Sensible sustainability

By Jiang Yuxia Source:Global Times Published: 2012-8-6 20:00:06

Artist Dodi Reifenberg's work Green Bag features at the Iberia Center for Contemporary Art.
Photo:  Courtesy of Goethe-Institut China
Artist Dodi Reifenberg's work Green Bag features at the Iberia Center for Contemporary Art. Photo: Courtesy of Goethe-Institut China

Having toured the world since it first opened in Berlin in 2010, "Examples to Follow! Expeditions in Aesthetics and Sustainability" is making its way to Beijing with Chinese artists to promote its message of the importance of sustainability.

Featuring artists from 16 countries, the exhibition's China tour is in cooperation with the German embassy in Beijing. It consists of a wide range of artworks, including photographs, videos and installations.

Since its Sunday opening at the Iberia Center for Contemporary Art at the 798 Art Zone, the show that runs until mid-September not only widens artistic horizons by exploring diverse topics, but also urges people to take the fate of the world into their own hands.

"Global warming, nuclear power disasters, billions of kilowatts through worldwide Internet use, increased poverty … the world is facing its biggest challenges caused by mankind through the global economic ideology of 'higher, faster, stronger,'" said German curator Adrienne Goehler at the exhibition's opening.

"After disappointing results from all recent global summits, we understand that we can't leave the world to experts in politics and the economy because the cultural dimension of sustainability is always neglected by them."

Artists selected by the curator include inventors, activists in environmental initiatives, philosophers and scientists.

Having shared their visions for a sustainable future over the past decade, the experts-turned-artists highlight through their works issues including the finiteness of natural resources, excesses of modernity, invisible pollution of electronic wares and our own limited time on Earth.

Standout pieces include the Cola Project, in which Chinese artist He Xiangyu boiled down many plastic Coca-Cola bottles and encased their dark residue in glass in the form of an artificial landscape, showing the damage daily consumption can wreak on the environment.

In World Climate Refugee Camp, Hermann Josef Hack from Germany, who is also the founder of the Global Brainstorming Project, an organization aiming to find solutions for global challenges, places over 1,000 miniature tents to symbolize those whose homes are threatened due to rising sea levels driven by climate change.

In Heteropetra-Images of a Mutant World, Swiss scientific graphic artist Cornelia Hesse-Honegger redirects the focus from people to the natural world by drawing insects that have been morphologically damaged from being exposed to environments affected by nuclear plants.

"What impressed me most is that the works show artists' concern in a humanistic way," said Sun Henghai, a visitor at the exhibition.

"For example, look at the Green Bag installation made of plastic bags by Israeli artist Dodi Reifenberg. Sustainability is often viewed as a huge topic and a responsibility of the government, but actually each individual can contribute to it by using fewer plastic bags."

Chinese artist Ma Yongfeng attempts to convey the same message in his graffiti artwork on recycled cardboard, Sensibility is Under Control.

"While an artist's role is to raise people's awareness about issues, the most important factors regarding sustainability are people's perceptions and feelings. It isn't about promoting empty slogans, such as 'protect the environment' or 'encourage scientific development,'" said Ma.

"More often than not, the government is too bureaucratic. Sustainability should be carried out by individuals who engage themselves in doing simple things, but few people venture to do so. People should start with low-level resistance by doing minor things that engage people around them."

When: Until September 16

Where: 798 Art Zone, E06, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang district

Admission: Free

Contact: 5978-9530

Posted in: ARTS, Metro Beijing

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