Nilbar Güreş: Grow

Belvedere, Vienna, Austria, 23.09.2022–08.01.2023

Nilbar Güreş: Grow

Nilbar Güreş, Headstanding Totem, 2014, c-print

The Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of Enlightenment, the Axis of the World: Following these narrative strands, the exhibition GROW is centered around the tree as a subject in art and its relationship to humankind. Trees accompany our lives – as sources of oxygen, shade-givers, anchors of calm. Culturally, the tree has always been symbolic – a mysterious bearer of knowledge, signifier of strength and power, or harbinger of ecological aberrations to come.

Director Stella Rollig: “In the current climate crisis, the tree is perceived more than ever as a companion whose survival or demise has direct, tangible effects, not the least of which are emotional ones. While a tree dying on your own street is painful, the far-off deforestation of the rainforest is downright frightening. This exhibition explores this deep connection between humans and trees.”

Throughout the centuries, the tree has been an area of projection for humankind’s relationship to nature and questions about human identity. The exhibition at the Lower Belvedere builds a thematic connection from the tree of knowledge between good and evil, to the tree of enlightenment, to the tree as metaphorical axis of the world; a thematic “branching” that expands from the spiritual to the rationally tangible to ecological proclamations to explain the significance of the tree in art. Whether as a cautionary reminder of eternal damnation, as in Giovanni Segantini’s The Evil Mothers, or as a peaceful observer of an intimate story, as in Emilie Mediz-Pelikan’s Blossoming Chestnut Trees, in each case, the tree in art represents the qualities we project onto it. Nilbar Güreş’s Headstanding Totem from 2014 is a contemporary version of a mythological figure that, in close connection with the tree, can also be read as an appeal to our concern for the environment.

Curator Miroslav Haľák: "This approach to the tree as a subject has the potential to catch one off guard due to its emotional weight – over the centuries, people have assigned both humane and divine attributions to the tree. In its personified form, the tree acts as guardian, loner, social being, listener, protector, or climate savior."

The show invites visitors to engage with spiritual ideas, inspirational form-finding, and philosophical concepts. Particularly in a time of forest fires and deforestation, it asks urgent questions about the perils of the climate crisis, and consciously relies on sustainable materials and strategies in its own realization. Beyond the lens of art history and art theory to reappraise the tree as an important motif, the exhibition also aims to contribute to discussions on humanity’s relationship to our environment and on the conditions of our continued existence.

The selection of works is grounded in the Belvedere’s collection and supplemented by a number of loans. The 102 works on display, including paintings, sculptures, and installations, span a period from the fifteenth century to the present. Two installations and a mural in the entrance area were made especially for this exhibition.

The structure of the exhibition is based on the thematic concepts of the Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of Enlightenment, and the Axis of the World and traces tree iconography throughout history. In these three sections, GROW shows different perspectives on the tree: as a symbol and mediator between the supernatural and the human, as an object of science and source of inspiration, and as an omen for upcoming ecological developments. Each section deals with concepts such as “transformation” in the sense of the supernatural, “mirroring” in terms of the tree as a projection surface, and “instrumentalization,” for example, during the Nazi era. The Baroque architecture of the exhibition rooms is also integrated into the narrative – a plaster medallion by Santino Bussi in the marble hall of the Lower Belvedere, for example, or the role of trees in mythological imagery from the Baroque era.

A specially curated soundtrack immerses individual rooms in a specific sonic atmosphere: Nora Skuta has interpreted a sonata by John Cage, while compositions by Erik Truffaz, Arve 4 Henriksen, David Kollar, and others accompany visitors throughout the exhibition. Padhi Frieberger’s black-and-white photographs designate the sound stations. The soundtrack can be accessed via audio guide or the museum app Smartify and can also be purchased as a CD in the museum shop.

GROW at the Green Belvedere: The exhibition was planned with ecological sustainability in mind. In terms of implementation, it meant that plastic and such typical exhibition features as adhesive letterings were dispensed with. Wall text was painted with the help of paper stencils. The wall labels are made of seed paper, printed with bio-degradable ink. The length of transport routes for the artworks was also kept to a minimum. The sculpture by Giuseppe Penone made the longest journey, coming from Turin, with the other works coming from Austria and the nearby cities of Bratislava and Brno. The catalogue for GROW was produced on a carbon-neutral basis.

A supplementary program will be devoted to topics such as the tree in music, in religion, and in philosophy, its occurrence in outsider art, and general topics surrounding ecology. It will include several artist talks and an extensive film program at the Blickle Kino.




Kategorie: Exhibitions

Tags: Güres