Guests? Competitors? Migrants? Invaders? Tue Greenfort Wonders
Guests? Competitors? Migrants? Invaders?
How do you refer to the critters who comprise a succession of occupants of a humble shed that was constructed in the 1950s?
Black swans were the original inhabitants of this picturesque building in the Baroque Karlsaue Park in Germany? The shed was built just for them, despite the fact that they were far from their native habitat in Australia. Presumably these gorgeous birds were introduced as an ornamental feature for the park. The shed designers did their best to provide them with the wetlands they require. The shed is surrounded by water. Nonetheless, when Tue Greenfort arrived in Kassel to plan his contribution to the prestigious dOCUMENTA 13 exhibition in 20102, there was not a swan in site. The last one disappeared in the 1970s.
Since the swans were not native to the region, their disappearance constituted the elimination of an introduced, non-native creature. Was this a loss or a gain in environmental terms???
But the shed did not stand vacant all these years. The saying, "Nature abhors a vaccuum" was confirmed when wild raccoons moved in. According to the eminent environmentalist, Daniel Simberloff, even racoons are native animals. Thus, the question is complicated regarding how their presence should be interpreted. If they are invaders and interlopers, when did they acquire this status? Or, since they got to Germany before the swans, were they claiming their rightful space????
For the exhibition, Greenfort continued the line of succession by inviting humans to enter the shed via a wooden walkway.
Visitors, who assumed the role of human introduced species, were given the opportunity to ponder their status within the house built for swans, and occupied by racoons. Greenfort had assembled for them an extensive archive of books, artists’ materials, texts, videos, and documentation of artworks dealing with the relationship between human and non-human species. The artwork’s subtitle explains his motive: “An Archive Inspired by Donna Harawy’s Writings on Multi-Species Co-Evolution”.
Co-evolution occurs when changes in two or more species’ genetic compositions reciprocally affect each other’s evolution. The feminist theorist Donna Haraway is known for examining the philosophical, historical, cultural, personal, technoscientific, and biological aspects of animal/human interactions. Harroway explains , “To be one is always to become with many.”
Visitors are provided abundant resources to contemplate the philosopher’s writings and contemplate the links among living creatures. The work of more than 100 artists was represented. All addressed the relationship between human and non-human species.
Greenfort addressed this issue previously in a work entitled “Neobiota.” This project was inspired when the artist sighted a bright red parrot in Cologne Germany, far from its native home, giving new meaning to the word ‘exotic’. At the same time, he realized that such dislocations are no uncommon in contemporary urban natures.
Greenfort wondered, Is a parrot in Germany a migrant? A visitor? A transplant? Approaching the parrot as a metaphor for the larger issue of human and animals migrations, the art work raises a host of questions: Whoe can be a citizen? Who belongs in the city? Can non-humans be ‘companion species’ with humans? Should humans be responsible for their wellbeing? Do foreigners endanger us?
Greenfort sums these engagements by commenting, “I’m interested in the unbound borders between arts, nature and functionality. My projects aim towards bringing those things into question and to awaken suspicion about meaning and function of art.”