ÜberNatur – Natural Takeover
August 1, 2020–July 31, 2022
ÜberNatur – Natural Takeover, the KölnSkulptur 10 exhibition of contemporary outdoor sculpture, addresses notions of “nature” and the complex ways it is represented and examined, domesticated and despoiled. Inspired by the location of the public park, wedged between the Rhine, the Cologne Zoo, the Flora and the adjacent Botanical Garden, this latest iteration of KölnSkulptur includes eight new artworks in the Skulpturenpark Köln, a unique exhibition venue featuring loaned works from past KölnSkulptur exhibitions, interspersed amongst the permanent collection amassed by Michael and Eleonore Stoffel. These eight new works disrupt and destabilise ideas of “nature” through interventions and core concerns that decenter the primacy of the human and open up vistas of communal ecology and care.
KölnSkulptur 10 opens amid a devastating global pandemic, triggered by the rare spillover of a virus from wild animals to humans. Facilitated by ever-closer connections between disparate parts of the world as a result of globalisation, the virus has rampaged like wildfire, infecting millions of people. The “new normal” engendered by this global pandemic brings with it a sense of temporality and progress in hiatus or even in “retreat”, causing us to contemplate the world from novel perspectives. Art and art exhibitions are, of course, not exempt from such new interrogations. An awareness of the devastating impact that increased globalisation and its harnessing of endless economic growth through rapidly permeating worldwide networks has on our natural and human environment is now of utmost urgency. At the same time, we must not forget the visionary power of art and its ability to forge new ideas and sense-forms—not to mention its ability to refer to the ineffable beyond the relentless logic of utility and human efficiency.
Spur (2015) by Lois Weinberger can be read as the lodestar around which this year’s exhibition revolves. Commissioned for KölnSkulptur 8, it is a 60-metre-long shallow trench cut into the ground that has slowly evolved into a “ruderal community”, a living constellation of invasive weeds and insects and rabbits which have made the sculpture their home, creating their own kind of public sculpture. This “wilderness”, a disruptive intervention in the public park, investigates the connections between planning and planting and between idea(l)s of “nature” and nature itself. This oscillation between the “natural” and the “artificial”—in effect a destabilisation of two contrasting terms that are already blurry and shifting—was a determining factor in choosing which artworks to commission for KölnSkulptur 10.
Size does not define the significance of sculptural work. Often something that starts very small can have a large impact, as seen in the current pandemic. Some of the works in KölnSkulptur 10 diverge from the expected scale of outdoor sculpture. The exhibition thus undulates between the smallest piece by Ayşe Erkmen and the largest by Dane Mitchell. Erkmen’s contribution consists of a replica of Lonely George, a Hawaiian tree snail, the last of its species, which died in 2019 after scientists spent fourteen years unsuccessfully trying to find it a mate. Mitchell’s work, meanwhile, features two artificial trees designed to camouflage mobile data antennae and surveillance equipment, originally mass-produced in China. At KölnSkulptur 10, visitors will encounter works that touch upon fundamental issues of birth, emergence, growth and decay, works that address both the microcosmic and macrocosmic levels of existence and that weave together diverse viewpoints to create complex connections—allowing us to sense and think with, and beyond, nature.
The crux of today’s “new normal” is the need for communication, understanding and negotiation. Mary Bauermeister’s sculpture Rübezahl can, therefore, be read as the nucleus of KölnSkulptur #10. Her artistic intervention offers visitors a place to sit, reflect and contemplate, opening up a space where care, attentiveness and taking one’s time have value, a space where nature can take hold.
KölnSkulptur 10 Participating artists
Mary Bauermeister, John Bock, Tom Burr, James Lee Byars, Nina Canell, Leelee Chan, Edith Dekyndt, Bogomir Ecker, Ayşe Erkmen, Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Barry Flanagan, Sou Fujimoto, Dan Graham, Lena Henke, Jenny Holzer, Bethan Huws, Leiko Ikemura, Anish Kapoor, Stefan Kern, Hubert Kiecol, Per Kirkeby, Klara Lidén, Dane Mitchell, Katja Novitskova, Jorge Pardo, Mandla Reuter, Ulrich Rückriem, Michael Sailstorfer, Karin Sander, Thomas Schütte, Joel Shapiro, Andreas Slominski, Mauro Staccioli, Mark di Suvero, Rosemarie Trockel, Simon Ungers, Bernar Venet, Bernard Voïta, Paul Wallach, Lois Weinberger, Martin Willing, Guan Xiao, Trevor Yeung, Heimo Zobernig
Curator: Tobias Berger
Assistant curator: Anna Czerlitzki