Poisons will embrace the Earth like a fiery lover.
And in the mortal embrace, the heavens will have the breath of death and the sources will give only bitter waters and many of these waters will be more toxic than the rotten blood of the serpent.
Men will die of water and air, but it will be said that they died of heart and kidneys.
Rasputin’s prophecy (19th century)
Until 12 March at The Gallery Apart “In And Against The War On Terra” is open to visitors. This is the second solo exhibition in Rome by Austrian artist Oliver Ressler. The exhibition explores climate issues related to environmental pollution and fossil capitalism, representing a clear reflection on the anthropocene and climate change, as well as what can be done practically to protect the health of the planet.
Oliver Ressler’s work occupies the fine line between political activism and performance art, stemming from the artist’s past as a documentary filmmaker.
The core of the exhibition revolves around a 6-channel video installation entitled “Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart”, which showcases moments in the battle for climate justice and the activists’ struggle against the capitalist system in which ethical issues are crushed by economic interests. Among the videos in the series is the film about Code Rood in which activists blocked the port of Amsterdam because of the large amount of coal being moved through it.
The video work was shot live by the artist who, in this way, contributed to the participation in these mass protests. There is a strong aesthetic sense, beautiful landscapes alternating with industrial settings enhanced by the white anticontamination protective clothing worn by the activists. In addition, the artist has chosen to subtitle the scenes in Italian in order to get the message across to viewers in the most comprehensible way possible.
On the wall in front of the monitor are four photographs from the series “How Is the Air Up There?” that retrace the occupation of the Hambach forest in Germany, where activists occupied branches in the trees and built houses to stop the deforestation planned by the electricity company RWE, which wants to destroy the forest to obtain lignite. One of the four photographs documents behaviour typical of these protests in which people end up shouting insults – in fact, the environmentalists had written “FUCK RWE” on one banner hanging from a tree.
Other prints in the exhibition include “Red Line Against Fossil Capitalism’, a still-frame from the Code Rood video, and also the works “Every round-trip ticket on flights from New York to London costs the Arctic three more square metres of ice” and “Arctic permafrost is less permanent than its name suggests” featuring 3D graphics. In the first work, these graphics are inserted into the deteriorating permafrost and, in the second work, they evoke the polygonal soil phenomenon caused by frost heaving, an effect that causes wetlands to swell as a result of freeze-thaw conditions. In particular, these last two are not only profound, authentic reflections but also represent a paradox, meaning literally “Arctic permafrost is less permanent than its name suggests”.
Moving to the lower floor, the basement of Apart features a large video projection of the occupation of the Venice Film Festival red carpet by 200 activists protesting against global warming.
The word and the image in this solo exhibition thus prove to be the most immediate vehicles that the artist uses to situated himself between society and the environmental struggle.
These are real stories that Ressler deals with in his works, documentaries of history and warnings. The photographs and videos represent concrete shocks to the conscience of those who view global warming as a problem to be left to future generations to solve, forgetting that these will include their own children and grandchildren.
Oliver Ressler, In and Against the War on Terra, The Gallery Apart, Roma, 08.01 – 12.03.2021
images: (cover 1 ) Oliver Ressler, «Artic permafrost is less permanent than its name suggests», 2019, digital print, cm 82×104 (framed), Edition 5+1 AP, courtesy of the artist and The Gallery Apart Rome, photo by Giorgio Benni (2) Oliver Ressler, «In and Against the War on Terra», 2021, installation view at The Gallery Apart (ground floor), courtesy of the artist and The Gallery Apart Rome, photo by Giorgio Benni (3) Oliver Ressler, «Every round-trip ticket on flights from New York to London costs the Artic three more square meters of ice», 2019, digital print, cm 75×104 (framed), Edition 5+1 AP, courtesy of the artist and The Gallery Apart Rome, photo by Giorgio Benni. (4) Oliver Ressler, «How is the Air up there?», 2018, digital print, cm 64,5 x 89 (framed), Edition 5+1 AP, courtesy of the artist and The Gallery Apart Rome, photo by Giorgio Benni (5) Oliver Ressler, Red Line Against Fossil Capitalism, 2017/2019, digital print, cm 102 x 76,5 (framed), Edition 5+1 AP, courtesy of the artist and The Gallery Apart Rome, photo by Giorgio Benni (6) Oliver Ressler, «In and Against the War on Terra», 2021, installation view at The Gallery Apart (basement), courtesy of the artist and The Gallery Apart Rome, photo by Giorgio Benni