Joint press release by the German Environment Agency and the Museum of Fine Arts Leipzig

Art and the environment “Zero Waste” exhibition in Leipzig

Ein Frauengesicht mit PlastikstückenClick to enlarge
The “Zero Waste” group exhibition showcases international positions.

Swaantje Güntzel focuses on plasticisers in our blood, the albatrosses dying from ingesting plastic toys and small plastic parts, and the consequences of microplastics in cosmetic products.

Source: Swaantje Güntzel / Mikroplastik II / 2016 / Foto: Henriette Pogoda © VG Bild-Kunst Bonn / 2020

Waste is everywhere: be it in the form of a gigantic gyre in the Pacific, particulate matter in the air or microplastics in the food chain. The “Zero Waste” group exhibition showcases some of the international positions of contemporary art which point to the urgency of conserving resources, consuming less and living more sustainably. In installations, videos, sculptures and photographs, the participating artists investigate the global consequences of plastic packaging, tyre abrasion, toxic chemicals and overproduction. “Zero Waste” is a project of the German Environment Agency in cooperation with the MdbK and is being curated by Hannah Beck-Mannagetta and Lena Fließbach.

Every day, shreds from the vegetable plantations in southern Spain, known as the “mar de plástico”, are blown into the sea; for Raul Walch, they serve as both a research object and material for his spatial mobile. While Erik Sturm creates paint from the particulate matter that he scratches off the window ledges of busy roads, Vibha Galhotra brings the monstrous levels of air pollution in New Delhi visibly to life as the “Black Cloud”, a cloud of black paper dragons, and in performative photographs and videos. Dani Ploeger experiments with stress testing machines in his laboratory and lifts the lid on the premature ageing process for electronic high-tech devices which is brought on by the manufacturers. Eliana Heredia crafts some of the world’s ubiquitous disposable products and detergents into what appears to be a graphic installation. With his large-format photographs, Tue Greenfort investigates fires in waste incineration plants. Leipzig-based artist Klara Meinhardt pours styrofoam packaging from household appliances into concrete. Christoph Medicus uses his interactive installation to question the sustainability of donated clothing. Nadine Fecht presents both large-format drawings, in which everyday urban waste makes a very subtle appearance, and an installation specific to the locality which consists of the handle reinforcements from plastic bags. The video work of artistic duo Irwan Ahmett and Tita Salina shows a motorcycle convoy with yellow flags of mourning transferring a small fish from rubbish-choked water in Jakarta into a crystal-clear river. Wolf von Kries photographs winter “conglomerates” - objects which fall off cars and consist of a mix of petrol, dirt and frozen water - and attaches the micro-waste contents of his pockets, such as sweet wrappers or entry tickets, to a steadily growing chain at the end of each day. Michel de Broin's video documentation shows how four passengers use a built-in pedal system to get around without exhaust emissions in an old Buick from which the engine, electronics and gearbox have previously been removed. The international food trade, in which an apple from the other side of the world can be sold more cheaply than the equivalent produce from the farmer around the corner, is addressed by young South African photographer Alexander Oelofse, who also turns his lens on the pollution of the world’s oceans. In her grotesquely disturbing video works, Mika Rottenberg denounces the working conditions in global production chains, deliberately dispensing for this exhibition with the material-intensive stagings of her cinematic installations. The Brazilian-Canadian artistic duo Chico Togni and Kadija de Paula work in their “Zero Waste” kitchen, built from materials found and recycled in the museum, using locally produced and “rescued” food. Swaantje Güntzel highlights the issue of plasticisers in our blood, the albatrosses that die from ingesting plastic toys and small plastic parts, and the consequences of microplastics in cosmetic products. With the aid of Virtual Reality glasses, the viewers of Bianca Kennedy and The Swan Collectives’ interactive film are transformed into insects – the preferred food source – touted as sustainable – for human beings in this future scenario. Protests against an economy geared purely to maximising profits and growth and the excessive waste of resources at the expense of the environment and the climate are growing ever louder. At the same time, there is a trend towards a minimalist way of life, a deliberately circular economy and sustainability. Whatever the issue – be it recycling and upcycling, one’s own consumer behaviour, new technologies or simply waste prevention – the exhibition aims not only to take a critical look at the current state of our Earth, but also to discuss solutions, to stimulate its visitors to consider alternative ways of doing things and to come up with possible visions for the future.

The project also uses self-imposed climate-friendly rules to question the wasteful use of resources in the art world and even the carbon footprint of this same exhibition. For example, “Zero Waste” avoids material-intensive installations and long-distance transport and travel for short stays and cooperates with local actors. The proceeds from the catalogue with its views of the installation, which will be published for the exhibition, are to go entirely towards Andreas Greiner’s attempt to calculate the CO2 production of the exhibition and to mitigate it by planting the equivalent number of trees.

“Zero Waste” presents works by Irwan Ahmett & Tita Salina, Michel de Broin, Nadine Fecht, Vibha Galhotra, Tue Greenfort, Andreas Greiner, Swaantje Güntzel, Eliana Heredia, Bianca Kennedy & The Swan Collective, Wolf von Kries, Christoph Medicus, Klara Meinhardt, Alexander Oelofse, Kadija de Paula & Chico Togni, Dani Ploeger, Mika Rottenberg, Erik Sturm and Raul Walch.

Accompanying programme

"Zero Waste" is accompanied by an extensive programme of events with activists and scientists. Dialogical guided tours with experts from different fields and a film screening with subsequent discussion supplement the exhibition, as does the interactive “Black Cloud” hang-gliding experience offered by Vibha Galhotra, the “Zero Waste” kitchen of Kadija de Paula and Chico Togni, and DIY workshops and repair cafes with local partners for children and adults.
The programme also owes its realisation in part to the kind support of the Soziokultur e. V. fund.

Art and the environment

The exhibition is a project of the German Environment Agency in the context of its programme series “Art and the Environment” in cooperation with the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig. How can and will we live in the future without destroying the means of our own survival? How can we learn to think along new pathways? And how do we get from knowledge to action? Art and culture can make a significant contribution to the process of the societal understanding of future opportunities and sustainable development in our society. Since the mid-1980s, the German Environment Agency, Germany’s central environmental authority, has been engaging in dialogue with artists through the “Art and the Environment” series. The project is rounded off by panel discussions, guided tours, conversations with the artists and workshops for the public and the staff. Cooperations with cultural institutions are initiated and maintained.

Press tour

Thursday, March 26 2020, 11 a.m.


Thursday, March 26 2020, 6 p.m.

Opening hours and admission

Tue and Thu–Sun 10am–6pm, Wed 12am-8pm, Mon closed
Public holidays 10 a.m.–6 p.m. (including Easter Monday and Whit Monday)
Day ticket € 10 / concessions € 7
Free entry for young people up to the age of 18
Free entry on the first Wednesday of the month

Contact and information

Museum of Fine Arts Leipzig
Public Relations, Marketing & Event
Tel.: +49 341 216 999 42, e-mail: mdbk [at] leipzig [dot] de

German Environment Agency
Fotini Mavromati
Tel.: +49 340 2103 2318, e-mail: fotini [dot] mavromati [at] uba [dot] de

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