Cervo, Beyond Culture

Be giving. Nicht giftig


Adam Stamp is giving the CERVO a festive touch. For the winter season, the CERVO is adorned in a creative guise and Christmas glow: wrapped and decorated with drawings, gift paper, ribbons, and various light decorations. The Christmas installation was conceived and executed in collaboration with the American artist Adam Stamp, who had previously been an Artist in Residence at CERVO during the summer. Adam, who grew up in the Arizona desert, is passionate about skiing and draws inspiration from places and language. The installation at the mountain resort posed an exciting challenge for the artist, considering the limited availability of materials and resources in the Alpine village – and the absence of a "proper" studio.

The starting point for this art project is us – CERVO – as a place, a brand, a way of life. The elements are decoratively arranged and connected to the Zermatt winter, après-ski culture, and Christmas car commercials in the USA. The message is clear and profound: "Be giving, not toxic." It's about giving, not just giving gifts – a mindset, a lifestyle, not just an action. Art should always go a bit beyond the ordinary, the expected – BEYOND, as the CERVO Christmas installation aims to do.

We spoke with Adam Stamp before the opening – in the interview, you'll learn what drives and inspires him, what inspired him for the CERVO installation, what dream is about to come true for him, and why he receives a nutcracker from his mother every Christmas.

You were already at CERVO in the summer as an Artist in Residence. How did you become aware of this "opportunity" – what was the experience?

I stumbled upon CERVO when searching for art residencies in Zermatt – I wanted to come here for skiing – and then I came across the "Cabin Essence" residency offer. Since I'm interested in hotels and the concept of feeling at home, I thought it would be the perfect combination. My work revolves around giving, hospitality, hosting, and serving. So, the experience I had at CERVO was an excellent exploration of these themes – the people and the environment made my time truly productive, inspiring, and restful.

Now you're in Zermatt for the second time – and it's winter. Is it different, what is different?

It feels like I've experienced three seasons here: the beautiful summer, which felt like a refuge from the burning world. And now, winter and autumn. When I arrived, it was a real winter wonderland, but then came the rain, and in recent days, it's been autumnal – crisp, clear, orange. I've witnessed different phases of the hotel: the opening in summer, transitioning into a lively summer season, and now the off-season, which is very cozy and relaxed. I can't wait to see what it's like in the "real" winter. I'll also stay for a few more days after the resort is closed, which is essentially a dream come true.

What do you like about CERVO – and about Zermatt?

Zermatt is quirky and beautiful, and I love everything quirky and beautiful. I really can't wait to experience the proper ski season and see how things are then. If I were to describe CERVO, I would say it's casual luxury. It's clearly a five-star hotel but not stiff and formal like most other hotels. It's dreamy and funky, and things that aren't quite "perfect" somehow manage to be charming. Strangely enough, I sleep very well here. What I like most about CERVO is the people who work here.

Since December 2nd, your Christmas installation is on display at and in CERVO. Does the decorative installation project have a name/motto? What's behind it?

Given my thematic interests in art and my enthusiasm for language, text, and wordplay, "Das Gift/giftig" (The poison/toxic) is one of my favorite words/concepts in German – how poison seemingly opposes the English concept of a gift. But actually, I think the relationship is quite profound – "gifts/giving" are a very complicated concept as they almost always say more about the giver than the receiver. Gifts are rarely "requested" and can sometimes be a means of control. In my work, I view giving as very gendered, distorted in favor of the masculine, non-consensual, and a bit toxic. So, this project is about being "giving," which is more of a mindset than an action. Giving can often seem like a grand gesture or a remedy for wrongdoing, while being giving represents a lifestyle. I think this idea fits very well with the CERVO brand and my personal aspirations. I want my work and my life to be giving, not toxic, but often I fail despite my best efforts, so it's good to have a reminder. Let's call the whole project: "Nicht giftig" (Not toxic).

Describe the installation. What is there to see? What materials did you use? Did you face any challenges?

There are drawings, ribbons, gift paper, and light installations. In the USA, during the holidays, there are always commercials featuring new cars with a big ribbon on top. I always wanted to design my own big ribbon, and this opportunity allows me to do so – so we made some small ribbons for objects inside the hotel, and then I will handcraft a giant ribbon for the outside of the hotel. There will also be some light decorations that consider both the Christmas season and après-ski culture.

The drawings are a good opportunity to connect my artistic interests with the context of the Zermatt winter. I'm looking forward to it and allowing myself to be loose and have fun. I'm a bit obsessed with the carpeted tunnel that leads to CERVO, where some drawings are displayed. It's like an exhibition I've always wanted to do in a gallery but haven't done yet.

It's always a challenge to do things in a small space. My work, especially my sculptural work, is quite urban. Having lived in Los Angeles for 15 years, I rely on the industry and the availability/accessibility of materials/resources, so this type of project requires more planning. Of course, the lack of a proper studio/workshop presents a series of interesting challenges, but as a constant wanderer, I feel well-prepared to face and adapt to these conditions. At the moment, I'm drawing in the Ferdinand – a great studio.

How do you approach such a project – how do you start your creative process?

I think it starts with the place – many of my works are site-specific, as the context of the place they were originally made for is important. But I also want to create things that can be taken anywhere. As I mentioned earlier, working in such a remote place comes with limitations, so more planning ahead and sourcing materials are required. But there's actually no beginning to the creative process because it's always ongoing. For better or worse, I am the work, and the work is me.

What inspired you for the CERVO installation? What generally inspires you in art-making?

CERVO is, of course, the starting point for this project – the place, the mood, the attitude, the brand. Since I've worked a lot in Aspen, where I built the Slippery Slope Bar for the Aspen Art Museum, there are some overlaps, as Aspen and Zermatt are very similar. In general, I'm always inspired by places – and by language, everyday objects (especially those that serve), the service industry, drinking and eating, sex, and everything related to society.

Does your installation align with the fundamental attitude/vision/concept of CERVO: "Beyond exploring"? Can approaches, thoughts, messages be connected?

I hope so. I think CERVO has this nicely curated "anything goes" vibe that I try to respond to while maintaining the emerging quality that both the CERVO brand and my art should possess. "Beyond" is a beautiful concept – I believe that art should always go a bit beyond the norm, the everyday, the expected. CERVO inviting artists for the "Cabin Essence" residency really supports the commitment to "beyond."

Have you done something similar elsewhere in a similar form? What type/form of art do you usually create?

As mentioned earlier, I created the bar at the Aspen Art Museum, which is part of a series of bar sculptures I've made (Hiccup – Mexico City, Sorry's – Toronto, Il Meandro – Rome). I often create sculptures that – like a bar – serve or provide a place to sit, lean, smoke, or hang a hat/bag/coat. My drawings always start with a place – I collect ephemera from everywhere I go and use it as a basis for the drawings. I am in the tradition of artists like Martin Kippenberger, On Kawara, and Karen Kilimnik, where one's own travels and personal interests lead to a work that is based on the individual but is also accessible to everyone.

You're from the USA, where Christmas is celebrated on a large scale. Do you like Christmas? How do you celebrate Christmas?

I grew up in the Arizona desert, so Christmas there is a weird concept – it's usually sunny and around 22 degrees – Santa hats on saguaro cacti. I love spending this time with my mother and her partner, who now live in Las Vegas (which I don't love, but the hotels have great Christmas installations...). In the USA, Christmas is mainly about consumption, so I'm glad I'm working on this project outside of that context, even though it's influenced by that idea.

My mother has the tradition of giving me a nutcracker every year, which usually has something to do with the circumstances of my life in the same year – a chef when I learned to cook, a winemaker in the year I lived in France, a firefighter when my apartment caught fire, a pilot in the year my father died (in a plane crash). It's truly a special collection full of sadness, joy, and humor, much like my work when it's at its best.

Your wish for this Christmas?

Peace on earth. An end to occupation and apartheid. An end to wars. An end to exploitation and enslavement in the name of technology and capitalism. And maybe a new pair of shoes?

How does your journey to Zermatt continue? What's planned for 2024?

After Zermatt, I'll briefly return to London and Los Angeles, spend Christmas with my mother in Las Vegas, and then I'll spend most of January and February in Aspen, skiing and spending time with one of my best friends and greatest supporters. I plan to permanently move to London from March. In the spring, I'll curate an exhibition of paintings in Rome, and I hope CERVO will invite me again for some spring skiing! Ha ha!

What drives you in life – in your art? What is your motivation?

To the question "What do you have besides work, love, smoking, and drinking?" filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder responded curtly: "Nothing."

Adam Stamp's Christmas installation can be seen and visited until 10 January 2024.