press release

This new international group exhibition gathers together different artistic reactions to the alienating effects of the unfettered global exploitation of resources, and offers insight into the denial and myopia of current political responses to what increasingly appears to be a perpetual crisis. [UN]NATURAL LIMITS gives voice to various groups, thinkers, and artists who seek to interrupt narcissistic and destructive self-involvements in society.

The exhibition maintains a deep ambiguity towards the modernist legacies of endless expansion and selective prosperity, as our social and political systems slowly begin to confront the limits of growth and sustainability. Each artist or collective poses a challenge to the perceived limits that condition our understanding of the world: on the one hand, the limited prospect for action, compassion, and change, while on the other, the limitless drive for resources and capital in all its forms. A reversal is necessary: it is compassion that should be limitless.

The show includes an installation by artist Thomas Hirschhorn titled Resistance-Subjecter (2011), which was first shown as part of his Crystal of Resistance at the Venice Biennial in 2011. The bodies of eight mannequins have seemingly been infested and corroded by one million year-old crystals. We are left to guess whether the crystals were produced in the body and stand for a material resisting cultural, economic, social, ecological, and aesthetical habits, or whether the body was produced by the crystals, now hosting them in order to resist the jaded times we live in.

Austrian artist Lois Weinberger's Invasion (2005/2011) also plays with the limits of the organic and inorganic. The work is a striking confluence of nature and artificiality: it consists of a group of mushrooms that climb, protrude, and seem to grow from the Austrian Cultural Forum's gallery walls. Mierle Laderman Ukeles is equally engaged in uncovering the often-arbitrary limits between ecology and the economic functioning of the urban landscape. In her yearlong performance documented in Touch Sanitation Performance (1977-80), Ukeles shook hands with 8,500 sanitation employees, drawing attention to the ecological underbelly of New York City and its often socially stigmatized workers.

In Experience Climate Change As... (2009), the Danish collective SUPERFLEX advertises a series of hypnosis sessions offered in conjunction with past and future international global climate change summits. Participants can experience climate change as a specific endangered animal, in a relatively playful gesture that nevertheless points to the serious relationship between the natural limits of global ecosystems and the unlimited capacity of world powers to defer action. The rapacious depletion of natural sites is documented by Mathias Kessler in his massive wallpaper depicting a commercial surface mining site in West Virginia. The carved out hillsides appear overwhelmingly dry and diseased. In serious irony, the only remnant and survivor in an otherwise lifeless scene is a cemetery, now even more cut off from the living.

Finally, [UN]NATURAL LIMITS includes a documentation of Periferry, a ferry barge on the Brahmaputra River in India. This project by Desire Machine Collective provides a space for experimentation and new media approaches and public and community arts that address local concerns and aim at the empowerment of the community and reclaiming the public space, while at the same time connecting with the global.

The opening reception for [UN]NATURAL LIMITS will take place on Tuesday, January 22, from 6 to 8pm. It will be preceded by an artist talk featuring participating artists and the curators. The talk will take place in the auditorium of the Austrian Cultural Forum from 5 to 6pm. Admission is free. Due to limited seating, rsvp for the artist talk is required. Tickets are available by visiting here or calling 212 319 5300 x 46.

About the curators

Dieter Buchhart is a Vienna-based curator and art theorist with a PhD in art history and restoration. The former director of the Kunsthalle Krems has worked as an art critic and author for Kunstforum International and other art magazines.

Arnaud Gerspacher is a New York-based writer, researcher, and curator. He is a PhD Candidate in art history at the CUNY Graduate Center, writing a dissertation on animals, posthumanism, and ecology in art. He has worked at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and taught at Brooklyn College and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Kuratoren: Dieter Buchhart, Arnaud Gerspacher

Künstler: Desire Machine Collective  (Mriganka Madhukaillya & Sonal Jain), Thomas Hirschhorn, Mathias Kessler, Superflex , Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Lois Weinberger