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Life? Biomorpic Forms in Sculpture at Kunsthaus in Graz
Eva Helene Stern, Bündel II, 2 (Fuchsia), 2008. Verschiedene Textilien; Länge ca. 3.5 m, Durchmesser 2-50 cm. Courtesy der Künstlerin. Photo: Elmar Gubisch.

GRAZ.- There’s been art about life and death ever since art was invented. That is what the earliest cave paintings and the oldest examples of sculpture, man’s first artistic creations, were about. Life? Biomorphic Forms in Sculpture looks at the latest trends in the way artists tackle aspects of living tissue, concentrating particularly on sculptures working explicitly with a repertoire of biological shapes – i.e. biomorphic sculpture.

Over the last 200 years, modern sciences have set an astonishing pace in cracking the mysteries of the origins of life and finding theoretical models for the complex processes involved. Biology has been one of the fastest-developing modern scientific disciplines. Our current state of knowledge in molecular biology and particularly genetics enables us to intervene directly in the dynamics of life. But it is a polarizing development: though microbiologically based techniques are more and more commonly integrated into the everyday world of mankind and scientific developments in for example agriculture or medicine would come to a halt without using them, there are – especially in the USA – fundamentalist religious groups that would like to turn the clock back and regard scientific discoveries as subjective opinions. This has for example led among other things to attempts to ban the theory of evolution from science teaching in many American schools.

In the course of time, many of the changes in our relationship with nature and our role in it have been anticipated, depicted and contradicted in art. In the early 19th century, artists became involved in the scientific debate with their illustrations of natural subjects. Ernst Haeckel for example was both an artist and scientist. As an enthusiastic supporter of Charles Darwin, he became one of the leading propagators of the theory of evolution. Darwin in turn constructed many of his scientific arguments on pictures produced by the art of his day.

Nowadays it is once again the turn of art to develop images and ideas in this field. In recent times, there has been a more pronounced interest among artists in a concise form of sculpture, inter alia as a reaction to the expanded concept of space. Many of the new sculptures show us how art may be able to help us to understand complex spatial configurations of nature and the possibilities for changing nature by way of experiment or even creating it and comprehending it visually. Art cannot illustrate simplistically, nor can it simply argue; but it can put across images that facilitate a better understanding of the connections. This is the process the exhibition aims to encourage, and the works selected highlight many different angles and relationships. The aim is to present not a unified theory of biomorphic art but a comprehensive range of images of life, in structures and new myths, rampant and threatening, familiar and friendly.

This topic also has relevance in the context of the Friendly Alien, the Kunsthaus Graz, which will shortly be celebrating its 5th birthday and can be seen as a special case of biomorphic architecture – a trend in architecture that dominates the early 21st century and sets its stamp on a new age. Architecture is often seen as sculpture. The exhibition will investigate a selection of sculptures and installations that are not architecture but will open up exciting new perspectives in relation to the biomorphic architecture of Space01.

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