It’s all anyone can talk about right now: ‘climate change’ is the most talked about, clicked about, fought about, feared topic… the one that more than any other is endangering the environment we live in, the world’s communities and economies, but above all our survival as human beings. In line with the climate changes we are all aware of, the Fondazione Prada presents ‘Everybody Talks About the Weather’, an exhibition that addresses the issue of the climate emergency by exploring variations and artistic research on weather, at Ca’ Corner della Regina in Venice.
“The exhibition project,” says the curator Dieter Roelstraete, “proposes to field a ‘meteorological’ vision of art as a historically reliable and conceptually rich way to deal with the ‘unthinkable’, and possibly help pave a way out of our current paradox”. An exhibition that juxtaposes contemporary works and those of great masters from the past with academic and scientific research, subdividing the itinerary into themes that include the proposed works and in-depth scientific studies developed in collaboration with the New Institute Centre For Environmental Humanities (NICHE) of Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. A different perspective for the visitor, involved in a dimension that interweaves art and science, with in-depth studies of the artists juxtaposed with graphics, images and scientific data.
The title, Everybody Talks About the Weather, is a reference to one of the first works to greet visitors as they enter the exhibition: a poster from 1968 by the German Socialist Student Union (Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund) depicting Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin with the slogan ‘Alle reden vom Wetter. Wir nicht’ (Everyone talks about the weather. We don’t). Ironic to think how, at that time, the political party considered it ‘useless’ to deal with the weather in view of other much more important issues, compared to our present, when it is unthinkable not to talk about the climate threat as a major and global emergency.
On the ground floor we find exhibition copies of great masterpieces, including: The Tempest by Giorgione, The Sea of Ice by Caspar David Friedrich, Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel, Rain, Steam and Speed by Joseph Mallord William Turner, Cloud Study by John Constable, Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters by Hendrick Avercamp. Artists that until then we did not consider as weather chroniclers, but now, in the rooms of the historic Ca’ Corner Palace, we recognise as unparalleled observers of the ‘weather’. John Constable, for instance, was literally called a ‘man of the air’ (Luftmensch): in little more than a year (1821-1822) he painted about a hundred representations of London skies. Considered to be one of the most representative artists of Romanticism, Constable, who sought the sublime and the moving in the clouds, left a true pictorial reportage of the celestial landscape between Hampstead Heath and Brighton and its continuous evolution.
Arriving at the main floor of the exhibition, the work of Vivian Suter (Buenos Aires, 1949), a Swiss artist born in Argentina, is of great visual impact: large, colourful canvases, stretched out in a row one after the other like laundry in the wind, impose their presence for a good half of the large old hall (Untitled). Nina Canell (Växjö,1979), a Swedish artist, is the author of Moody, a sculptural group made up of glass lightning spheres, discoloured by the effect of discharges of electricity and atmospheric events, assembled in vertical sections. These globiform totems evoke the theme of “prediction”, understood as the reading of future weather, a recurring obsession in the life of man: on the one hand, the spheres as a method of interrupting the passage of electric charge and acting as an electrostatic dissipation in the event of lightning, thus attempting to control atmospheric agents and any risks of danger; on the other hand, the very ancient art of crystalomancy, i.e. the prediction of the human future through the crystal ball, which is said to have had the capacity to reflect a special divinatory power. Both symbolise a human attempt to dominate matters beyond one’s control.
The large tapestry by Pae White (Pasadena, 1963), Kinked Rain / Gold, hangs on the wall with elegance and refinement with a Japanese influence. Turquoise clouds embroidered on a dark background later reveal the rain of thin golden threads. An atmospheric element, rain, considered a saviour in times of great drought, especially for those who, like White, live in areas subject to increasingly devastating heat waves in recent years.
Himali Singh Soin‘s (Delhi) immersive installation, We are opposite like that, is part of a project undertaken by the Indian artist in 2017 following a trip to the Norwegian islands of Svalbard, in the Arctic Ocean: two projections floating on a sheet of water, accompanied by sounds and stories, show Soin, wrapped in a thermal blanket, wandering through a glacial landscape, at once white and treacherous, a mirror of a mythical past without a human being but also a warning of a probable future. The melting of the ice reflects unchallenged anthropocentrism, the primary cause of the ongoing climate change and emergency. Goshka Macuga (Warsaw, 1967) also expresses herself on the subject with her large tapestry Who gave us a sponge to erase the horizon?, whose title is a quotation from Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gaia Scienza and the parable of the mad man, who wanders around the market in the morning light and denounces the death of God by human beings. The three-dimensional visual plot depicts a procession of activists disguised as sea creatures, staging a surreal protest inspired by the UN Conference held in Glasgow in 2021, where a gathering of powerful politicians from around the world discussed climate change without achieving any concrete results.
The analysis of the issue unfolds like a dance between the most varied artistic forms of observation of weather and landscape, which is the first witness: from the Japanese masterpieces by Katsushika Hokusai One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji and Ichiryusai Hiroshige‘s Mount Haruna under the Snow, to those of masters such as Gustave Courbet with The Wave, up to more recent studies such as the Carotaggi by the Venetian artist Giorgio Andreotta Calò, known for his participation at the Venice Biennale in 2017 in the Italian Pavilion. “Everybody Talks About the Weather” is an exhibition that unites great masterpieces with works by contemporary and emerging artists, together with scientific research related to the theme; the itinerary makes the visitor aware of an important evolution in the relationship between the climate and the influence of meteorological changes. An essential intervention by Fondazione Prada which, with this project, reflects on the important and more than ever necessary semantics of ‘time’.
Complete list of artists in the exhibition: Sophia Al-Maria, Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Shunivai Ashoona, Anonimo veneto, Ursula Biemann, Nina Canell, Vija Celmins, Paolo Cirio, Gustave Courbet, Vittore Grubicy de Dragon, Jason Dodge, Ayan Farah, Theaster Gates, Beate Geissler & Oliver Sann, Antony Gormley, Hans Haacke, Ichoryusai Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai, Jitish Kallat, AnneChristine Klarmann, Zdeněk Košek, Goshka Macuga, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Santu Mofokeng, Plinio Nomellini, Carlo Francesco Nuvolone, Alix Oge, Richard Onyango, Chantal Peñalosa, Dan Peterman, Nick Raffel, Raqs Media Collective, Gerhard Richter, Thomas Ruff, Tiffany Sia, Himali Singh Soin, Vivian Suter, Fredrik Vaerslev, Pieter Vermeersch, Pae White, Tsutomu Yamamoto, Yang Yongliang.
Paola Natalia Pepa
Everybody Talks About the Weather
Una mostra di ricerca a cura di Dieter Roelstraete
20/05/2023 – 26/11/2023
Fondazione Prada, Ca’ Corner della Regina
Santa Croce 2215
T +39 02 56 66 26 34
Independent curator specialized in Argentine art, with studies and publications on the subject (“Argentina at the Venice Biennale of Art” in Storie della Biennale di Venezia, Ed. Ca’ Foscari, 2020), founder in 2014 of arteargentina.it, the first Italian platform dedicated to Argentine art in Italy. She currently collaborates in Venice with galleries and artists.