“One does not have to be a great seer to predict that the 
relationship between humans and nature will, in all probability, 
be the most important question of the present century.” 
Philippe Descola
‘Altered Lands’ is a group exhibition imagined as a baseline study of how artists interpret the topic of direct human influence on the planet.
Our world is rapidly changing at the hands of human beings, increasingly since the onset of the industrial revolution and even more exponentially rapid in modern times. Human life as we know it is impossible without the use of elements and produce harvested from the earth. 
Once natural landscapes have become industrialised, providing sustenance for the ever-increasing need for natural resources, oil drilling, mining operations, energy and food production, all leave open wounds and scar tissue across the surface of the globe. In addition to that, entire ecosystems are in turmoil due to the effects of climate change. 
With this exhibition, we aim at showing a world we’ve made for ourselves, becoming witnesses to the realities of our industrialised planet. The artworks brought together display the direct effects of human impact on our global environment, disclosing various signs of the devastating price we have to pay to meet our material demands and rampant consumerism. From transformed landscapes cleared of trees, vegetation and topsoil for open pit mining operations, to soil depletion and erosion as a result of overly extensive farming. Fertiliser and chemicals being washed into the waterways, entire areas are transformed into massive ponds enclosed by earth dikes designed to collect highly toxic tailings from factories. Coastal areas either polluted by plastic waste or threatened in their very existence by sea level rise due to melting glaciers and ice caps.
In the time we live in, human impact on the ecosystem and the signs of the Anthropocene are one of the most important issues to tackle. Environmental scholar and activist Vandana Shiva wrote in 2010: 
    “When we think of wars in our time, our mind turns to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the bigger war is the war against the planet. This war has its roots in an economy that fails to respect ecological and ethical limits - limits to inequality, limits to injustice, limits to greed and economic concentration.” 
Rob Nixon proposed the term “slow violence” to describe anthropogenic change on our planet in his book “Slow Violence And The Environmentalism Of The Poor”:
    “By slow violence I mean a violence that occurs gradually out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all. Violence is customarily conceived as an event or action that is immediate in time, explosive and spectacular in space, and as erupting into instant sensational visibility. We need, I believe, to engage in a different view on violence, a violence that is neither spectacular nor instantaneous, but rather incremental and accretive, its calamitous repercussions playing out across a range of temporal scales. In so doing, we also need to engage in representational, narrative, and strategic challenges posed by the relative invisibility of slow violence. Climate change, the thawing of the cryosphere, toxic drift, biomagnification, deforestation, the radioactive aftermath of wars, acidifying oceans, and a host of other slowly unfolding environmental catastrophes present formidable representational obstacles that can hinder our efforts to mobilize and act decisively. The long dyings - the staggered and staggeringly discounted casualties, both human and ecological that result from war’s toxic aftermaths or climate change - are underrepresented in strategic planning as well as in human memory.”
Art can tell stories that statistics struggle to tell. Works of art can draw the viewer in. Art can add a sense of wonder to a dry debate. By those means, art can potentially play an important role in understanding certain phenomena through its unique way of connecting to the onlooker. Inviting the viewer to contemplate the backstory and thematic expression of the images presented, accessing our collective visual memory,  rather than simply looking at a picture or viewing through a frame. 
Interacting with a piece of art can turn into what Hans-Georg Gadamer called an “Ereignis — an event that ‘appropriates us’ into itself”, during which the artwork shocks or overturns the viewer and sets up a world of its own. As opposed to an artwork just being an “object that stands opposite of us, which we look at in the hope of seeing through it to an intended conceptual meaning.”
As French philosopher, anthropologist and sociologist Bruno Latour answered the question, of how to sensitise people to the ecological problems of our time by stating: 
    “Not make them sensitive. You either are or you aren't depending on how able you are to understand the world you live in. If a fire alarm went off, we wouldn't keep talking, we'd go outside. Sensitivity is something you develop, for which you need instruments. You need instruments, alarms, hearing aids, and all kinds of devices to be sensitive. There are a few examples of this sensitivity. First of all science, natural sciences. They made us sensitive to climate change in a broad sense. The arts also play an important role in understanding certain phenomena. What matters is that society can detect the changes it brought on itself in time.” 
Easily the most recognisable impact that societies have on their surrounding landscapes is the direct waste we produce, which is disposed of either in designated garbage dumps or just thrown away almost immediately in the place it was produced.
For his work “Isolation (Müllhalde)” Fabian Knecht constructed a White Cube around an area in a public space littered with discarded items, focussing the viewer's attention on the state of the environment in this dump site. A room whose aesthetic we are trained on associating with fine art is used to direct awareness on something, at surface level, mundane, but on second thought, highly impactful - litter pollution.
Two other artists in this exhibition are using everyday human detritus as a foundation for their works. Jazoo Yang collects litter and residue from streets and sidewalks on her walks through cities and arranges them into collages which are ultimately encased in resin, turning them functionally into snapshots of the places in which the artist was present. These resin pieces come in various shapes, be it wall pieces or actual casts of building bricks. Items that are usually overlooked and stepped over on the street become elevated into sculptural pieces that demand attention and reflection. Also present in this exhibition is an example of a more minimalist approach, in which she uses carefully selected found pieces and arranges them in picture frames.
The crashing of ocean waves is the soundtrack to Haku Sugho’s fascinating field-research-based project “Sway”, for which his process is collecting plastic waste from various beaches of the Baltic Sea. He turns his findings into LP Blank Disks, sometimes cutting the audio track into these recycled disks, branding them with the audio of their place of origin.
He guides the attention of the viewer onto the pressing topic of ocean pollution, via the step of using his art to play a part in reducing the amount of litter on the beaches. 
Also addressing the pollution of water, but concentrating on freshwater, is Vibha Galhotra.
The short film “Manthan” is based on a legend from Hindu mythology in which the gods and demons churn the ocean to extract the nectar of immortality. Through a romanticised, performative gesture, the film examines perspectives on the ecological threat and envisions a process of filtering the harmful waste out of the Yamuna River. “Manthan” is a refusal to give up hope and implores us to find a solution before it's too late.
Water and land polluted by toxic material are a central topic in the exhibited works by the following three artists. Clemencia Echeverri's works are inspired by the political and social conditions that have shaped our time and aim to immerse the viewer in experiences, situations and events that invite us to explore the world we live in and reconsider it from a critical and emotional perspective. In her video work “Sin Cielo (Skyless)” she takes us on a journey into northwestern Colombia, documenting a landscape scarred, and poisoned by unregulated gold mining. The main protagonist is a river, basically a dead body of water, which is bringing with it destruction and harm downstream, putting ecosystems and communities in peril. 
The sculptures of Silvia Noronha are born from what the artist describes as scientific-alchemy-based research on the adaptation process, symbiosis and communication between human-made substances and natural material. Noronha is deeply interested in mining and the environmental contamination that results from these operations. In her series of works entitled “Shifting Geologies,” she imagines what future geologic forms might create themselves by fusing human-made and natural substances over time.
With an almost obsessive level of interest, Kristian Askelund has spent the last 6 years working on the topic of the Athabasca Oil Sands mining operations in Alberta, Canada. Absorbing aerial images of these highly polluted, artificial landscapes that petrocapitalism has created, trying to understand and recreate the physical processes which formed them. The evolution from the original seemingly abstract series “Future Landscapes”, of which three works are in this exhibition, is palpable in his later work about the topic, showing a more figurative, and somewhat more sombre view in his triptych “Mildred Lake”. What before was suggested, has now become a crude and scary reality. The 4,5 metres of canvas are the equivalent of a real-life area of landscape spanning almost 6,5 kilometres.

Global warming is the central topic of the works by Pako Quijada. In their sprawling photographic piece “Lakes of our making”, we are presented with the accelerated melting of Sólheimajökull, a long outlet glacier from the Mýrdalsjökull icecap in Southern Iceland. Within only four years, the glacier terminus has visibly retreated (at a rate of 100m per year) and enlarged into a proglacial lake, a body of water which had not been in existence before 2007. The dark, foggy atmosphere of the 2021 photos even emphasises the climate emergency and the looming disappearance of the Icelandic glaciers. Their video piece “Curate’s Egg” takes up the same topic, but broadens it into the arctic regions to which the warming climate brought a mix of potential, turmoil, and political conflict.
The constructed legacy of humanity is depicted in the works of Hunter Buck and Martinho Mendes. The landscape takes on the power to shape Buck’s embossings by him placing large-format canvases on various undergrounds. He immortalises their shapes on the fabric’s surface by rubbing them with graphite, thus attempting to develop a new relationship between painting and place, creating pieces firmly rooted in the ground on which they were made. Physical collaboration with raw material merges with more emotional reminiscence and creates images that are evidence of the duality of our experience with places. For the exhibited pieces, he used decayed urban space as the base layer to work upon.
Mendes’ artistic practice is highly influenced by his native island of Madeira and the changes that human settlement has had on the surrounding landscape and nature. Be it by deforestation, the influences native plants have on the population and what effects introduced species have on the balance of the island biogeography. The two exhibited photos are examples which depict his ongoing investigation of the risks of an insular landscape and the human vulnerability it encounters. They present a paradox of what represents life on the island: a constant human attempt to control natural Fluxus by constructing artificial means to secure the status quo and counteract geologic processes.
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