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The Austrian artist Mathias Kessler (b. 1968) problematizes our understanding of nature in his art. Growing up in a skiing region in the Allgäu Alps, he early on became sensitized to the consequences of massive touristic exploitation of the mountain world. With playful subtlety and irony he re-presents typical representations of nature, in the process referencing art history, philosophy, and ecological debates. Mathias Kessler examines and stages nature above all as projection and in his installations and images he allows the synthetic to appear as part of the natural.

In recent years Mathias Kessler has increasingly focused on the topic of industrially exploited, contaminated, and destroyed landscapes. His work series West Virginia Mining Landscape (2011/12), for instance, shows the consequences of excessive mining in the U.S. The artist explored from a plane the impact of aggressive mountaintop removal mining. This special form of surface mining involves removing entire mountaintops to gain better access to the coal seams. With the aid of digital mapping programmes Kessler has assembled his aerial photographs of the landscape into large tableaux which appear as monumental images of destruction.

For his exhibition at the Kirchner Museum Davos Mathias Kessler is configuring an exhibition space featuring a photographic total installation, thus creating a walkable landscape of destruction. The sense of being right in the middle of the mining wasteland of West Virginia is enhanced by the fact that the landscape of beautiful terror is, in a way, made habitable: you can make yourself comfortable and enjoy a local beer.  A refrigerator with the inscription Das Eismeer. Die gescheiterte Hoffnung refers to Caspar David Friedrich’s famous 1823–24 painting The Sea of Ice  (The Wreck of the Hope). In the freezer compartment inside the refrigerator is a 3D model of the dangerously towering ice floes which have made Friedrich’s painting an icon of the aesthetic of the sublime. Icing up more and more, the model becomes a caricature of the longing for a pristine, romantic landscape. Mathias Kessler regards his installation as social sculpture, as the beer-drinking visitors affect the icing process in the refrigerator and the simulated pub-like situation, moreover, is intended to encourage the dialogue of the museum visitors.

During the run of the exhibition planned lectures and discussions will look at our present-day understanding of nature from different angles.

An artist’s book is published in conjunction with the Exhibition.


Kirchner Museum | Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Platz
Promenade 82
CH–7270 Davos Platz | Switzerland

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