The exhibition first examines the interplay between the expansion of the railroad, the advent of the cinema and the creative endeavors of the artistic and literary avant-garde artists of the first half of the 20th century. It then gradually unfolds from room to room, revealing the breadth of the world of the train as it transports visitors over tracks, tunnels, bridges and stations in Switzerland and beyond.
Composed of nearly 370 works, documents and objects, the exhibition develops along three “routes” and 15 themes or “stations”. The first “route”, running from the 19th to the early 20th century, consists of visions, utopias and the spirit of conquest. The second is devoted to the first functions of the railroad - from learning how to use it to one’s advantage, to the melancholy associated with the journey itself, while focusing on the different forms of sociability within the train station and the railway car. Between fascination, inspiration and interrogation, certain dimensions specific to the railway universe constitute the third: the faces of those who worked there during the darkest hours of its history, the astonishing peculiarities of trains from other horizons, and alternative contemporary practices.
The show creates a dialogue between photography (Ella Maillart, Sabine Weiss, René Burri, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Martine Franck, Jean Mohr, and Bernard Plossu), film (the Lumière brothers, Georges Méliès, and Charlie Chaplin), painting and drawing (Gustave Caillebotte, Paul Klee, Aloïse Corbaz, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol), and literature (Blaise Cendrars).