Dwindling glaciers and polar ice caps, rising sea levels and entire land areas reduced to steppes: the repercussions of the climate crisis have long become visible. Nach uns die Sintflut [After Us, the Flood] is the title of the major autumn exhibition at Kunst Haus Wien
that has elected to use the resources of art to highlight the urgency of the issue. Through photography and video, 21 Austrian and international artists are illustrating the ecological consequences of our growth-orientated economic system.
Their works from the past ten years were often created as a result of in-depth research and close collaboration with scientists. They lend a visual form to the abstract processes and complex correlations of the climate crisis and move us at an emotional level. The programme of the exhibition reflects the concerns and key issues that Kunst Haus Wien is pursuing as a Green Museum: the environment and sustainability as well as artistic photography.
Nach uns die Sintflut showcases the beauty of nature as well as entire regions and stretches of land decimated by drought, flooding, and construction work. Alpine regions have been particularly hard hit by global warming. Axel Braun (DE) illustrates the point perfectly with historical photographs that document the alarming shrinkage of the Pasterze glacier. Michael Goldgruber (AT) produced a new work for the exhibition that examines the changes in the high-alpine landscape of the Ötztal Alps in Tyrol. In his Monuments series, Douglas Mandry (CH) has captured the slow and gradual disappearance of glacier ice on the type of white foil used in the Swiss Alps to cover up the glaciers. In her video work Ice Cry Baby, Dutch-born Anouk Kruithof (NL) has collated footage of collapsing glaciers from all over the world, to a sound track of ice breaking up and flowing away.
In his photo series Memories of the Future, Benedikt Partenheimer (DE) looks at permafrost as a climatic indicator. He warns of the fatal global consequences of the imminent thawing of the frozen soil in Alaska. Verena Dengler (AT) presents photographs and watercolours from her sojourn in Svalbard in 2018. The decommissioned coal mines and rocky landscapes exposed by the glacier melt paint a topical picture of the impact of global warming and coal mines that now lie dormant.
Photographer Sarker Protick (BD) has focused on the erosion of the river banks along the Ganges in his home country of Bangladesh. In his artistic work, Justin Brice Guariglia (US) reflects on the Anthropocene, i.e. our current geological epoch in which human activities have a dominant influence on both the climate and the environment. To this end, he has been working with the Oceans Melting Greenland NASA Mission to study the role that warmer oceans are playing in melting Greenlands ice. In their video work Räumliche Massnahmen (1) [Spatial Measures], Nicole Six & Paul Petritsch (AT) allude to humankinds responsibility for its actions. The video features someone using an ice pick to strike the surface of the ice they are actually standing on. At the end of the exhibition, Christina Seely (US) uses a two-channel video installation to reference the global context of all our ecosystems, juxtaposing images of the Panamanian rainforest and Greenlands ice sheet.
The title of the exhibition, Nach uns die Sintflut [After Us, the Flood], is taken from Volume I of Karl Marxs Das Kapital (1867), which states: Aprčs moi le déluge! [After Me, the Flood] is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Already 150 years ago, he realised that human intervention in nature was tantamount, factually, to environmental destruction and went on to express our indifference towards it. He criticised an attitude concerned solely with our own short-term profits, one that ignores systemic connections and the dramatic consequences for the ecosystem as a whole. The pursuit of ever-greater growth is depriving mankind of its basis of existence. The dramatic repercussions of our intervention in nature are similarly apparent in the Covid-19 crisis we are currently experiencing.
As the first Green Museum, Kunst Haus Wien is doing its share of awareness raising; by the same token, it is also eager to encourage action. An extensive programme of events is therefore to run in parallel with the exhibition, featuring a series of discussions on environmentally relevant topics in collaboration with Fridays for Future as well as readings of Karl Marx with Lukas Egger from the University of Vienna.