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22 Dec 2008

Oliver Ressler at ARTRA gallery

Oliver Ressler 'For A Completely Different Climate', 2008. Courtesy ARTRA gallery, Milan.

Oliver Ressler - For A Completely Different Climate


Opening: Monday, December 15th, 2008
From December 16th, 2008 to January 30th, 2009

From Tuesday to Saturday, 3 p.m./7 p.m.



Via Burlamacchi 1
20135 MILAN

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'For A Completely Different Climate'
Curated by Marco Scotini

Under the title 'For A Completely Different Climate', on Monday, Dec. 15 an extensive show of Oliver Ressler's work opens at ARTRA gallery in Milan. After an interval of three years since his first Italian exhibition, the Viennese artist now returns with a completely new project concerning the fate of our planet, precisely during the days when Europe is being called upon to make its decision on global warming.

Back from the 2008 Taipei Biennial where he not only appeared as an artist, but also as the curator of the section 'A World Where Many Worlds Fit,' Oliver Ressler has been internationally recognized for his participation in the 2006 Seville Biennial, the 2007 Moscow Biennial, the Baltic Biennial, his work at the Berkeley Art Museum and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as for his itinerant project 'Alternative Economics, Alternatives Societies' (2003-2008), which appeared in twenty-one locations, among them Madrid, Istanbul, Ljubljana, Lüneburg and Belgrade.

With this new appearance Oliver Ressler not only confirms his role in that space that lies between art and activism, and not only demonstrates once again that for him a space of representation is also and always a space for action. Migration, racism, privatisation, the prison system, worker ownership of factories, alternative economies, marginalised political perspectives, genetic engineering and the languages of protest are only some of the themes Ressler has transferred from the social arena to the symbolic arena through the use of a variety of visual strategies and different forms of mediation. Themes that once developed are then re-proposed in the most varied contexts: from public space to demonstrations or protest activities, or finally to artistic institutions.

Indeed given all the fields that Ressler has been engaged in and tirelessly continues to occupy himself with, he appears as one of most lucid interpreters of the current situation of 'Biocapitalism', as someone has defined it. In other words a capitalism that establishes a radical connection between work and life, whereby life and the workforce are one and the same, at the centre of the processes of production and subjugation, without any possibility of presupposing an 'outside' in relation to capitalist relationships themselves. For this reason the projects Ressler develops, and the images that result from these, are always presented in transversal way so that they cut across the whole sphere of life.

With this project on global warming created for Milan, Ressler proposes a socialization of scientific and technological knowledge, adding another chapter to the long list of areas he has already investigated. With 'For A Completely Different Climate,' Ressler not only seeks to reveal technology's ideological structure and its representation, but also continues his research into the production of free information and public access in creating common policies, igniting suspicion about the nature of political-economic agendas that may lie hidden behind the ecological debate. His objective is also to remove the boundaries of specialization and, above all, to overcome the hierarchy between experts and non-professionals, thus opening environmental technology as a field of empowerment.

The visual and formal starting point for the project is a series of slides-shows by the former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, on which the renowned documentary film 'An Inconvenient Truth' (2006) directed by Davis Guggenheim, is based on. Gore's information campaign on global warming essentially is an official and popular presentation of the hazards and the fate facing the planet. On the other hand, the conceptual starting point, as well as its casual origin, is the climate camp that was held in Kent in early August 2008 at the coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth, to protest against the plans of the owner, an electricity company, to build a large new plant once the present one is demolished. An installation with a 14 m long projection and light boxes accompany the question Ressler asks us: 'What does climate change really mean?'

The exhibition project 'For A Completely Different Climate' deals with an emerging social movement that questions and selectively fights the response (or non-response) of states and corporations to climate change. This leftist movement has the potential to mobilize especially in Britain, where in August 2008 a Climate Camp was organized to close the Kingsnorth coal-fired power station east of London. Although the Kingsnorth station will be shut down, the energy corporation E.ON plans to build, at the same location, a new coal-fired power station that will assure profits for the next few decades. This project completely conflicts with the necessary goal of reducing CO2 emissions. Preventing a new coal-fired powerplant in Kingsnorth is of great symbolic value, since a successful resistance could mean the end of other planned projects for coal-fired powerplants elsewhere in Britain.

The centre of the exhibition 'For A Completely Different Climate' is a 3-channel slide installation, based on 96 photos taken in the Climate Camp and at the demonstrations and blockades of Kingsnorth. These photos are combined with short texts and audio recordings of the demonstrations and workshops. In a presentation lasting 16 minutes, three connected projections will be shown on an 18-metre-long wall of the gallery. The exhibition also includes three light boxes combining photos with police search protocols and information sheets that identify state repression.

'For A Completely Different Climate' is my third project focusing on climate-change concerns. The '100 Years of Greenhouse Effect' was done in 1996 (Salzburger Kunstverein) and followed in 2000 by 'Sustainable Propaganda' that used a series of exhibitions to comment on the hegemonic discourse of 'sustainable development' (exhibitions included Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin). Ever since Al Gore's documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' (2006), that is based on his slide shows, the debate about global warming has been part of the mainstream. Gore believes that trading emissions rights and using clean and efficient technologies can prevent global warming. However, 'For A Completely Different Climate' uses the medium of a slide show to focus, above all, on resistance to the existing system and provides space for people who in contradiction to Gore believe that market-compatible approaches such as emissions trading is not about the protection of the climate, but instead only about ensuring continued capitalist growth. As noted in the installation's audio recordings, CO2 emissions continue to rise years after the signing of the Kyoto Protocol. Climate change could therefore only be confronted through a radical transformation of society that would effectively challenge the existing distribution of wealth and power-relationships that are guaranteed by the military. (Oliver Ressler)

Concept, photos, audio-recording, editing and production: Oliver Ressler
Editing assistant: David Grohe
Lightbox photos on the Great Rebel Raft Regatta: Amy Scaife, Mike Russell
Special thanks to: Climate Camp, Tadzio Mueller, Marco Scotini, Marcella Stefanoni
Supported by ARTRA gallery