In this group exhibition at Gerhardsen Gerner, twelve artists investigate contemporary attitudes toward nature.
In their celebrated text "Dialektik der Aufklärung / Dialectic of Enlightenment” (1944), Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer write that “the fully enlightened Earth radiates disaster triumphant”. While this insight is now more than half a century old, it still rings true. We live in an age of disappearance: in a world with no blank spots left on the map, we are more likely to see something for the last time than for the first.
At the same time, humankind can now reproduce nature by scientific means. This gives us unprecedented and near-sovereign power, but it also places nature perhaps forever out of our reach, rendering it a mere function of ourselves.
(Image: Carroll Dunham, Untitled, Dec 2009,Aug, Oct 2010, 2009-10, Mixed media on llinen, 110x120 cm; Courtesy of the artist and Gerhardsen Gerner)
In such a situation, ‘nature’ is an ambiguous sign. On the one hand, it will never cease to promise us authenticity or escape and, on the other, it is a melancholy relic of our own domination over it. In this way, nature becomes a mirror for the human subject. However, this reflective quality works differently than it has historically, when artists looked to nature for answers on human origin, or depicted it as chaotic and fear-provoking in order to subdue the hubris of our culture.
(Image: Roe Ethridge, Sun with Refracted Suns, 2008, C-Print, 144,8x106,7 cm; Courtesy of the artist and Gerhardsen Gerner)
The artists in this exhibition work in a wide range of media, from photography and painting to sound and installation. They reflect on and deconstruct conventional formats for the representation of nature, including landscape painting, depictions of paradise and of the human nude. In this way nature – as an artistic and scientific sign, as well as a fact that can be romantic in varying degrees – becomes a foil to exceed culture, to make images of other images, and to turn our gaze either away from or towards ourselves.
(Top image: Lari Pittman, Untitled #10, 2008, Acrylic, Cel-Vinyl and aerosol lacquer on canvas, 52x40 in; Courtesy the artist and Gerhardsen Gerner)