artists & participants
On June 29, 2006, Virgil de Voldère Gallery opens War and nature, an exhibition that explores the absurd participation of humanity in the cycles of war and peace.
Nature regenerates seasonally through processes of transformation, destruction and rebirth. As Nature’s cycles unfold, humanity comes to life, grows, gives birth and unavoidably departs it. The human realm biologically goes through a succession of life and death. This string of reproduction can be altered and accelerated by our struggle for a better life, creating wars that escalate the number of mortalities. Nature becomes the theater of human violence while the cycle of war and peace imitates its very own blueprint. This group exhibition presents works that witness our reliance on Mother Nature and the absurdity of our annihilation. Some works document actions, such as the photographs of Roman Signer and Ariel Orozco, the videos of Tsui Kuang Yu and Hung Chi Peng, and, the animation of Brody Condon. Others propose evocative images that comment on our fears and our use of nature as a deadly playground, such as the painting of Nina Bovasso, and, the drawings of Charlene Liu, Daniel Johnston and Nicolas Touron.
Nations go to war to defend their interests, improve their position or establish their power. In all cases they are willing to sacrifice a faction of their population. They exalt the spirit of the combatants who feel righteous and thus think that they will be protected. The natural instinct for self-preservation is replaced by a sense of trust in the country as a parental figure. Human beings go to war with the belief that their cause will ensure them a certain safety. Once in the turmoil, facing the gravity of their situation they become aware of their frailty and understand that life is not a guarantee. They begin questioning. They might ultimately free themselves from their old convictions. They will often set their mind apart from their motherland’s values.
This maturing process is comparable to the growth of a person creating its own identity in order to distinguish itself from the parental unit. Going to war might be therefore considered like the response of a child, whether one’s is the child of Nature, a nation or a parent.
For Historia de Vida, 2006, Ariel Orozco photographed a snail that left behind a trail on the asphalt after crossing a street in Mexico City. The danger of the traffic seems to be beyond the snail’s comprehension. In Relacion, 2002, Ariel Orozco stands firmly on the shoulder of his father with a rope around his throat. We wonder if the endangered son is even questioning the trustworthiness of his father.
“In Mum, 2003, sentimental music emanates from a stereo as Meiro Koizumi slowly draws a telephone conversation with his mother round to the revelation that he is 'in a war', at which point the piece explodes into a bizarre vocal chaos of battle sounds.”1
Suicide Solution, 2004, by Brody Condon, documents 50 scenes of suicide committed in third person shooter games. “Through the angst-ridden logic of teen existentialism, the work offers a repetitive meditation on the act of taking one's own life in a contemporary culture intertwined with interactive screen based entertainment.”2
Daniel Johnston’s drawings “reflect (…) some visceral connection to his desires and his fears, some real and many in his mind. The drawings (…) are heavily symbolic and feature his comic obsessions, like Captain America and Casper the Friendly Ghost, alongside his own creations, with names like the Frog of Innocence, the Man in the Polka Dot Underwear and a character usually meant to represent himself, a man with the top of his skull neatly excised, known as Joe the Boxer. Swastikas are a more disturbing motif, which Mr. Johnston attributes only to a fascination with World War II.”3
In his single channel video The Welcome Rain Falling from the Sky, 1997, Tsui Kuang-Yu jumps between two areas, divided by a white line in order to avoid various falling objects. “The title of the work ironically evokes a Chinese idiom about a story where God sends rain to people after a long period of drought, it’s a superstition addressing people’s struggle with life and death. The falling objects create a feeling of danger and absurdity.”4
Excerpts from the Holy Bible in Arabic Translation, 2006, by Hung-Chi Peng is part of a series of videos showing a white dog writing passages of fundamental spiritual texts. For each video the text is written on a wall with dog food. The dog is then filmed eating the food and the sequence is reversed by the editing process giving us the impression that the dog is writing. Here English subtitles allow us to decipher violent quotes in Arabic. They talk about death, destruction, wrath and revenge. Certain readers might mistake them with citations from an Islamic book. Others will be bewildered when they realize they come from the Old Testament.
The Spielberg’s List, 2003, by Omer Fast presents a group of Jewish prisoners standing in what seems to be a camp in World War II. The smile and casualness of the group leave us perplexed. In the remaining set of Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List located in Krakow, Omer Fast interviewed and filmed the Polish extras who played Jews and Nazis. If Omar Fast’s subject for the Spielberg’s List project is the misleading character of history and documentaries, this video still engages us further in that reflection. Here, terror is diverted by a sense of mystery and absurdity.
Nicht Loslassen, 1983/2000, documents one of Roman Signer’s concise and mightily absurd actions set at the edge of a magnificent Swiss forest. The artist launches a rocket whose residual smoke envelops him almost completely.
By referencing Chinese landscape painting in her watercolors, Charlene Liu, take us back to the Taoist conception of the natural world as a breath for the physical world. When discreetly inscribing a crashed car in Untitled, 2006, the artist introduces a narrative and a sense of ambiguous threat. The scene might be voided of human figure, yet we feel that the human constituent is laying somewhere in the story.
Nina Bovasso’s painting untitled Explosion #2, 2002, ambiguously depicts an explosion as a bouquet of flowers. It reminds us of the beauty that fascinates us in dramatic scenes of violence, and lets us meditate on the creative power of destruction. In the cycle of life and death, destruction provides rebirth. Nicolas Touron’s intricate drawing, Untitled, 2006, shows the collision of the natural and engineered worlds as if they were in a state of perpetual war.
1 David Musgrave, 2004 2 Stated by the artist. 3 Randy Kennedy, Man-Child in the promised Land, The New York Times, February 19, 2006 4 Stated by the artist.
only in german
WAR AND NATURE
mit Nina Bovasso, Brody Condon, Omer Fast, Daniel Johnston, Miro Kosumi, Charlene Liu, Ariel Orozco, Hung-Chi Peng, Roman Signer, Nicolas Touron, Kuang-Yu Tsui