
2014Exhibition The Pictured Self Swiss Performative Video Art 1990 - 2010Galerija12 HUB, BelgradeGroup
2014A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the StudioMoMA Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NYGroup
2014Les dérivés de la photographieFRAC Aquitaine, BordeauxGroup
2014Skulptur InstallationHubertus Exhibitions, ZurichSolo
2014Roman SignerKunstmuseum St.Gallen, St. GallenSolo
2014Kitfox Experimental (ortsspezifische Installation)KINDL Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst, BerlinSolo
2014LensBased SculptureKunstmuseum Liechtenstein, VaduzGroup
2014Macht.Wahn.Vision. Rapunzel & Co. Von Türmen und Menschen in der KunstArp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, RemagenGroup
2014Room Service Vom Hotel in der Kunst und Künstlern im HotelStaatliche Kunsthalle Baden Baden, BadenGroup
2014Common Ground: EarthBorusan Contemporary, IstanbulGroup
2013Roman SignerKanalgeräusche + Rumpsti Pumsti, BerlinSolo
2013Neue SkulpturenGalerie Barbara Weiss, BerlinSolo
2012Roman SignerPigna Project Space, RomeSolo
2012Aktion mit schwarzen RegenschirmenHäusler Contemporary, Munich, MunichSolo
2012Roman SignerGalerie Martin Janda, ViennaSolo
2012Roman SignerStrassenbilder und Super Filme, Aargauer Kunsthaus, AarauSolo
2011Roman Signer: 56 Small Helicopters (56 Kleine Helikopter)Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MASolo
2011Roman SignerArt:Concept, ParisSolo
2011Floating in a BoxJudith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brisbane, QLDSolo
2011Roman SignerStampa, BaselSolo
2011Cinema Mercer UnionA Centre For Contemporary Visual Art, Toronto, ONSolo
2011FilmsLismore Castle Arts, Lismore, Co. WaterfordSolo
2011Acht Stüle (Ocho sillas)Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, SAPS, Mexico CitySolo
2010Bonnenfantenmuseum toont / Shows. Roman Signer super 8 filmsBonnefantenmuseum, MaastrichtSolo
2010Skizzen und ModelleGraphische Sammlung der ETH, ZurichSolo
2010Roman SignerBischoff Projects, Frankfurt/MainSolo
2010Four Rooms, One ArtistSI Swiss Institute, New York City, NYSolo
2009Roman Signer. Werke 1975 – 2007Kunsthaus Zug, ZugSolo
2009Roman Signer: Projektionen. Filme und Videos 1975 2008Hamburger Kunsthalle, HamburgSolo
2009Roman SignerPalais de Tokyo, ParisSolo
2009Der letzte SchneeHäusler Contemporary, Munich, MunichSolo
2008Roman SignerHauser & Wirth, LondonSolo
2008Roman SignerHauser & Wirth, LondonSolo
2008Alles in FlussStädtische Museen Heilbronn, HeilbronnSolo
2008Roman Signer: ProjektionenStadthaus, ZurichSolo
2008Roman SignerArtspace, AucklandSolo
2008Roman SignerContemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Saint Louis, MOSolo
2008Roman Signer Reisebilder zwischen Leben und TodBonnefantenmuseum, MaastrichtSolo
2008Roman Signer: WorksRochester Art Center, Rochester, MNSolo
2008Roman SignerGalerie Martin Janda, ViennaSolo
2008Roman Signer, Flower PotJames Fuentes LLC, New York City, NYSolo
2008UnfallplastikMontagehalle im Stadtgarten Dornbirn, DornbirnSolo
2007Roman SignerFruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, ScotlandSolo
2007Roman Signer. Fotografie di viaggioPalazzo Zuckermann, PadovaSolo
2007Roman SignerGalerie Barbara Weiss, BerlinSolo
2007Roman SignerHäusler Contemporary Munich, MunichSolo
2007Hamburger BahnhofMuseum für Gegenwart, BerlinSolo
2006Kunstpreis Aachen 2006Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, AachenSolo
2006Aller/Retour 3Centre culturel Suisse, ParisSolo
2006Esculturas e instalaciónsCGAC Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de CompostelaSolo
2006Roman SignerAargauer Kunsthaus, AarauSolo
2005WorksOK Offenes Kulturhaus OÖ, LinzSolo
2005Roman SignerArt:Concept, ParisSolo
2004Tische Mit Ventilatoren, Tisch Mit KameraArgos, BrusselsSolo
2004Roman SignerGalerie Martin Janda, ViennaSolo
2004Roman SignerLe Carré, scène nationale, Chateau GontierSolo
2004Tische mit Ventilatoren, Tisch mit KameraEtablissement d´en face projects, BrusselsSolo
2004Roman SignerHäusler Contemporary, Munich, MunichSolo
2004Roman SignerHäusler Contemporary, Munich, MunichSolo
2003Roman SignerShiseido Gallery, TokyoSolo
2003Roman SignerStampa, BaselSolo
2002Roman SignerMargo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles, CASolo
2001Roman SignerKunstmuseum Solothurn, SolothurnSolo
2001Roman SignerCamden Arts Centre, LondonSolo
2001Roman SignerSynagoge Stommeln, Pulheim StommelnSolo
2001Roman SignerZeichnungen Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Münster, MünsterSolo
2001Recent and New WorkThe Castle, KilkennySolo
2001Roman SignerHubertus Exhibitions, ZurichSolo
2000Works 1971Bonnefantenmuseum, MaastrichtSolo
1999Roman SignerBonnefantenmuseum, MaastrichtSolo
1999Roman SignerGalerie Martin Janda, ViennaSolo
1999ROMAN SIGNERWiener Secession, ViennaSolo
1997Installazioni ad acquaCACT Centro d´Arte Contemporanea Ticino, BellinzonaSolo
1997Roman SignerCentre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), Glasgow, ScotlandSolo
1997The Moore International Discovery Series 3: Roman SignerGalleries at Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia, PASolo
1993Roman SignerKunsthalle Wil, WilSolo
1992Le Creux de l´enfercentre d´art contemporain, ThiersSolo
1992vitesse 2'000 m/secCentre d'Art Contemporain, FribourgSolo
1990Roman SignerCECCH Centre d'édition contemporaine, Genève, GenevaSolo
1988Roman SignerKunst Halle Sankt Gallen, St. GallenSolo
1981Roman Signer. FilminstallationKunsthaus Zürich, ZurichSolo

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