In his second solo exhibition at The Gallery Apart, Oliver Ressler presents films and photographic works focused on the climate justice movements and forms of resistance to the wrecking of the Earth’s climate – and the basis of human existence. The title “In and Against the War on Terra” points to the fact that everyone is more or less conscripted into the War on Terra through the blackmail of survival, but it is still necessary to oppose that war at the same time. The central piece in the exhibition is Ressler’s 6-channel video installation “Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart” (2016-2020). It follows the climate justice movement and its struggles to dismantle an economic system heavily dependent on fossil fuels. The work records key events for the movement, connecting many situations, contexts, voices and experiences.
In the first film, activists contest the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015. The film on the Ende Gelände action shifts the focus to a massive civil disobedience action at the Lusatia lignite coal fields (near Berlin). The film on the ZAD (zone à défendre) focuses on Europe’s largest autonomous territory, which emerged from the struggle against a new airport at Nantes in France. The film on Code Rood highlights a civil disobedience action in June 2017 at the port of Amsterdam, Europe’s second-largest coal port. The fifth film leads us directly into the blockade of Bílina coal mine in Northern Bohemia in the Czech Republic in 2018. The most recent film “Everything‘s coming together while everything‘s falling apart: Venice Climate Camp” (21 min., 2020) celebrates the Venice Climate Camp of September 2019, during which 200 activists forced their way into the Venice Film Festival enclosure, where they occupied the red carpet for nine hours.
The exhibition also showcases a cycle of photographs, “How Is the Air Up There?” (2018). This series was shot in Hambacher Forest, where Europe’s longest lasting tree-top occupation is ongoing, preventing its planned destruction by clear-cutting in order to enable RWE to exploit lignite. Police has tried to evict the occupation, tearing down barricades, tree houses and kitchen facilities; a court’s order for the suspension of the Hambach Forest clearance in 2018 can be considered a huge victory of the protesters. “In and Against the War on Terra” is complemented by various photographic works referring to the climate crises, pointing towards the irreversible damage done to the planet and all forms of life on it.
Global warming has been a central theme in Oliver Ressler’s artistic practice from the outset. One of his first solo exhibitions was “100 Years of Greenhouse Effect” at Salzburger Kunstverein (1996), drawing from the 1896 text by Svante Arrhenius, “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground”, in which the Swedish scientist informed colleagues of his calculation that average global temperature would rise over the long term as a result of the carbon dioxide produced by humans. This text opens a discontinuous debate on the greenhouse effect. Other projects referring to various aspects of global warming are the 3-channel slide installation “For A Completely Different Climate” (2008), the film “Leave it in the Ground “(2013), and the large-scale outdoor billboards “Failed Investments” (2015) that appeared in Poland and Italy. All works point towards the necessity to adapt the way of how we live and the necessity to establish new ways of organizing society that take into consideration the failure of our democratic institutions and an economic system that lead toward the crisis and enforced it. As the artist himself states, “This problem has to be managed in a way that also includes a redistribution of wealth and that recognises the climate debts the Global North has to the Global South. I still have the feeling that it is not too late. If we can pull together the energy of millions of people globally and mobilise this, we can still avoid the most damaging results of catastrophic warming. But we really need to hurry up!”