Curatorial Statement by Els van Mourik
I wish we find back the natural rhythms of the world.
We live by natural lights. We can rise just when
the birds start to sing. Then go to bed with the sun.
Sink in our dreams.
Etel Adnan (1925-), poet and visual artist, 2020
In Artistes de la Terre, two artists are featured that both involve themselves with some of the broader questions concerning our relationship with the natural environment, calling attention to the advice of pioneering artist Gustav Metzger (1926-2017), to ‘REMEMBER NATURE’. While the Anthropocene era forged the idea that humans can control the environment, make nature their own, and reduce the world to an exploitable resource, we now know that this is simply not the case.
Through their artistic processes, Chrisél and Barbara explore the concepts of interconnectedness with our ecosystem by making art through the use of materials derived from the earth – works that respond to the sometimes complex realities of the ground on which we walk, or works that are created in dialogue with the surroundings where they are operating. Through this process, they show us that it is impossible to create even the illusion that we are autonomous units, separate from each other and our surroundings.
This exhibition is building upon the common experience of both artists during their residency in Knysna in 2019, where they looked into the effects of wildfires on the ecosystem, and where human beings became co-creators in relation to nature. A situated and context-specific perspective, but one which is connected with the wider phenomena of the climate emergency and ecological challenges.
The curation is based on montage: a collection of artworks speaking to and through each other, hopefully opening up unexpected paths from which new ways and forms of collaboration will emerge. It is an exhibition with different layers, levels and connections, where you as a viewer can see and engage one-on-one with all the wonderful artworks, and truly delve into them. But for those who are intrigued, there is an underlying world, a different kind of narration, which is portrayed from a relational perspective, rather than an individual one, highlighting how ecosystems intricately interact to constitute an
interconnected, living organism.
Part of Berman Contemporary’s mission is to cultivate collaboration between South African artists and their international contemporaries. This is the first joint exhibition by two artists from different continents, different generations, and from completely different perspectives, but their artistic practices both focus on the documentation of our interconnectedness with the ecosystem. Nowadays, a large number of scientists, activists, artists, curators and philosophers work in various modalities and formats to describe the world as interconnected – Barbara and Chrisél are part of that movement, they are not single voices.