Do you hear what I feel?
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Art and sustainability - this is the theme of the Group Global 3000 project space, which was launched in 2012 by Tom Albrecht, former environmental officer at the TU Berlin and artist. Today the topic is more up to date than ever. The latest exhibition deals with the Corona and climate crisis and looks for similarities and parallels. We asked Tom about it and wanted to know: What does art have to contribute against the Corona crisis?
CCB Magazine: Hello Tom, the Corona crisis is paralyzing the entire cultural industry. Artists get off reasonably well, they can still go on with their work, or are we wrong?
Tom Albrecht: Of course we suffer from the lockdown too. Art only starts to come to life when we get in touch with our guests. The guests are no longer allowed to join us in the project room, the only alternative is the digital space, but this allows only very limited encounters and is not well received, at least not in our case. We have already considered whether we, as artists, could not approach the people, in a parking garage for instance or elsewhere. We discussed this with other artists, and it was a very nice discussion, but the idea hasn't matured yet.
CCB Magazine: In your project room you are currently showing - online - an exhibition on the Corona pandemic and the climate crisis. You ask to what extent the two crises are connected. What is your answer?
Tom Albrecht: When we started with what I would call the Corona management due to the restrictions, hygiene, distance, etc., it took up more and more time, so that at some point we thought, wait a minute, what about the other topic, is that going to be lost completely, is that going to take a back seat? There are certainly parallels between the two crises. What both have in common is that mobility is changing: There is less flying, of necessity, which benefits the climate because less C02 is emitted. Then: Through the Corona crisis, we are also practicing a more resource-conserving behavior, which will hopefully have an impact on the much longer lasting climate crisis. With our exhibition we want to show the points of contact between both crises.
The climate crisis is progressing, but we can still avert it, we have not yet fallen, but we are dangling from the ceiling. Art has the possibility to illustrate exactly this dimension
CCB Magazine: Could you please give us an overview of your exhibition? Who will be there? What will be shown? And who needs this?
Tom Albrecht: The exhibition includes international artists such as Silvia Amancei and Bogdan Armanu, Ann Besier, Kateryna Bortsova, Natasha Cantwell and many others. The artists and artworks we have chosen, however, have not been selected solely on the basis of whether they present solutions or interesting aspects to our theme. It was also a matter of comprehensibility for the audience. Kateryna Bortsova from the Ukraine, for example, is exhibiting her painting: Two naked people hanging from thin ropes against the background of a map of Europe. For me, this illustrates the danger we are in, the risk we have to be aware of; the two of them fall, but they are still hanging on thin ropes. That is how it is in the present: the climate crisis is progressing, but we can still avert it, we have not yet fallen in the picture, we are still dangling from the ceiling. Then there is, for example, the work of Jochen Schnepf, four large photos in which you can see some kind of ceramic tentacles that seem to grow naturally among other plants. Like Bortsova, Schnepf, too, wants to use these pictures to point out the danger of the Corona pandemic and the climate change; the ceramic tentacles that are in nature, although they do not belong there. I think he got to the point very well, the work also has a high aesthetic value. Another artist, Maria Korporal has created an interactive video where she compares the images of the worldwide flight movements of today with those of before Corona, which of course were much more. At the same time she lets trees grow in the Corona period in the video, the message here is clear.
CCB Magazine: Which of your exhibited works do you particularly like and why?
Tom Albrecht: Well, that's a work of mine, the climate club, which I had already exhibited in a different form. Back then it was called the fossil club. The piece of wood, the fossil club, is now wrapped in plastic, which symbolizes the new hygiene measures, and hangs from the ceiling. You keep bumping your head on it. My idea here was for someone to stand next to the club and another, the partner, to hold the club away from you after consultation and then let it go so that it hits you in the head. By that I mean: there is something that threatens us, there is a social component, do I trust my partner, do I even have a partner, and how big is the distance between the club and me, how big do I want for myself, for society the danger to be.
CCB Magazine: On your homepage you mention a team of researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research (PIK) who have identified and analyzed parallels between the global health crisis and the climate crisis. In this regard, the researchers propose a cross-generational “climate Corona contract” that includes young and old. That sounds wonderful. But what can such a “contract” look like in practice?
Tom Albrecht: Well, that's a suggestion to think of the consequences of both crisis. Corona affects us now, but the climate crisis affects the following generations. The proposal is an impetus to show mutual consideration, to tackle problems together, in solidarity with one another.
CCB Magazine: Art has always commented on society related issues. How does art have to react to the Corona crisis? What is your mission for the future? And can art really contribute to an understanding of one or the other crisis? Doesn't it make more sense to read some good books about climate change to gather facts?
Tom Albrecht: Everything has its place. The visual arts, in all its forms, have the opportunity to create concise, emotionally charged images that point to problems, crises and their nuances, this is no different with Corona or the climate crisis. The climate activists have copied some of the performance art to make their protest clearer. I am thinking, for example, of the spectacular actions of Extinction Rebellion. Art can evoke thoughts on an emotional level, which no matter how well-founded a non-fiction book cannot do. Art can appeal to the feeling, not just the mind. Art is always the freedom of the subject, in thinking, in wanting and in doing.
Art, in all its forms, has the opportunity to create concise, emotionally charged images that point to problems, crises and their nuances. I am thinking, for example, of the spectacular actions of Extinction Rebellion. Art can evoke thoughts on an emotional level, which no matter how well-founded a non-fiction book cannot do
CCB Magazine: Sustainability researchers have been emphasizing for years that the climate crisis results precisely from the freedom we have gained: Precisely because we live in freedom and can behave freely, we also cross the boundaries of nature. Does art need a new understanding of freedom after Corona that is associated with restrictions?
Tom Albrecht: It's a complex question. First of all, I would say that freedom can go hand in hand with restrictions. Freedom doesn't mean that I act like the last dog and ruin what we have fought for. No, rather art has the function of drawing attention to this contradiction. In the end it is of course up to each artist himself whether he opens his mouth, that is also part of his freedom. Freedom is a basic requirement for art, and the individual artist decides whether he wants to devote himself artistically to this topic or not.
CCB Magazine: Ok, let's put it this way: there is now largely consensus on climate change and what needs to be done about it. What kind of criticism still remains for art? Art has always been social criticism to a certain extent. How can art position itself against in the climate discourse if everyone pulls together? And aren't forms of protest like Fridays for Future much more effective?
Tom Albrecht: Yes, but are they all serious? Are they really doing something, politics, companies? Or do they just say yes and amen because it seems opportune to them? I think art is more in demand here than ever. It can push for more consistency. Art can put her fingers in the wound, expose the hypocrisy and double standards, art, in its glaring diversity, can startle us. And today we need that more than ever.
CCB Magazine: The ecological question is now a political one. But sustainability also includes social sustainability, i.e. the need for free spaces and good working conditions. Is there a risk that we will forget the social question in all the hustle and bustle about new ecological urgency?
Tom Albrecht: That's a good question. I think it's a question of resources. We too are constantly fighting for our project space and have to live with the fear that we will not be able to hold it. We are always concerned with our existence. And this fight takes a lot of strength. To get together with others and to talk about the basics, such as the connection between the ecological and the social question, and to develop ideas together is not so easy because everyone is preoccupied with their own survival. Yes, we must not lose sight of the social aspects.
CCB Magazine: Tom, your exhibition will be on view until December 11th. It cannot be ruled out that the partial lockdown will extend further into the winter months. What are you going to do next? Can you even have an art exhibition under such sad circumstances?
Tom Albrecht: We are already planning our next exhibition - 1.5 -, an allusion to the 1.5 degree goal of the Paris climate agreement. We'll hold on to that for now and wait to see what happens. The new exhibition is advertised until December 4th and we plan to use the submitted works to create an exhibition. Hundreds of applications have already come in. It starts in mid-January.
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