Der Wald (The Forest)
Linienstraße 155, Berlin
|14 December 2019 – 8 February 2020|
neugerriemschneider presents the eighth solo exhibition with Antje Majewski, on view from December 14, 2019 to February 8, 2020. In Der Wald (The Forest), the artist shifts her often globally oriented focus to a more local ecosystem—one currently being threatened by human intervention. Serving as the points of departure for these new paintings and video works are the central European forests endangered by recent summers’ record high temperatures. The exhibition is closely intertwined with the artist’s family history and highlights the generation-spanning nature of the forest and its symbiotic relationship to humankind.
The large-format painting Passagen (2019) showcases a magnified view of the delicately crafted, sinuous passageways that bark beetles burrow in the trees that they infest. Here, Majewski renders the illustrative passageways created by these aptly named insects—Ips typographus (Buckdrucker, or “book printer”) and Pityogenes chalcographus (Kupferstecher, or “copperplate engraver”)—in monumental landscape format, using painterly qualities to lend them a presence that deftly straddles the figurative and the abstract. Especially during the extended periods of drought experienced in recent years, monoculturally raised spruce trees can become weak, transforming them into veritable breeding grounds for these beetles. This, in turn, has drastic ecological and economic consequences. The bark beetle’s proliferation has become an indicator of for an imbalanced ecosystem and raises questions about biodiversity, sustainability, climate change and resilience.
In the video work Der Wald (The Forest) (2019), Majewski navigates time and space by means of contemporary and historical imagery of forests set to music conceived for the film (composer: Katrin Vellrath, vocals: Vizma Zvaigzne, percussion: Daniel Eichholz). Photographs from the early twentieth century are interwoven with recent video of the heavily deforested Flechtingen Hills in Saxony-Anhalt and the forests around Tharandt, a town nestled in the Ore Mountains that run between Germany and Czech Republic. The photographs themselves were taken by Majewski’s great-grandfather forestry scientist Heinrich Krieger (1887-1966), who avidly photographed the forests in and around Tharandt. He was especially taken by the forest’s capacity as a dynamic system, projecting that the yield of a mixed woodland area would be far greater than that of monocultures. In Tharandt, Majewski follows in the footsteps of another ancestor, Karl Leberecht Krutzsch (1772-1852), who researched soil chemistry and the bark beetle at Germany’s first forestry university. His grandson Hermann Krutzsch (1819- 1896), a professor at this same academy, was instrumental in developing sustainable forestry practices. The documentary film Über den Borkenkäfer (2019) features the owner of a forest, a forester and a forestry scientist, as they elaborate on the widespread destruction that their forests are currently being subjected to. In parallel, Antje Majewski has initiated a project to transform sections of deforested areas into agroforests, creating wildlife feeding grounds and planting wild fruit trees.