Radicants – PLANET B Climate Change and the New Sublime

Informazioni Evento

Castello 3647, Venezia, Italia
Dal al

ore 14

Nicolas Bourriaud
arte contemporanea, personale

“Planet B: Climate Change & the New Sublime” è la prima mostra dei Radicants, il collettivo curatoriale internazionale lanciato da Nicolas Bourriaud nel gennaio 2022.

Comunicato stampa

"Planet B: Climate Change & the New Sublime" is the first exhibition of Radicants, the
international curatorial cooperative launched by Nicolas Bourriaud in January 2022.
Designed in three separate acts, presented successively at Palazzo Bollani in Venice throughout the 59th
Art Biennale - from April 20 to November 27 - the exhibition explores the impact of climate change on
today's art through the notion of the sublime, as defined in the 18th century by the philosopher Edmund
Burke: "a delight tinged with terror".
By changing our collective relationship with the planet, global warming has transformed the artist’s
gaze. If humankind used to consider the planet as a simple background for its activities, a setting — an
environment — they now feel immersed in it, fully enclosed within an atmosphere and a network of
soils and oceans that have become potential threats. Within this context, the old notion of the sublime
has been given a new lease on life in art today.
In the 18th century, it was defined by Edmund Burke as a “feeling of aesthetic pleasure tainted with
fear, or the proximity with danger”. If the “delight” felt by the viewer is nuanced by a sensation of
terror, it is because it is too far away to threaten us directly.
A few decades later, Emmanuel Kant refined the definition: the sublime is what exceeds the power of
representation, what cannot be conceptualised or even shaped. It is limitless. The sublime is linked
with disorienting sensations like emptiness, silence, and darkness. It is about the loss of control.
In Germany, Caspar David Friedrich, or William Turner in England, could be seen as paradigmatic of this
“Romantic sublime”, with their off-scale pictorial spaces showing immense landscapes or atmospheric
catastrophes. In the twentieth century, this notion was linked to abstract art, to the unknowable and
the shapeless, and Mark Rothko or Barnett Newman (who published his text “The Sublime is Now” in
1948) are often associated with it. According to Jean-François Lyotard, modernist painting falls under
the notion of the sublime when it “presents the unpresentable”, meaning when it shows the
impossibility of showing, or deals with ideas that cannot be given shape.
Today, climate change provides very concrete images of the danger threatening us. The enemies are
invisible but very present, like viruses or degrees of temperature leading to rising waters.
And the “delight associated with terror” described by Edmund Burke seems to apply to all the artistic
practices considering our reality as a globality, depicting the world as a net of inter-connected
spheres, or considering artistic practice as an exploration of newly appeared kinds of off-scale spaces,
darkness, terror, and voids.
This contemporary sublime conveys the feeling of humankind’s loss of control over the
planet. Grounded in the connection between humans and nature, defined as a feeling of “delight tinged
with horror”, and characterised by the contrast between the individual and immensity, the sublime
becomes the aesthetic notion that determines the Anthropocene.
In “PLANET B. Climate Change and the New Sublime”, Nicolas Bourriaud brings together 27 artists
from 17 countries in an exhibition in three parts:
- Part 1. Every exhibition is a forest - April 20 to June 26
- Part 2. Charles Darwin and the coral reefs - July 8 to August 26
- Part 3. The tragic death of Nauru Island - September 8 to November 27
Artists featured in the exhibition: Nils Alix-Tabeling, Dana-Fiona Armour, Charles Avery, Gianfranco
Baruchello, Hicham Berrada, Bianca Bondi, Peter Buggenhout, Roberto Cabot, Alex Cerveny, Anna
Conway, Sterling Crispin, Kendell Geers, Anna Bella Geiger, Loris Gréaud, Max Hooper Schneider,
Agata Ingarden, Per Kirkeby, Agnieszka Kurant, Romana Londi, Turiya Magadlela, Licia Pizzani, Thiago
Rocha Pitta, Ylva Snöfrid, Nicolàs Uribura, Ambera Wellmann, Haegue Yang et Phillip Zach.
“PLANET B. Climate Change and the New Sublime” is the last chapter of a cycle of exhibitions initiated
with The Great Acceleration. Art in the Anthropocene (Taipei Biennial, 2014), followed by Crash Test,
The Molecular Turn (La Panacée, 2018) and The 7th Continent (Istanbul Biennial, 2019).
II. Act 1 – Every exhibition is a forest
The first part of this exhibition is titled “Every exhibition is a forest,” because art constitutes a
milieu that is home to many parallel ecosystems. It is also a giant reflection of the events and ideas
that have led to the present-day world.
Just like a forest, an exhibition generates signs and meanings. It immerses its visitors in a dense,
enveloping space that insulates them from daily life and disrupts their spatial bearings.
The artworks assembled in the first section of Planet B emphasise this feeling of immersion: realms
intermingle, either through the takeover of human societies by organic or chemical phenomena
(Bianca Bondi, Max Hooper Schneider, Thiago Rocha Pitta, Haegue Yang, Agnieszka Kurant, Lucía
Pizzani), or through the humanisation of the vegetal (Dana-Fiona Armour).
In today’s art, the vegetal luxuriance of the jungle is an element of disorientation. In the installations
of Lucía Pizzani (a former biology student, like Max Hooper Schneider), we can only make out
fragmentary figures, out-of-scale details, human skins interwoven with snake scales, enigmatic
objects, masks.
The exhibition also features a set of pieces by Anna Bella Geiger, who casts an outsider’s gaze on
Brazilian reality, creating a series of critical echoes between the Amazonian jungle, indigenous culture,
and local modernism. A similar mix of environmental activism and interest in pre-Columbian cultures
can be found in the works of another “historic” artist, the Argentinian Nicolas Uriburu, who displays,
through strident harmonies of acid greens and reds, the spectacle of nature unhinged. His
performance at the Venice Biennale of 1968, where he dyed the Grand Canal green, was his
The American critic Clement Greenberg wrote that after the Middle Ages, painting “ratified the
common-sense notion of space as free and open, and of objects as islands in this free and open
space.” In modern art, space is perceived as “a continuum which objects inflect but do not interrupt.”
This “total object,” which “joins instead of separating,” is, according to Greenberg, what abstract
painting “portrays”. This mix of abstraction and “portrayal” can be found in the work of the late
painter and geologist Per Kirkeby, who strove to depict the subsurface of the world, immersing himself
in mineralogy.
- Dana-Fiona Armour
- Bianca Bondi
- Roberto Cabot
- Anna Conway
- Kendell Geers
- Anna Bella Geiger
- Max Hooper
- Per Kirkeby
- Agnieszka Kurant
- Lucia Pizzani
- Thiago Rocha Pitta
- Ylva Snöfrid
- Nicolas Uriburu
- Haegue Yang
- Phillip Zach
III. Act 2- Charles Darwin and the coral
In his journal, Charles Darwin wrote of the “grandeur” of coral reefs resisting the power of the
ocean, and he saw an analogy with the sublime in the patient formation of corals. “The organic forces
separate the atoms of carbonate of lime, one by one, from the foaming breakers, and unite them into
a symmetrical structure.” For him, it was a “magnificent spectacle” to see “the soft and gelatinous
body of a polypus, through the agency of the vital laws, conquering the great mechanical power of the
waves of an ocean” Only time could yield such a miracle: coral, he wrote, was “the accumulated
labour of myriads of architects at work night and day, month after month, for centuries.”
One of the facets of the contemporary sublime echoes Charles Darwin’s intuition about coral: the long
term is a contemporary form of the majestic, precisely because it eludes the human gaze and
resituates it within immensity. In contemporary art, we are seeing more and more patient, meticulous
The tiny details that adorn Nils Alix-Tabeling’s micro-compositions, the slow chemical reactions reated
by Hicham Berrada or Bianca Bondi, Charles Avery’s painstaking drawings of his fictional world, or the
bristling ex-votos in which Alex Cerveny shows the failure of any attempt to reconcile the human
species and nature (Rio Negro e Solimões, 2019, and his vegetoid human beings) are just a few
examples of works that maintain a very contemporary tension between the microscopic and the
macroscopic, between the tiny and the huge (they are often large-scale).
What is new in today’s visual world is that the miniature is no longer the opposite of the large-scale:
they seem to complete one another, just as the forest hosts millions of microorganisms. Gianfranco
Baruchello has doubtless been the master of this aesthetics since the 1950s, stretching the link
between the infinitesimal and the expanse of a painting to the extreme, until he composed nothing
but constellations.
- Nils Alix-Tabeling
- Charles Avery
- Gianfranco
- Hicham Berrada
- Bianca Bondi
- Roberto Cabot
- Alex Cerveny
- Anna Bella Geiger
- Max Hooper
- Agnieszka Kurant
- Romana Londi
- Turiya Magadlela
- Thiago Rocha Pitta
IV. Act 3: The Tragic end of Nauru
Island: the catastrophic sublime.
The third act of "Planet B: Climate Change & the New Sublime" is steeped in the history of the
island of Nauru, located in Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean.
In the 1970s, this tiny independent island became the world’s wealthiest country per capita because
of its huge phosphate deposits. Today, the impoverished state is nothing but a spent, desolate, sterile
landscape. Its story can be seen as the parable of extractivism gone mad, but also as the image of the
negative sublime of pollution, the exhaustion of natural resources, and mass extinctions. It also sheds
light on why contemporary artists now scrutinise the planet with a molecular eye, focusing on
chemistry and organic compounds. After all, it was a mineral phosphate that caused the tragic fate of
Nauru Island.
This third part of the exhibition is dark, dominated by shades of black. Intense, bituminous blacks, like
those cultivated by Loris Gréaud, who resorts to calcination or combustion, Peter Buggenhout, who
insists on the passing of time and the accumulation of dust, or Agate Ingarden.
The Anthropocene, that is, the civilization of climate change, is haunted by a great fear: the
impossibility of reweaving a world, of reconstituting what is dislocating before our very eyes. In other
words, the feeling that it is already too late. That the myths of the flood and of Noah’s Ark are no
longer myths, but rather an unavoidable reality. We are engulfed and submerged by catastrophe. Oil
slicks are the most spectacular form of pollution. It is an imbalance, a disorder.
Here, again, art draws lessons from the (ecological) catastrophe by inventing catastrophic modes of
representation (in the mathematical sense of the word). The point isn’t to denounce this catastrophe
(which would be childish), but to show it and to explain its forms and effects.
Climate change, which affects the space in which we live, yields artistic responses that not only take it
into account, but also take it seriously.
- Dana-Fiona Armour
- Peter Buggenhout
- Kendell Geers
- Anna Bella Geiger
- Loris Gréaud
- Max Hooper Schneider
- Agata Ingarden
- Agnieszka Kurant
- Romana Londi
- Turiya Magadlela
- Lucia Pizzani
- Thiago Rocha Pitta
- Nicolas Uriburu
- Ambera Wellmann
- Haegue Yang
- Phillip Zach
V. The publication
The exhibition "Planet B: Climate Change & the New Sublime" is accompanied by a publication
that expands on the statement of the curator Nicolas Bourriaud.
It is the first publication edited by Radicants, and it takes the form of a curator book that explores the
notion of the sublime, which has been theorised by several philosophers since the 18th century. It
proposes a redefinition through the works of contemporary artists in the eponymous exhibition.
The book is distributed by Idea Books.
Author: Nicolas Bourriaud.
Graphic design: M/M (Paris)
14 x 20,5 cm
144 pages (ill.)
ISBN: 978-2-493734-01-3
- Nicolas Uriburu
- Haegue Yang
- Phillip Zach