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Oliver Ressler, How Is `the Air Up There?,

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Oliver Ressler
How Is the18ir Up There?
24 Nov 2018 – 29 Jan 201 9

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theAgency. Gallery is pleased to present artistic documents on Climate Change gathered over a decade by the Austrian artist Oliver Ressler in London. The artist will be present at the preview. The exhibition title How Is The Air Up There? is a genuine question to the environmental activists in their makeshift tree houses, Ressler went to meet and share time with. It is also a facetious question to corporate giants and politicians, who still insist that the erasure of one more forest will not impact significantly on our climate. Ressler’s first show in London Bedtime for Democracy examined the crisis of neo-liberal capitalism and our shift to a post-democratic era, which since has become more real than Ressler and his audience dared to imagine. In the early summer 2018 Oliver Ressler went to stay with environmental activists in the Hambacher Forest, an ancient woodland area in central Germany. Under the gaze of the world press activists have fought formidably to halt its erosion for a short terms gains and political pet project to support coal energy, which is then going to phased out anyway in the near future. After the accidental death of one journalist and multiple short stops to the eviction, the Hambacher Forest clearance is now a matter for the courts to decide, which may take some time. The activists are continuing to negotiate with the local authorities.

The artist’s new series of works eschews the documentary in favour of far more personal works. This shift does not signal a less rigorous way of working for the artists. His work is still research based and Ressler continues to exchange with and occasionally live among activist groups to observe as well as verifying his sources. Ressler has however understood that the question of air is a deeply personal one. How long can we, how long can our children breathe air that is good enough that we can thrive? Can we still halt the rise of global temperatures to a maximum of 1.5 degrees if even enlightened politicians still push for one more coalfield here and there and on the other side or the world un-democratic leaders deny climate change is an issue or just sell off protected nature for short term political or economic gains. Even though Ressler’s works are based on fact without embellishment, we begin to feel as if he makes space for us to mourn what we are about to loose. When is a good time to cry, to protest or to mourn?

The works presented in this solo exhibition connect selected documents of the successful protests against E.ON’s plans at Kingsnorth 2008- 2012, the COP21 Climate Change conference in Paris 2015, which aside from not being binding has now also collapsed, the struggle of activists in France, known as the ZAD (zone a defendre) who occupied a land autonomously for a decade and finally the anti-RWE protest in the Hambacher Forst in Germany. Ressler talks with activists to make their voices hear. He remains an observer, who shares their concern but ultimately maps the disparate efforts and failures of Climate activism. At the same time Oliver Ressler’s tireless mapping of the pluralist voices very successfully reminds of the scale and the urgency of Climate Change concerns.

The exhibition at the Agency coincides with a further solo show “Occupy, Resist, Produce”, curated by Dr. Azadeh Fatehrad Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury (with Dario Azzellini) from Weds 21st Nov until 14 December 2018 and will be followed by a screening and talk at Manchester City Art gallery on 22nd Nov and an exhibition at the Museum Hartberg in Austria.

Artist Biography:

Oliver Ressler (b. 1970, Knittelfeld, Austria) lives and works in Vienna. His multimedia works and film pieces cover issues such as global capitalism, forms of resistance, social alternatives, systemic coloniality and global warming. For his work on the boundaries between art and activism he was awarded the Prix Thun for Art and Ethics in 2016.

Selected exhibitions include for 2016: a solo exhibition at SALT Galata, Istanbul, “Property is Theft” at the MNAC – National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest, “Occupy, Resist, Produce”, Centre of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki {with Dario Azzellini}, in 2017: “Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart”, Oncurating Project Space, Zurich, in 2018: “Catastrophe Bonds”, Bush Art Center Galleries, St. Norbert College, De Pere and Lawton Gallery, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, USA, “How to Occupy a Shipwreck”, Kunst Haus Wien, Vienna. Planned solo exhibitions for 2019 and 2020 include “Gathering around the Wreckage”, Cultural Centre of Belgrade – Podroom Gallery, Belgrade, angels barcelona, “What Is Democracy?”, Kunsthaus Graz .

Many of Ressler’s works have been realized in collaborations: “Boom!” focuses on the central contradictions of globalized capitalism (with David Thorne), “European Corrections Corporation” on the phenomenon of prison privatization (with Martin Krenn), and “What Would It Mean To Win?” on the protests against the 33rd G8-summit in Heiligendamm (with Zanny Begg). Ressler also produced the films “Venezuela from Below”, 2004 and “5 Factories–Worker Control in Venezuela”, 2006, which was presented as a 6-channel video installation at the Berkeley Art Museum, USA. In 2002, Ressler’s video “This is what democracy looks like!” won the 1st prize of the International Media Art Award of the ZKM. He has participated in
the biennials in Prague, 2005; Seville, 2006; Moscow, 2007 and Taipei, 2008, 2008; Lyon, 2009; Venice, 2013; Quebec, 2014; Jeju, 2017; Kyiv, 2017 and at Documenta 14, Kassel, 2017 (exhibition organized by EMST).. For the Taipei Biennial 2008 Ressler also curated the exhibition "A World Where Many Worlds Fit" on the counter-globalization movement.

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