Korrespondenzen is the name of a project in which an every two year changing set of contemporary and controversial socio-political issues will be addressed and contextualized in terms of their praxis and artistic and theoretical positioning. The Korrespondenzen respond to global political situations and events and are linked to pillars 1 and 2 of the Center of Contemporary Art. Through this work, the creative possibilities of the region of Styria and the city of Graz will be addressed and highlighted. The final outcome may take many different forms and could be presented as a discussion evening, a performance, or a participatory artwork, in the relational aesthetics sense.
The first event in the series, Korrespondenzen I: Art — Environmental Justice — Sustainability, will take the form of a four-day festival hosted by the Center of Contemporary Art. In this context, artists and theorists will be focused on working through specific interdisciplinary questions and issues.
WHEN: May 11-14, 2022
WHERE: Kunsthaus Graz and HALLE FÜR KUNST Steiermark
Korrespondenzen I: Art — Environmental Justice — Sustainability
The first Korrespondenzen focus on political responsibility and action regarding the environment and the concept of sustainability. There are discussions around political responsibility, ecology, environmental justice, Anthropocene, climate change, resources and sustainability. The event series explicitly refers to the long-standing project Naturally Hypernatural which, since its inception in 2014, organizes regular international symposia in successful cooperation between the Department of Art History of the University of Graz and the School for Visual Arts, New York. These symposia deal with different concepts of nature in modern and contemporary art and culture. The Center of Contemporary Art has also worked in collaboration with the Strange Tools Research Lab and the University of Cincinnati.
Human-made environmental impact has led to consequences and effects that are becoming more and more visible. Our planet's balance is disturbed, landscapes are changing, habitats and nature are destroyed, diversity is on the decline and our air and water are becoming polluted. The effect that human activities have on the environment has led many scientists to conclude that we are living in a new geological epoch based on human geology – the Anthropocene. Therefore, in 2000 atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen and limnologist Eugene F. Stoermer proposed to abandon the notion of the Holocene and replace it with the Anthropocene to emphasize the central role of humankind in geology and ecology.
The French philosopher Bruno Latour takes on this problem in his essay "Agency at the time of the Anthropocene." Latour reminisces about the mythical goddess Gaia – the personification of the Earth as a living, self-regulating organism to highlight that the Earth is now 'responding' to the symptoms of a major planetary disease. For cultural and arts related studies, the discourse surrounding the Anthropocene became relevant with Bruno Latour's writing "We have never been modern" and is currently both critically discussed from various perspectives and countered by other concepts, such as that of speculative realism.
In this regard, internationally renowned artists, researchers and theorists will be invited to the Korrespondenzen I: Art – "Environmental Justice" – Sustainability to contribute towards the discourse, answer any questions and find practical solutions together with Styrian scientists, academics and artists.
The Korrespondenzen I manage to bring selected international positions on 'sustainability' to Graz and enable correspondence between them. For example, on day one a listening session of "Sun & Sea (Marina)" will be played for the audience. This opera performance won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale 2019 and deals with how people treat our tired planet. Alongside this, a relational artwork by Mathias Kessler will take place; a participatory social sculpture in which the actions of humankind are made clear through a frozen sculpture. Further viewpoints on the topic of interaction of culture and nature will be carried out by Kristopher J. Holland (professor at the Department of Fine Arts and Art Theory, Design and Architecture at the University of Cincinnati as well as co-director of the Strange Tools Research Lab and keynote speaker about "Strange Tools, Arts-Based Research, and the Humanities to Come") and DJ Hellerman (author, archivist, art historian and curator SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia) as part of a conversation with the artist Nikola Irmer.
On the second day, there will be discussions on the topic of 'Anthropocene & Cultural Identity' between the academic Eva Hayward (who deals with the question of gender, political and social responsibility, aesthetics and environment research) and curator Daniela Zyman (who emphasizes the maritime area and its material, economic and ecological significance for globalization to address urgent social, political and ecological questions). In addition, the Austrian artist Markus Jeschaunig presents his art through the medium of an Artists Talk. He focuses on the tension between art, ecology and technology. Moreover, the Croatian artists Azra Svedružić and Demirel Pašalić will present their collaborative artistic practices on the theme of deforestation and the need to protect and preserve forest habitats. Towards the end of the day, a round table discussion will take place with the Grazer Kunsthaus on 'sustainable curating.'
On day three, there will be a screening and lecture of "Gathering around the Wreckage" by the Austrian artist Oliver Ressler and an artist talk by the Austrian artist Thomas Feuerstein. This will be followed by a conversation with Jan Söffner, who deals with political action from the perspective of cultural theory. Afterwards, the audience will be involved in a discussion on climate change and environmental justice.
The final exchange on day four will be driven by the presentation of "ZERO WASTE-FoodArt" by the artist collective Britto Arts Trust from Bangladesh. Their work concerns the productive power of art in a global crisis and will take part in documenta 15 in Kassel this year. The finale features the world premiere of "Das Resort" by Mathias Kessler, in which the empty ski resorts of Austria represent a symbol of the economic, social and emotional hardships brought about by the pandemic. Following this screening, the audience will be invited to take part in the discussion.
The Korrespondenzen I aim to give space to the fruitful and vital exchange between artists, theorists and academics so that different viewpoints and perspectives on currently central topics are shown, reflected upon and dealt with in an interdisciplinary manner regarding scientific cooperation and correspondence. The Korrespondenzen I deal with environmental justice and sustainable action – subjects that are of great importance for the general public, but especially in Styria; the "green heart of Austria." As climate change and environmental justice affect us all, it is necessary to consider the consequences and potentials of human action, show political responsibility, make environmental justice an issue and involve the public, the Styrians – in a topic-specific reflection across countries, disciplines and cultures.
The diverse program was developed in collaboration with the Kunsthaus Graz and the HALLE FÜR KUNST Steiermark and the event series is open to and has explicitly been developed for the public.
Translation: Sarah Magdalena Huber