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Vienna’s Inaugural Climate Biennale to Tackle Climate Crisis Through Art and Science

Wednesday, December 20, 2023, 4:31 a.m

Everyone talks about climate change, but few actually do anything about it. The city of Vienna doesn’t want to let this stand. In 2024, the aim is to connect art and science, politics and society with their own festival, raise awareness and develop innovative solutions. The first “Climate Biennale Vienna” will offer a colorful program for 100 days from April 5th, which will be presented in all details on January 17th. The priorities have already been determined.

The “Climate Biennale Vienna” is led by the Graz-born project manager Sithara Pathirana and the Munich researcher and artist Claudius Schulze. When they placed their order a year ago, they made people sit up and take notice with the announcement: “As radical as the changes to the earth system are, a climate biennale must be just as radical.” However, the program they have known so far, consisting of a mixture of exhibitions, workshops and networking work, does not seem radical at all. And so the APA interview with the two leaders, who have the epochal book “The Limits to Growth” on the table in the English paperback edition published in 1976, initially revolves around the concept of radicality.

“The catastrophes we are heading towards if we do nothing would be radical. The radical vision of the future is ‘business as usual’,” says Schulze. In order to counteract this, everyone needs to be brought on board. “Radical today already means: listening to each other and talking to each other. We therefore want to address everyone and not pillory anyone.” So during the “Climate Biennale Vienna” there will be no protest, but rather debate. The ring will not be declared the event location and made car-free, but rather former post bus garages in the northwest station area, one of the last large empty spaces, will become visible in which the transformation of the city will also be visible in terms of urban planning in the future is played. The central exhibition on the one-hectare festival area, which also features workshops, events and gastronomy, including outdoor areas, is “Songs for the Changing Seasons”, curated by Lucia Pietroiusti and Filipa Ramos, which “addresses the question of how does this climate crisis feel?” “artistically approach”.

The headquarters will be set up in the Kunst Haus Vienna. In recent years, the program has specialized in sustainability issues in the spirit of the eco-pioneer Friedensreich Hundertwasser; the exhibition “Into the Woods. Approaches to the forest ecosystem” curated by Sophie Haslinger takes place here, as does an “incredibly exciting discourse – and event program”, part of which is the first Vienna climate summit to find new ways of imparting knowledge. One of the goals of the “Climate Biennale Vienna” is to “take away the powerlessness of the individual,” says Sithara Pathirana. It’s about developing a common “urban utopia”, about seeing yourself as part of the solution and motivating yourself to take small steps on a long, rocky road to change. “There are many levers that seem insignificant, but together they can make a difference.”

Common ground is also sought with as many partner institutions as possible. “We are proud of how many players in the city are participating with great enthusiasm,” emphasizes Schulze. The range extends from the Foto Arsenal Vienna, the Weltmuseum Wien and the MAK to the Vienna Festival Weeks, and there is also cooperation with the Künstlerhaus and the vienna design week. “Many artists have been dealing with sustainability issues for a long time. We don’t hold art accountable, but rather want to use it to make things tangible that would otherwise remain abstract. It’s about understanding science and art as a unit, similar to it was common until the Renaissance.”

In calls running until January 15th, art initiatives and other non-commercial art spaces are also asked to submit “innovative and courageous exhibition projects that deal with the local in the face of the global challenges of the climate crisis.” However, the maximum contribution to the production costs is only 2,000 euros – not much given a festival budget of 1.5 million euros. “As an artist, I have always missed the fact that there is hardly any ‘broad funding’ in culture like in sport, i.e. funding that is aimed at as many people as possible at a low threshold. Instead, relatively large amounts are often paid out to just a few ‘selected’ people in a jury process ” argues Schulze. The “Immediate Matters” action field used in the calls is a contribution to “making a difference here: to promote the creation of a broad nucleus for art that critically deals with the social questions of the future in the face of the climate crisis.”

Not only money, but also time is short, complains the management duo, who first had to set up an infrastructure and a team (currently five people) after being appointed on January 1, 2023. Some ideas will therefore be postponed until 2026. The contract with the management duo is for two biennales, and their perspective goes beyond that anyway. Pathirana: “Everything we start now has the right to be continued.”

(The interview was conducted by Wolfgang Huber-Lang/APA)

2023-12-20 06:07:19
#Climate #Biennale #Vienna #sustainable #effect

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