Betrachtungen des Waldes

Online discussion with Elke Dreier and Arjen Kleinherenbrink

28.05.2021

As part of the series Thinking Nature, GiG Munich hosted the online discussion between Elke Dreier (currently showing her work Betrachtungen des Waldes at GiG) and Dr. Arjen Kleinherenbrink (assistant professor in metaphysics and philosophical anthropology at the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies at the Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands) . The zoom discussion took place on the 28th of May. 

 The image in Elke Dreier’s work is the forest clearing – Arjen Kleinherenbrink will be introducing Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of the plane of nature. In this way, we will move from clearing to plane, to see how things might reveal themselves to us and how things came about to be what they are. 

To watch the discussion on Vimeo, please find the link here:  https://vimeo.com/558918382.

The project is funded by the City of Munich Department of Art and Culture.

Betrachtungen des Waldes

Elke Dreier

11.05 – 11.06.2021

Elke Dreier, Betrachtungen des Waldes, 2021, video installation (still image)

Elke Dreier, Betrachtungen des Waldes, 2021, video installation (still image)

Elke Dreier, Betrachtungen des Waldes, 2021, video installation (still image)

Elke Dreier, Betrachtungen des Waldes, 2021, video installation (still image)

Elke Dreier, Betrachtungen des Waldes, 2021, video installation (still image)

Elke Dreier, Betrachtungen des Waldes, 2021, video installation (still image)

Camera: Daniel Asadi FasziXylothek, TUM Holzforschung München

Elke Dreier, Betrachtungen des Waldes, 2021, video installation (still image)

Elke Dreier, Betrachtungen des Waldes, 2021, video installation (installation view)

Elke Dreier, Betrachtungen des Waldes, 2021, video installation (installation view)

Elke Dreier, Betrachtungen des Waldes, 2021, video installation (installation view)

Elke Dreier, Betrachtungen des Waldes, 2021, video installation (installation view)

The clearing in the forest is such a compelling image. It always seems to happen quite suddenly. The trees fall away to reveal an empty space. The sun shines there. Birds sing.  A butterfly flutters by.  Things become visible in the clearing as the eye adjusts to the bright light. We begin to perceive things that were previously hidden — things that otherwise might have escaped our notice. When we enter the clearing things show themselves to us. But what are these things that we see? And who are the ‘we’ to who see them?

For me, the clearing always will belong to Heidegger. When in ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ he starts to describe the relation between truth and unconcealment, it is the clearing to which he turns. He writes here so memorably,

In the midst of being as a whole an open place occurs. There is a clearing. Thought of in reference to beings, this being is more in being than are beings. Thos open center is therefore not surrounded by beings; rather, the clearing center itself encircles all that is, as does the nothing, which we scarcely know. (‘Origin of the Work of Art,’ in Heidegger, Basic Writings, 114)

Heidegger makes good use of the way the clearing makes the forest visible to us, the moment when we finally see the space, light, and air, that despite always being present, within the forest remaining unnoticed, overlooked. For Heidegger, the clearing then becomes the metaphor for how beings stand in Being. 

But there are so many other approaches to the clearing, and it is this that the work of Elke Dreier shows so well: the clearing in its compelling-ness. We might look at the video footage of the local forest and see the light, the trees and the leaves. Those who are more observant might catch a glimpse of an insect or bird.  An expert bird imitator however, would know the names of all the birds he hears and be able to replicate their song exactly. Similarly, the staff at Munich’s Xylotheque could identify the wood structures of each of the trees found there. The clearing is thus open to all those who wish to enter. It invites us in.

The clearing as presented by Elke Dreier in Betrachtungen des Waldes is the first in a series of exhibitions (entitled, Thinking Nature) held at GiG Munich. These exhibitions hope to examine man’s relation to nature, or more accurately, how man’s thinking is structured through the relation he has with nature. For too long this kind of thinking had been focused on the relationship man establishes with nature. Traditionally, the condition of knowledge lies within the human subject and whatever his experience of the world might be. More recently Marxist, feminist, and postmodern thought have set to critique this relationship further.  I would argue the challenge is to think nature outside this relation, with our current climate crisis as well as the ongoing corona pandemic making this task all the more urgent. The clearing of Elke Dreier work is to provide the open space for discussion. 

Magdalena Wisniowska 2021

Maria VMier

Vier

12.10 – 23.11.2019

 

sVrg1-5_DSC0813Vier, 2019, installation view

 

3_DSC0275Vier, 2019, installation view

 

4_DSC0620Vier, 2019, installation view

 

rg1-3_DSC0639Vier, 2019, installation view

 

rg3_DSC0702o. T. [ scarlet red and sap green ], 2019, Indian ink on chromolux, 70 x 100 cm

 

12_DSC0475Vier, 2019, installation view

 

9_DSC0629o. T. [ scarlet red and sap green ], 2019, Indian ink on chromolux, 70 x 100 cm

 

22_DSC0406Vier, 2019, installation view

 

13_DSC0395o.  T. , 2019, Stinging nettles,  black plastic, dimensions variable, detail

 

15_DSC0480o.  T. , 2019, Stinging nettles,  black plastic, dimensions variable, detail

 

20_DSC0482 o.  T. , 2019, Stinging nettles,  black plastic, dimensions variable, detail

 

23_DSC0752o. T. [black ], 2019, Indian ink on newsprint, 42 x 60 cm

 

26_DSC0755o. T. [black ], 2019, Indian ink on newsprint, 42 x 60 cm

 

28_DSC0780o. T. [black ], 2019, Indian ink on newsprint, 42 x 60 cm

 

pd_DSC0816Dear Fear, 2019, reading performance

 

When Adorno was writing his Aesthetic Theory in the 50s and 60s, he could still make the claim, now by all accounts obsolete, that the experience of art is akin to the experience of natural beauty.  “Authentic artworks,” he writes, “hold fast to the idea of a reconciliation with nature by making themselves completely a second nature.” Although already wary of man’s subjugation of nature,  Adorno still believed it was possible to find beauty, if not in nature, then in art that we experience as if it was nature. He would argue we find certain objects in nature beautiful because these present themselves in such a way that allow us to do so.  Artworks are like a second nature because they also allow us to find beauty in them. Genius is nothing more than the creative principle by which this second nature can be produced.

Postmodern and especially feminist critique put this association of natural beauty with the beauty of art into question. While there might be objects that seem to engender claims of beauty, these are by large culturally determined by race, gender or class. Genius is not an innate principle but a historical concept, very much misogynistic in origin, that by definition excludes women from the production of art. So what would it mean to address natural beauty in art now? How can one as an artist approach the problem of nature?

These are some of the questions central to Maria VMier’s practice, and especially to the body of work she presents at GiG Munich, developed during her recent residency at a remote location in Uckermark, near Berlin. On the one hand, the reading she presents to us is a result of her research into the closely connected structures of patriarchy, capitalism and disenchanted nature, taking into account both feminist critique and postcolonial discourse. On site at Uckermack she would walk with her audience to various locations in the surrounding countryside to reflect on her relationship to nature while also referring to our current ecological crisis (the burning of the amazon, climate change denial and climate activism), the political consequences of capitalism’s belief in progress for postcolonial struggles in the global south and ecofeminist attempts to define the common as future sites of resistance. In her writing there is a Thoreau-like longing for a simpler existence within nature as well as the rejection of  hipster or even non-western spirituality, tainted as it is by the colonial representation of the other.

On the other hand her drawings are not so dissimilar to the paintings by Wols that Adorno was writing about more than 60 years ago. Black, scarlet and sap green ink on paper, meandering and interweaving brushstrokes – these formal elements recall the conventions of lyrical abstraction and in their modernism seem to pursue the image of a second nature. But the work also acknowledges that if this image is to be achieved at all it must be done knowingly, the exhibition constructed in such a way to expose the dialectics involved in all our dealings with nature. The meandering arabesques of VMiers large drawings are done on paper more suited to digital printouts than the handmade; the delicate smaller works are pinned like specimens behind plastic covers; the shamanistic frame of drying stinging nettles is set above a shimmering floor of the same plastic sheeting that is used to kill weeds. VMier’s drawings pursue a second nature almost stubbornly, aware of all the historical, political and personal difficulties involved. 

Magdalena Wisniowska 2019

Maria VMier

Vier

12.10 – 23. 11. 2019

 

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Opening: 12.10.2019, 7 – 9 pm

Reading by the artist: 8 pm

 

GiG Munich is excited to present the exhibition, ‘Vier’ by Maria VMier, artist and collaborator, known for her work with Ruine München and the Hammann von Mier Verlag. VMier’s multidisciplinary practice has two distinct aspects. On the one hand there is her performative work, with its postfeminist, social and political references, on the other, her formal, abstract drawings on paper. For her GiG Munich exhibition she shows both – performance and drawing – developed during her recent residency in Uckermark, near Berlin, as part of the Libken e.V. Kunst & Umwelt fellowship.

The work is made in response to her remote location in Uckermark and the concept of nature, as well as our relation to it, forms a large part of exhibition. With her performance VMier acknowledges the feminist approaches to ecological concerns, endorsing an ecofeminism that demonstrates the close ties between the structures of capitalism, patriarchy and the disenchantment of nature. With her drawings, she subverts the traditional place of nature in aesthetic discussions of art. Utilising an abstract language of expressive signs, she shows that to identify with nature in the work of art need not be the privilege of the male genius, but can be rather, a postfeminist critical gesture.

inorganic landscape – images and text

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“Organic” in its current usage tends to be associated with organic farming, pesticide and chemical fertilizer free – the equivalent German term would be the familiar “bio” from the “bio” supermarket range. Food here is produced organically, meaning that it stays true to its biological origin. Organic is, chemically speaking, carbon-based.

Etymologically however, “organic” derives from the Greek “organikos” meaning “relating to organ or instrument.” An organic landscape is a landscape, which is organised. The natural environment surrounding us is a consequence of human activity, whether this is farming, building, mining etc. But the concept itself refers to a construction. Landscape as such is always constituted through a prior representation. There are picturesque landscapes or sublime ones. Landscape consists of a specific format, with a horizon, back- and foreground and certain distinguishable features. An inorganic landscape would be one that lacks this kind of organisation. It would somehow be free of human activity, both physically and conceptually. In an extreme sense, it would be non-biological, without animal or plant matter. It would also present a challenge to the relation we establish with it. Without the structure landscape offers, nature becomes something we cannot relate to.

The three artists GiG presents as part of the current exhibition, inorganic landscape – Stefanie Hofer, Rebecca Partridge and Miriam Salamander – work with this constructed sense of landscape, often employing traditional techniques to make its mediated nature more apparent.

To produce her etchings Miriam Salamander, first disassembles her chosen environment (in this case, the fields and meadows of southern England) into its constituent components (field, line, path, plant) to then reconstitute them in an idealised form. The etchings are both minimal and matter of fact, consisting of the least amount of mark making required to produce the landscape form.

Stefanie Hofer’s aquatints of classical and modernist gardens take a highly idealised vision of nature and manipulate it further. For GiG she has made two new prints, based on found images of the “El Cabrío” gardens, part of the larger El Pedregal development in Mexico City by Luis Barragán. The gardens were designed according to modernist utopian principles, enclosed spaces where one can retire and enjoy nature. In Stefanie Hofer’s aquatints this harmony of the natural and the manmade becomes darker and foreboding, dismissive of utopian claims.

Rebecca Partridge has a longstanding interest in synaesthesia as a means of relating to the outside world without recourse to representation. Watercolour landscapes of trees painted at a specific time and location are to resonate with ceramic abstract sculpture, producing a constellation of different stimuli. The experience the work demands is no longer bound to representation, but allows for a zone of mimetic relationality, where mimesis becomes a form of collusion with nature.

Both Miriam Salamander and Stefanie Hofer are Munich-based. Rebecca Partridge is a UK artist, currently living and working in Berlin.

Magdalena Wisniowska 2017