Tue Greenfort: Medusa Alga Laguna by ERES Foundation
59th International Art Exhibition. La Biennale di Venezia
Castello 1228 (Ca’ Sarasina), Venice
April 23 – November 01, 2022
His projects change the view of familiar nature and send the viewer on an unusual voyage of discovery: With ALGA, Danish conceptual artist and documenta participant Tue Greenfort (1973) focuses on a group of organisms that defies clear biological systematics and classification and to which properties are attributed that could not be more contradictory: Algae can be poisonous and life-threatening, they are considered a superfood and possible remedy, their chemical similarity to petroleum components make them potential suppliers of biokerosene. Algae live in the sea and in freshwater, but also in the air and even in snow. This ambiguity and flexibility of a natural life form provide Tue Greenfort with the material for his artistic intervention, which begins in the exhibition space, incorporates the waters surrounding Munich, and encourages visitors to participate.
ALGA is the first major solo exhibition in Munich by this internationally sought-after artist, who tirelessly mediates between living nature and art space. His group of algae works, developed especially for the ERES Foundation, includes crisp green glassworks hanging from the ceiling, and delicate paper tones that make visible traces of algae filtered from Tegernsee, Chiemsee, Staffelsee, or Loisach lakes. On display are cyanotypes (iron blueprints) of algae – a tribute to the English botanist and illustrator Anna Atkins (1799-1871), who was one of the first to work with this photographic process. With plaster casts of beach sections containing shells, seaweed, and pebbles, Greenfort builds a bridge from the sea to the Alps, from his native Denmark to his exhibition in Munich. In an algae laboratory, water samples brought along can be examined with a microscope, viewed on a large monitor, saved as a mobile phone photo via a special function, and taken home. In this way, microcosm and macrocosm are united in the exhibition through the scientific and artistic image.
Against the background of current philosophical discourses on the anthropocentric view of the plant world, such as Timothy Morton’s book “Being Ecological” or Emanuele Coccia’s “The Roots of the World”, Tue Greenfort’s projects aim to change and question clichéd, human-serving views of nature. Instead of deconstructing a romantic notion of pristine environments and hierarchical biological classifications that still prevails today, his artistic work arouses curiosity about nature as it might be without the approach imagined by man. In doing so, he brings to light the astonishing characteristics and manifestations of a rather neglected, often barely visible, and sometimes even perceived as a repulsive group of living beings.
Thus, the focus of his works is neither the usefulness of algae for humans nor the complaint about manipulation and destruction of the environment in the Anthropocene, but the effort to establish a new relationship and form of communication with plant life. “We can’t form the slightest concept of what nature actually means,” Greenfort said in a conversation, and continued: “Nature stands for the complex relationship between belonging and the unknown.”
Algae, which have followed so many different paths in evolution because of their particular diversity and can therefore often no longer be counted as plants, are, in their contradictoriness in the face of rigid classifications, the ideal breeding ground for Greenfort in his search for a different form of coexistence between man and nature. His thoroughly artistic work encourages a direct and spontaneous experience of living nature. Glass as a material, craft tradition, scientific images as well as the public’s and the media’s understanding of nature are closely interwoven in Tue Greenfort’s works and are the ingredients of his artistic reflection.
Those who follow his algae expeditions come back after a rainy summer day at an Upper Bavarian lake with a different view, forgetting Instagram pictures of sunny Alpine foothills and that rainy weather is “bad” weather. And so the contemplation of his artistic works also encourages one to move out of static systems, to change and readapt. Just as algae, as one of the oldest forms of life on earth, have done extremely successfully for millions of years.
– Sabine Adler