Motifs and colours of nature have long been essential in the history of art, especially in Romanticism, to express the creator’s devotion to nature and its sublime aura. Until today, images of nature, embedded for example in advertise, in the supposedly eco-friendly display of products, and in visual culture in general, are employed to symbolise an ideal habitat of all living creatures. Popular culture, such as movies, often express a notion of utopia or paradise through imagery of nature, as opposed to the constricted and artificial feeling of the city in which most characters are used to live in. Continually threatened, nature has thus not only become appreciated as a precious sanctuary for society, but it is also perceived as a public space for physical and mental freedom.
In the course of the exhibition “There was a world, once, you punk”, the curatorial collective Point Project aims to mark the increasing deficiency of nature in the urban space. Set at BLOK art space in Istanbul, the topic owns a particular level of actuality keeping the recent events mind, when hundreds of people began occupying one of the last remaining green islands in the city centre, demonstrating against plans to replace trees and a green field with a shopping mall and luxury flats. Functioning as a breaking point for further nationwide environmental resistance movements, the demonstration’s topics have been broadening beyond the urban development of the park, touching upon issues of freedom, the ownership of public space and democracy. Therefore the question that comes to mind is how much of our desire for nature is linked to a desire for society’s or one’s personal freedom? What happens to the human being, if these fundamental needs are being suppressed in the on-going creation of artificial space and industrialisation?
With these questions in mind, three themes and perspectives are being explored within the exhibition: Firstly, the political symbolism of nature and its deficiency in urban space, targeted in the works of Andreas Greiner (DE), Lydia Ourahmane, (ALG) and Serkan Taycan (TUR). Secondly, the aesthetic dimension of nature and botany, embedded in strategies employing motifs or material from nature in a poetic or immersive way of storytelling, as in the works of Dunja Herzog (CH) and Lars Bjerre (DK). And thirdly, critical reflections on the commonly affirmative and utopian symbolism that nature implies in today’s visual culture, such as in Florian Meisenberg’s (DE) and Markus Hoffmann’s (DE) installations, by juxtaposing natural and artificial landscapes, and by rendering destructive materials into aesthetic environments.
Introducing both, site-specific and already established projects of the artists, the exhibition eventually poses the question whether art can do more than just pointing to such a critical issue, by initiating a return to nature possibly through a performative act. As part of the exhibition, a rich program of talks and discussion rounds will be encouraging an open debate and thinking about the on-going change of “natural” habitat in urbanity.
Sol: There was a world, once, you punk.
Det. Thorn: Yes, so you keep telling me.
Sol: I was there. I can prove it.
Det. Thorn: I know, I know. When you were young, people were better.
Sol: Aw, nuts. People were always rotten. But the world ‘was’ beautiful.
Soylent Green (1973)