May 6, 2019; Hyperallergic
Art curator Klaus Littmann is planting 299 trees in Wörthersee Stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria, to remind us that someday nature may all but disappear. The exhibit also explicitly calls our attention to the mounting environmental costs of climate change.
The temporary art “intervention,” For Forest—The Unending Attraction of Nature, is based on a similarly titled 1970 drawing by Austrian artist Max Peintner, The Unending Attraction of Nature. Peintner’s drawing depicts a stadium of spectators watching a forest instead of a sporting event. In the drawing, the stadium is surrounded by a dense and smoggy urban landscape.
Interviewed in The Art Newspaper, Littmann said of the installation, “It’s primarily about how we take things for granted, how we stop thinking about them. By removing something from the familiar into a new context, you raise new questions. It’s not about playing around in the forest.”
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “climate changes directly and indirectly affect the growth and productivity of forests through changes in temperature, rainfall, weather, and other factors.” And as NPQ reported earlier this week, a recent United Nations report finds “that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction.” NPQ reported on other recent climate change findings here and here.
Littmann’s forest is being designed by landscape architect Enzo Enea with trees chosen from nurseries. The installation is meant to replicate a 40- to 60-year-old native central European mixed forest. According to the For Forest blog, across Europe over the last 50 years such natural forests “have been replaced by conifers, in order to keep up with the high demand for lumber.”
The installation will be open to view from the 30,000 seats in the stadium’s stands, both during the day and in the evening, under both natural and stadium lighting. The forest is expected to attract wildlife and change colors with the season. The project will be on display in September and October of 2019 and will be Austria’s largest public art installation.
When the exhibition ends and the stadium returns to its regular use, the forest will be given to the city of Klagenfurt. It will be replanted near the stadium on a 1:1 scale as a permanent “forest sculpture” with a pavilion to document the project.
According to the project website, the exhibition “aims to challenge our perception of nature and question its future.” The installation also seems to suggest a related question: What if we gave the same level of attention to climate change that we give to sports?—Catherine Jones