OLIVER WESTERBARKEY: DIE LANDSCHAFT FÄNGT AN, WO DER MENSCH AUFHÖRT — at 68projects

Oliver Westerbarkey
Die Landschaft fängt an, wo der Mensch aufhört
68projects
Fasanenstraße 68, 10719 Berlin
24 January – 18 April 2020

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Oliver Westerbarkey, Die Landschaft fängt an, wo der Mensch aufhört, Installation view, 68projects, Berlin. All images © the gallery and the artist(s)
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Oliver Westerbarkey, Die Landschaft fängt an, wo der Mensch aufhört, Installation view, 68projects, Berlin
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Oliver Westerbarkey, Die Landschaft fängt an, wo der Mensch aufhört, Installation view, 68projects, Berlin
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Oliver Westerbarkey, Gegend I, 2019. 68projects, Berlin

Artists are the spokespeople of our times and can play a crucial role in provoking conversations and challenging the status quo. Throughout history we have seen time and time again an attempt by humankind to control nature, much as depicted in the Baroque gardens of the late-16th century who’s geometric treatment of gardens depicted the power of man over nature. Oliver Westerbarkey, instead, communicates within his work that nature can exist without humankind, and it is in fact humans who cannot exist without a relation to their surroundings. What Westerbarkey has created, dioramas made of natural materials such as dirt and plants, is an analogue representation much like augmented reality – existing in the physical world wherein what is most alive in the work is actually the most artificial. The experience of real-world environments here is seen through the perceptual distortion of real objects instead of computer-generated perceptual information. Westerbarkey’s works thus both preserve and imitate nature at the same time. They highlight all these little objects in nature we easily overlook, and thus let us meditate on the ecological system at large.

The preservation of the plant parts stand in contrast to the fact that nature indeed never really stands still. The work is neither a true representation of nature nor even a complete falsification. The artistic approach is that of questioning and ambiguity, the truth of the work is within the interpretation of each viewer. The work can take one to a memory of a place or experience of childhood or through its museum quality of diorama invoke the feeling of historical archaeological findings. The word Diorama itself derives from Greek meaning “through that which is seen”. At the beginning of the 20th century the dioramas were the attraction of the first natural history museums. They offered an illusionistic representation of nature and as such a kind of “shining through” to reality, much as these works of Westerbarkey aim to do. The historic essence of preservation is then abruptly broken by the realness of the objects in the present, deformed and painted over by the artist in added light and shadow. A loosening of traditional ideas of time is sensed as the work sits within the past, present and the visualization of an unknown future.

These works cannot be clearly assigned to classical genres of art or materiality and it is exactly in this tension of non-definability that the work plays on the viewers subconscious. At first glance it seems to be monumental photographs, however, on closer inspection it becomes clear that the work is made of real objects from nature. As writer Claudia Fischer explains, “Within this sudden realisation we lose the certainty of a clear perspective and thus also our customary subject-specific classification. The closer we get, the more we are drawn into the artificial natural scenario. One wants to be a beetle right away, or twig, or blossom- awakening a peculiar sensual desire to become part of these scenarios in some way.” Here is not a foreign or strange place, but instead the feeling of home and the intimate relation to nature expressed through the artist’s elaborate approach and dedication to each and every minute element.

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via 68projects, Berlin
Featured Image: Oliver Westerbarkey, Die Landschaft fängt an, wo der Mensch aufhört, Installation view, 68projects, Berlin
All images © the gallery and the artist(s)