Exhibition Disappearing Legacies: The World as Forest

Barbara Marcel, The Open Forest, 2017. © Barbara Marcel

Fri, 10.11.2017 -
Thu, 29.03.2018

Centrum für Naturkunde (CeNaK) der Universität Hamburg



Barbara Marcel, The Open Forest, 2017. Still from the Videoessay.

Art and science exhibition about European colonialism in the tropics and the destruction of the rainforest

Art, nature and science – what do these tell us about the tropical forest? Disappearing Legacies: The World as Forest examines this question. The exhibition brings contemporary art into the Natural History Museum at the Centre of Natural History (CeNak) at the University of Hamburg.

Disappearing Legacies: The World as Forest is an art and science exhibition about European colonialism in the tropics and the destruction of the rainforest.

The exhibition tells of the diversity of the ecosystem and illustrates how human beings threaten its gradual disappearance. Current research results, historical archive materials and natural history collections meet drone shots, x-ray pictures and video essays. The historical exponents are reconfigured amidst art works and make ecological change tangible for the visitor. “The Natural History Museum, originally mainly a place of education, whose design is intended to afford visitors an understanding of the full depth of evolution, must adapt and look for new allies to be able to treat much more disturbing realities such as climate change and the collapse of the biosphere”, explain the organizers of the exhibition. Visual art meets natural history collection, botanical and zoological objects are set in fresh contexts. Aesthetics and science formulate their own language and provoke new perspectives on the forest as a biological and cultural ecosystem.

Various artistic positions address developments related to environmental change in Southeast Asia and the Amazon region. The art works show that all forms of extinction and disappearance are interrelated. To this end, the curators, Anne-Sophie Springer and Etienne Turpin, have brought together a total of seventeen international artists. The development of the exhibition goes back to 2015. The initial ideas for the show were developed then on a research trip through Indonesia sponsored by the Goethe-Institut: “To what extent does the forest, with its thousands upon thousands of life forms, symbioses and exchange processes, stand for life on earth in the biological-ecological sense, but at the same time also embody ‘worlds’ from an anthropocentric-philosophical or animistic point of view? To what extent can the two perspectives really be separated from one another?”, says Anna-Sophie Springer, summarizing the central questions raised by the exhibition.

One of the participating artists is the photographer Robert Zhao Renhui of Singapore. He explores and catalogues the evolution of nature while also taking a closer look at human beings and their influence on nature through domestication, cultivation and laboratory experiments. His installation reflects how Singapore has grown from a rainforest island into today’s megametropolis. This he does by setting objects and pictures from his own collection, collections of the Centre for Natural History (CenaK) and the Useful Plants Museum of the University of Hamburg next to each other.
  • Disappearing Legacies: The World as Forest Disappearing Legacies: The World as Forest
    Disappearing Legacies: The World as Forest
  • Disappearing Legacies: The World as Forest © Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, London 2016
    Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, Leopard, Impala, 2016. Rare earth neon and mammoth ivory.
  • Oil palm monoculture in the indonesian province of Riau, Sumatra. Photo: Reassembling the Natural/Etienne Turpin, 2016
    Oil palm monoculture in the indonesian province of Riau, Sumatra.
  • Robert Zhao Renhui, Moondust, 2013 is a collection of insect ash the artist painstakingly collects from street lamps. The ash is the remains of insects being trapped in the street lamps and being burnt by the heat of the lamp over a long period of time. Courtesy Robert Zhao Renhui
    Robert Zhao Renhui, Moondust, 2013 is a collection of insect ash the artist painstakingly collects from street lamps. The ash is the remains of insects being trapped in the street lamps and being burnt by the heat of the lamp over a long period of time.
  • SHIMURAbros, Chasing the Light, 2017. NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, Photography. Courtesy NTU CCA Singapore
    SHIMURAbros, Chasing the Light, 2017. NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore
  • Armin Linke, Orangutan in the Tanjung Puting National Park, Kumai, Kalimantan Tengah (Borneo) Indonesia, 2017. Photography. © Armin Linke
    Armin Linke, Orangutan in the Tanjung Puting National Park, Kumai, Kalimantan Tengah (Borneo) Indonesia, 2017. Photography.
  • Giulia Bruno shooting a video in the indonesian province of Riau, Sumatra. Photo: Reassembling the Natural/Etienne Turpin, 2017
    Giulia Bruno shooting a video in the indonesian province of Riau, Sumatra.
  • „Wallaces’s Standard Wing, male and female“, in Wallace, The Malay Archipelago, 1869. © Wallace, The Malay Archipelago, 1869.
    „Wallaces’s Standard Wing, male and female“, in Wallace, The Malay Archipelago, 1869.

about the exibition

 

Anna-Sophie Springer at University of Oxford Museum of Natural History. Anna-Sophie Springer at University of Oxford Museum of Natural History. | Photo: Reassembling the Natural/Etienne Turpin, 2015 Disappearing Legacies: The World as Forest is a project curated by Anna-Sophie Springer und Dr. Etienne Turpin. The exhibition has been realised by the Centre of Natural History (CeNak) and may be seen there from 10 November 2017 to 29 March 2018. It will then be presented at the Veterinary School’s Anatomical Theatre at the Humboldt University in Berlin and in the autumn of 2018 at the Central Magazine of the Natural History Collections at the University of Halle-Wittenberg. The exhibition will developed further on the spot and adapted to the respective collections. The exhibition series is a cooperation of CeNak with the Schering Foundation, is funded by the Federal Cultural Foundation and sponsored by the Goethe-Institut Singapore. 

Etienne Turpin at CeNak, Hamburg. Etienne Turpin at CeNak, Hamburg. | Photo: Reassembling the Natural/Elise Hunchuck, 2017 Alfred Russel Wallace ca. 1869. Photo: Thomas Sims. Edited by Edvos (Paul Edwards). Alfred Russel Wallace ca. 1869. Photo: Thomas Sims. Edited by Edvos (Paul Edwards). | ©: G. W. Beccaloni, 2013 The starting-point of the exhibition is the works of the naturalist and natural history collector Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913). His treatises helped biology establish itself as an academic discipline and are considered among the most important documents of modern natural history. The British naturalist undertook expeditions to South American and Southeast Asia in the nineteenth century. He collected tropical fauna, documented biodiversity and deciphered the mechanism of natural selection.

Disappearing Legacies: The World as Forest follows Wallace’s footsteps and also asks whether such discoveries would still be possible today, since the ecosystem of the rainforest has largely been destroyed by deforestation and monoculture plantations. Almost all the art works have been specially created for the exhibition and treat current environmental changes in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Amazon region. Reflected in the mirror of the expeditions of the nature and evolution researcher Wallace, they open up a field of tension consisting of futuristic images of nature and natural history exhibits, of reality and fiction, of beauty and horror. They question the legacy of European colonialism in the tropics and deal with the in some ways radically altered landscapes. In this way the exhibition attempts to set a timely and topical image against what, from today’s perspective, must seem the idyllic naivety of Wallace’s impressions.

 
 
 

Back