artists & participants
The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is dedicating an extensive thematic exhibition to the fascination with wilderness from modernity to the present. Over 100 important and impressive artworks by 34 international artists are presented, including Julian Charrière, Ian Cheng, Marcus Coates, Tacita Dean, Mark Dion, Jean Dubuffet, Max Ernst, Camille Henrot, Asger Jorn, Per Kirkeby, Joachim Koester, Ana Mendieta, Georgia O’Keeffe, Gerhard Richter, Henri Rousseau, and Carleton E. Watkins.
At a time when most of the blank spaces on the map of this world have largely disappeared and an “untouched state of nature” almost only still exists in the form of designated conservation areas, wilderness has once again become a focus in art. The search for the last free places, expeditions as an artistic medium, and visions of a post-human world as well as the renegotiation of the relationships between human beings and animals shape the works of many contemporary artists. With wilderness, what is under consideration is a cultural concept that has always also served as a projection surface for the other and the alien, for antitypes and fantasies of desire beyond the boundaries of a self-appointed civilization. In the current “age of human beings,” the utopia of a natural state removed from culture and human influence seems outdated. The examination of traditional images and fictions of wilderness, however, seem more alive than ever before.
Esther Schlicht, the curator of the exhibition, about the exhibition: “In the case of wilderness as a topic, we have always also been dealing with images and projections in which the fears and longings of a self-appointed civilization are expressed. The idea of wilderness in itself is hence directly accompanied by the production of artistic pictures. The exhibition is linked to this idea and, when it interrogates wilderness in art, does not attempt first and foremost to trace the iconographic conventions of the historical representation of wilderness. Starting from a series of contemporary positions, it instead explores a relationship between art and wilderness that goes back to Romanticism. In individual thematic sections, attention is thus focused on particular aspects such as the aesthetic of the sublime popularized by Romanticism, the exploration of wilderness as a space for artistic experience, the metaphorical dimension of wilderness as a creative principle, and the creation of new, artificial wilderness by art.”
In the traditional meaning of the word, wilderness denotes locations and instances that deny human access and in which nature is left to itself. In occidental history, wilderness as a cultural concept has always been constituted above all as an alternative model—in contrast to the spheres of the cultivated, the domesticated, or of civilization. It was only in the course of the eighteenth century that the Western concept of wilderness increasingly changed from a terrifying, threatening alternative world beyond human control into a positive utopia that then, conversely, was confronted with civilization as a threat. In connection with this, wilderness as an epitome of the sublime developed into an aesthetic category that, mediated by Romanticism, is still in use today. Abstract and ambiguous as the term wilderness at first seems, it nevertheless also directly gives rise to concrete pictures and associations that are rooted in the collective consciousness and perpetuate the legacy of Romanticism. The artistic examination of pictures and motifs of a disappearing wilderness today also always makes reference to a historical tradition. Against this backdrop, the exhibition is not first and foremost dedicated to the topic of wilderness in terms of iconography, but instead interrogates the relationship between wilderness and art in the 20th and 21st centuries so as to shed light on it from current perspective. The exhibition develops as a thematically conceived dialogue between contemporary and historical works—paintings, photographs, graphics, video and sound works, sculptures, and installations.
All the artists in the exhibition: Darren Almond, Karel Appel, Hicham Berrada, Frères Bisson, Julian Charrière, Ian Cheng, Marcus Coates, Constant, Tacita Dean, Mark Dion, Jean Dubuffet, Max Ernst, Joan Fontcuberta, Luke Fowler, GUN (Group Ultra Niigata), Camille Henrot, Pieter Hugo, Asger Jorn, Per Kirkeby, Jacob Kirkegaard, Joachim Koester, Richard Long, Heinz Mack, Ana Mendieta, Helmut Middendorf, Georgia O’Keeffe, Richard Oelze, Gerhard Richter, Briton Rivière, Henri Rousseau, Lin May Saeed, Frank Stella, Thomas Struth, Carleton E. Watkins.
The exhibition Wilderness is supported by the Dr. Marschner Foundation and the Verein der Freunde der Schirn Kunsthalle e. V.
A catalog edited by Esther Schlicht and with a foreword by Philipp Demandt and and texts by Philippe Descola, Karen Kurczynski, Johanna Laub, Cord Riechelmann, Esther Schlicht, and Reiko Tomii as well as artists’ statements and excerpts from historical and literary texts has been published by Kerber Verlag.