this issue contains
>> Curator Jürgen Bock on "Drawing a Tension" / The Press on "Freisteller"
>> Liz Christensen on "Feeling the Heat" / Angelika Stepken on "Freisteller"

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"More Than Just Pretty Pictures"
Curator Liz Christensen on Art, Climate Change, and Her New Exhibition Feeling the Heat

Liz Christensen,
curator of „Feeling the Heat“

The new show at Deutsche Bank New York's 60 Wall Street Gallery is devoted to one of the most explosive topics of our age - climate change. ”Feeling the Heat” presents 16 artists who deal with this global problem in very different ways. Achim Drucks talked with curator Liz Christensen about the highlights of the show and the power of art to change awareness.

Patricia Johanson, Living Apartment Houses, 1969,
Courtesy of the artist

Achim Drucks: How did the idea for Feeling the Heat arise?

Liz Christensen: The show is inspired by a couple of things. First of all the topic of climate change and Deutsche Bank’s growing commitment to help alleviate some of its probable impact. I think the subject is very fascinating because it is all about inter-connections and chain reactions. In fact it is terrifying, but what I am interested in is how artists are responding to the issues surrounding climate change. Secondly I was inspired by seeing an exhibition organized by the art historian and critic Lucy Lippard at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art called Weather Report: Art and Climate Change. It was very engaging, bringing together art and science, and the Colorado Rockies were the perfect place to find lots of climate scientists studying the subject! There is a core group of artists in Feeling the Heat which were also in Weather Report. I added some artists from New York because I wanted it to be more relevant to this area.

Patricia Johanson, Building that Cleans Its Own Water, 1969
Courtesy of the artist

What are the highlights of the show?

There are so many great pieces, I love the drawings by Patricia Johanson, who has been designing living landscapes patterned after cabbages and flowers and animals, which are meant to grow and evolve with the needs of their particular site.She has been working on all of these ideas and creating public works since the 1960s.

Chris Jordan, Office Paper, 2007
from the series "Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait" (2006-2007)
Courtesy of the Artist

Many people are awed by the two works by Chris Jordan. His large scale photographs show quantitatively the things we use on a daily basis. One image actually shows thousands of tiny reams of paper - the amount of office paper that is used in the United States in five minutes. Consumption is linked to deforestation and finally ozone layer depletion which affects climate. At first glance the photo looks like a very minimal Agnes Martin drawing, but actually it is a massive wall of paper that the artist has mathematically and digitally worked out. His images are very powerful because they visually describe the data, and this hits you in a different way than just hearing about statistics. It is one of the great powers of art, that it can sometimes sneak up quietly and then hit you in the head. The number one focus was to have a show with good art. I didn’t want to have another photo show with melting icebergs.

Iain Baxter&, Animal Preserve #8, 1999-2007
Courtesy of the artist and Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Canada

The artworks at 60 Wall Street Gallery cover very different approaches to the subject from Subhankar Banerjee’s photographs of migrating animals to Brian Colliers installation The Pika Alarm, about the danger of the Pika, the rock rabbit, becoming extinct.

Brian’s piece is actually an alarm. When you reach for one of the postcards that are in a container on the wall a sound goes off in order too show the alarming plight of this cute little fuzzy animal and its unfortunate habitation loss. The Canadian artist Ian Baxter also chides us about our attitudes and our perception of "wild species in his piece", "Animal Preserve", which displays rows of stuffed animals in jars on shelves inside mirrored medicine cabinets. There is a wide range of artistic strategies offered here - from agit prop to poetic responses. The underlying theme is what’s happening in the environment, for better or worse. Joel Sternfeld’s facial portraits of attendees to a UN Climate Change summit meeting reflect that perfectly.

Joel Sternfeld, Victor Orindi,
from the series "When It Changed", 2005,
Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York

There is also a link here to a long tradition of artists recording what they see in the landscape, a 19th C. Romantic relationship to nature…

Alexis Rockman’s paintings and Subhankar Banerjee’s photographs would be good examples of the more Romantic or poetically inclined. Subhankar photographs from an airplane these beautiful Artic expanses, but looking closer, subtle cracks and thinning ice beneath lines of migrating caribou illustrate a tenuous position due to global warming. His series is called Oil and the Caribou because it is a highly contested area for oil drilling and one of the last wildlife refuges left. Alexis Rockman also continues a great tradition of portraying landscape, but with a more fanciful twist – his painting Hotelscape shows the city of Las Vegas post-climate meltdown, where only the architectural remains of the hotel casinos and the heartiest of molluscs and horny toads survive no matter what.

Subhankar Banerjee, Caribou Migration I,
from the series "Oil and the Caribou", 2002
Collection of Tagore Foundation International,
East Hampton

Some works give us the opportunity to actually do something.

The intersection of art and activism is an important part of the exhibition. These artists are not just making pretty pictures, they are inspired to take action. Eve Mosher, whose video HighWaterLine (2007) is on view, spent all last summer walking through Lower Manhattan and Lower Brooklyn marking the 10 foot water line where storm surge water would reach based on statistics worked out with NASA climatologists. She was marking this line for residents so that they would actually see where this line of water would be in relation to where they live and work. It gave her an opportunity to proactively engage with people. Art can change attitudes and maybe even lives. Isabella Gonzales, an artist from New Mexico, has a bilingual piece called 2 Cents Worth that is located outside of our cafeteria. It’s a kitchenette table from the 1950s and it has two umbrellas suspended with pennies raining down. The point of it is that the ozone layer is roughly the thickness of two pennies. It’s also making a play on the American expression "putting in your 2 cents worth," which is your contribution. And you have the chance to make your contribution. There is a jar there, where you can put in your two cents for the future of our planet, for your children or grandchildren. There are postcards in Spanish and English that you can send out to your congressional representatives to ask them to support legislation that protects the environment. Every little bit helps.

Eve Mosher, HighWaterLine, 2007, Video,
Courtesy of the Artist

But can art really raise ecological awareness?

I certainly believe art can raise consciousness. One of the aims of Feeling the Heat is to get people more involved in this topic and find out what Deutsche Bank is doing. From both the business and the philanthropic sides, Deutsche Bank has committed to seeking solutions to these problems. Currently, the Bank manages $11 billion of investments to fight climate change, and started one of the first mutual funds dedicated to companies that are involved in climate change adaptation and mitigation. In philanthropy, Deutsche Bank is working with the City of New York to help finance the conversion of the black car limousine fleet to hybrid cars, which is expected to reduce the city's annual greenhouse gas emissions by 137,000 tons. In addition, the bank has committed to arranging $1 billion in financing through the Clinton Climate Initiative, an effort to achieve greenhouse gas reduction by retrofitting buildings for greater efficiency in the world's 40 largest cities. And Deutsche Bank is participating in an ISO 14001 process, an environmental management system that helps move the bank steadily towards its sustainability goals. It involves setting benchmarks for all elements of Deutsche Bank's buildings from electricity to recycling paper and then implementing processes to achieve these benchmarks.

Alexis Rockman, Hotelscape, 2006
Courtesy of Leo Koenig Gallery

Please tell us about the 60 Wall Street Gallery’s program.

The curatorial focus is to feature exhibitions of contemporary art that have resonance with the times. We try to address topics that are relevant to Deutsche Bank staff and clients and sometimes work with guest curators to bring in fresh perspectives from a particular area of expertise. We have at least one show a year that features art from the Deutsche Bank Collection, highlighting the focus of the bank’s art program, which is to support young, emerging or under-recognized artists. The gallery also presents works related to the organizations that we support, creating synergies between our community activities and our artistic ones.

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