Verschwindende Vermächtnisse: Die Welt als Wald
10 November to 29 March 2018
One-hundred and sixty years ago, Alfred Russel Wallace deciphered the principle of species evolution during research trips to South America and Southeast Asia. From 10 November 2017 to 29 March 2018, the special exhibition Verschwindende Vermächtnisse: Die Welt als Wald [Disappearing Legacies: The World as a Forest] confronts the destruction of these tropical habitats in the context of the Anthropocene and mass extinction.
The concept of the project is unique—a hybrid historical thematic presentation and a major exhibition of contemporary art, transforming the Zoological Museum in the Center for Natural History (CeNak), University of Hamburg. The centerpiece of the intervention is the presentation of 13 contemporary works of art—including eight new commissions—and a special selection of zoological and botanical objects, of which some are integrated into the artistic works themselves. Through visits made possible by the Goethe-Institute Singapore, the artist Robert Zhao Renhui, for instance, has developed an ongoing exploration of the roles played by insects through on-site work with objects from CeNak’s Entomology Collection. And it was a visit to the Mammalogy Collection that inspired the artist duo Bik Van der Pol to engage in a deeper examination of the phenomenon of nature as a replica situated between reality and fiction.
Other artistic works were developed through journeys to Brazil and Indonesia. Spending time on Borneo, Java and Sumatra, photographer and filmmaker Armin Linke—together with his colleague Giulia Bruno and exhibition curators Anna-Sophie Springer and Dr. Etienne Turpin—conducted numerous interviews with local residents, plantation workers, smallholders, environmentalists, government officials and scientists. The result is a cinematic document that reflects the speed with which Indonesia is currently transforming into a palm-oil nation amid giant peat fires. In her museum installation, Maria Thereza Alves lends the word to 33 Indigenous clan chiefs, whom she accompanied for one month last summer while participating in a workshop on Indigenous agroforestry and resource conservation. Revital Cohen & Tuur van Balen look inward and examine preserved animals with piercing X-ray vision, while the automated multimedia installation Extinction Gong by Julian Oliver & Crystelle Vũ translates the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species into an eerie and percussive rhythm.
The exhibition is extended by a series of curatorial assemblages, which include specimens from the CeNak’s zoological collections and the botanical collections of the Herbarium Hamburgense that were selected in dialogue with the institutions’ scientific curators: skulls, animal skins, spirit specimens, herbarium sheets, and numerous cases of pinned insects. A highlight is the 3D digital rendering of a Sumatran rhino skull, produced in collaboration with YXLON International GmbH, a Hamburg-based high-resolution CT-scanner developer. Other media include exclusive screenings of one of Sir David Attenborough’s earliest films and a selection of videos from the ornithologist Ed Scholes and wildlife photographer Tim Laman’s ambitious Bird-of-Paradise Project.
Together, the artistic positions and curatorial assemblages presented in the exhibition Verschwindende Vermächtnisse: Die Welt als Wald renounce a romantic image of untouched nature, and instead critically inquire into the legacies resulting from the relentless destruction of highly complex ecosystems.
Verschwindende Vermächtnisse: Die Welt als Wald presents artistic works by Maria Thereza Alves, Ursula Biemann, Bik Van der Pol, Shannon Lee Castleman, Revital Cohen & Tuur van Balen, Mark Dion, Radjawali Irendra / Akademi Drone Indonesia, Armin Linke with Giulia Bruno and Giuseppe Ielasi, Barbara Marcel, Julian Oliver & Crystelle Vũ, Robert Zhao Renhui / The Institute of Critical Zoologists, SHIMURAbros und autonoma / Paulo Tavares.
The exhibition is free.
Verschwindende Vermächtnisse is a project by Anna-Sophie Springer and Dr. Etienne Turpin. The exhibition is realized by Centrum für Naturkunde where it will be on view from 10 November 2017 until 29 March 2018. In 2018, it will travel to the project partners, Tieranatomisches Theater (TA T), Humboldt University Berlin, and the Zentralmagazin Naturwissenschaftlicher Sammlungen, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Halle/Saale. The exhibition cycle is a cooperation with the Schering Stiftung and the Goethe-Institute Singapore. The project is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.