At the center of the reference system of the exhibition “ SurVival – Questions to the future“ at Haus am Lützowplatz is the 1973 film „Soylent Green“, which is set in the year 2022 and depicts a future scenario that deals with extreme overpopulation and the ecological problems it causes.1 It also addresses global warming caused by the use of fossil fuels, long before there was a consensus in the scientific community about the associated climate change.2 Since the oceans have been fished out and there is no longer enough agricultural land available, people in 2022 will be fed on artificially produced food, which the corrupted upper class is having secretly produced from corpses by the company „Soylent“. 3 The unrestrained exploitation of natural resources, according to the message of the film, leads to a social system based on violence, which devours itself, as it were, and which has lost all moral and ethical principles.
Image Above: Videostill, L.E.O.P.A.R.T., 2019, HD Video, 17:13 Min. © Nina E. Schönefeld
The film is considered the first ecodystopia to be received by the masses and is closely associated with the beginning of a new awareness of the threat posed to the planet by mankind. Thus, the first „Earth Day“ was celebrated on April 22, 1970, to draw attention to the global problems of environmental destruction. In 1971, Greenpeace was founded in Canada, and in 1972 the Club of Rome published its report on the state of humanity: „The Limits to Growth“. During the 17th Apollo mission, which started in December 1972 and in connection with which a human being set foot on the moon for the last time, the so-called Blue Marbel photo of the planet drifting in space was taken, which became known as a symbol of various environmental movements due to the Overview Effect cancelled out in it. Buckminster Fuller coined the term „Spaceship Earth“ somewhat earlier through his 1968 publication „Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.“The German version of the film was released in 1974 with the staccato like subtitle „… year 2022 … who want to survive“ and was first broadcasted on September 5, 1981 in the evening program of ARD.
Against the backdrop of this nearly 50-year-old look into a future that has now become the present, the exhibition offers a polyphonic space for reflection with twelve artistic positions, from which, supported by a discursive program, we can in turn look into our own near and distant future. The themes negotiated in the film are addressed as well as the history of the specific film genre and the possible perspectives of our own survival.
Curated by Marc Wellmann in dialogue with Philip Grözinger
With works by:
Bettina von Arnim
Nina E. Schönefeld
Bjørn Melhus (*1966) created a new video work for the exhibition in explicit response to the film „Soylent Green“, which deals with the famous death scene with actor Edward G. Robinson. Nina E. Schönefeld (*1970) shows the series of video works, „Trilogy Of Tomorrow“ (2018-19), in which environmental activists* and hackers* fight for political change, freedom of expression, and the preservation of nature in a near future. In a complex, self-reflexive way, Danish artist Mette Riise (*1992) interrogates the personal relevance of the Club of Rome report with her video „The Less Unsustainable Talk Show.“ The room-filling sculpture by Sabine Groß (*1961), created especially for the exhibition, sets in motion a time loop between future, present and past, created by our imagination. Katja Novitskova (*1984), who in recent years has increasingly addressed the problem of biodiversity, deals in the exhibited cut-out sculpture with the reintroduction program of the Californian condor, which formerly existed only in captivity. Louisa Clement (*1987) takes a transhuman perspective on her own body in her new series of so-called „Stellvertreterinnen,“ pointing to the unsecured continuation of humanity in its current form. Markus Wirthmann (*1963) plants a real ecosystem in the exhibition based on a closed food cycle between fish and plants, referencing the failed Biosphere experiment in the Arizona desert. In addition to new works by co-curator Philip Grözinger (b. 1972) and Berlin-based Ukrainian artist Maxim Brandt (b. 1986), the exhibition features paintings by Bettina von Arnim (b. 1940) from the 1970s that project the theme of agricultural technology into an anti-human future. Equally historic is the poem „Overpopulation and Art,“ recited by John Cage (1912-1992), shortly before his death in the context of Stanford University, as well as photographs from the „Food“ series by Michael Schmidt (1945-2014), taken during several trips from 2006 to 2010, which vividly visualize the conditions of industrial food production.
1 Starring Charlton Heston and directed by Richard Fleischer. The screenplay by Stanley R. Greenberg goes back to the 1966 book „Make Room! Make Room!” by Harry Harrison, but is thematically different. A major influence on the setting and reception of the film was the popular science treatise „The Population Bomb“ (1968) by Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich, which warns of the threat to our planet from overpopulation in lurid scenarios.
2 A scientist from the EXXON group provided the first evidence of this causality in 1977. The so-called “greenhouse effect” has been generally recognized on a scientific level since the early 1990s.
3 The company’s name is a portmanteau of „soy“ and „lentil“. Referring to the film, software designer Rob Rhinehart launched a nutritional powder of the same name in early 2014, which is still being sold today.
4 In 1980 the band „Soilent Grün“ was founded in Berlin, to which Farin Urlaub and Bela-B belonged and which evolved to “Die Ärzte“ in 1982.
Opening: Wednesday, 14. September 2022, 7 p.m.
Dates: Thursday, 15. September 2022 – Sunday, 8. January 2023
Haus am Lützowplatz, Lützowplatz 9, 10785 Berlin-Tiergarten