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Frankfurter Kunstverein brings together artists whose work explores different forms of weather
Daniel Gustav Cramer, Tales (San Vito, Bozen, Italy, October 2011), 2012. 10 gerahmte Fotografien© the artist / VG BildKunst, Bonn 2013.

FRANKFURT.- The weather is always important, both in the ordinary life of every individual and in the daily organization of society. It influences the planning of every person’s day as much as the fate of entire regions. And weather events are acts of nature beyond our control. Human beings cannot dictate the weather but are instead forced to make provisions for constant changes in the weather and respond flexibly. The media continually provide comprehensive information about current weather conditions and future forecasts.

The exhibition “Scattered Showers — Forms of Weather” at the Frankfurter Kunstverein brings together artists whose work is centrally concerned with the exploration of different forms of weather. The starting point is the incredibly large number of contemporary artists whose interest in the weather draws on its complex relationship to our real and immediate experience. Concrete forms and effects of the weather feature prominently in their works. Phenomena such as snow, ice, rain, fog, clouds, wind/storms, lightning, and sunshine are examined and interpreted in aesthetic constellations or sometimes become an integral part of the work. For example, the materials used are sometimes exposed to the elements or “real” rain or snow is integrated into the work. Some artists focus on the urge to record, control, or simulate the weather, and thus raise the question of the controllability of nature. Others use the weather as a metaphor. The exhibition “Scattered Showers – Forms of Weather” is about potential perceptions of the weather—as a premise for a technological or political change of course.

Artists’ interest in the weather has shifted over the course of art history. In the context of landscape painting the weather was initially used to create an atmospheric setting. Only in the 19th century did artists begin to intensively observe weather phenomena and depict atmospheric shifts in weather conditions, an interest that led to impressionistic forms of representation. In the 20th century photographers and filmmakers take up weather phenomena as a subject matter particularly suited for reflecting on the nature of their medium. Alfred Stieglitz photographed clouds as mirroring emotions, sentiments, and moods. He drew parallels between the sky and photography by comparing the lighting conditions in the sky with the exposure of the negative. A new and very different kind of interest is identifiable in the art of the 1960s and 1970s, in which materials previously foreign to art and the notion of process predominated. Walter de Maria attracted bolts of lighting in his “Lightning Field” (1977), sculptor Alice Aycock and video artist John Jonas investigated the effect on wind on sculpture and the body (“Sand/Fans” 1971; “Wind”, 1968). Melting snow and ice featured in the works of Allan Kaprow (“Fluids”, 1967), Paul Koos (“Sound of Ice Melting”, 1970), and Judy Chicago (“Snow Atmosphere”, 1970). Hans Haacke described his water-filled, sealed cube as “Wetterkasten” (Condensation Cube) (1963), in which one can observe how external changes in the flow of air, light, and temperature effect the condensation of water inside the cube. For Haacke, the work did not represent a scientific experiment but instead illustrated that even an apparently closed system is subject to external influences. The “Wetterkasten” thus served as a metaphor for the relationship between art and society.

Today the link between the weather and our perceptions, our emotions, and socio-political and scientific contexts is of primary concern to artists. The exhibition reflects different points of emphasis. A number of artists explore possibilities for depicting “atmospheres” in the double sense of the word. In their works the weather is often associated with a landscape. These works simultaneously reflect on perceptual processes and the respective medium of the work. Other artists focus on the urge to record, control, or simulate the weather, and in their artistic constructions or research they raise the question of the controllability of nature. In other works the weather becomes a metaphor for territorial shifts and political conflicts.

In “Basteltonado” (Hand-made Tornado) (2007) Klaus Weber creates his own tornado. In his work the artist simulates and manipulates meteorological elements such as wind, the rays of the sun, or rainfall, developing ideas from the garage workbench, in which the elements do not behave in a customary way. At the Frankfurter Kunstverein he is showing the sculpture “Basteltornado” (Hand-made Tornado), in which a household vacuum cleaner is set on a wooden frame over ultrasonic fog-maker and creates a small but loud tornado lasting a few seconds. Precisely because Weber’s inventions, manipulations and recreations of weather phenomena, have no use, they underscore all the more our desire to control the forces of nature.

The Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander works with rain, allowing it to literally shape her works. On the one hand, she is interested in the chance element of rain. On the other, as a weather event, rain (and thus continuously dripping water) is a constitutive aspect of Brazilian culture, much like fog is of London. “Chove Chuva/Rain Rains” (2002) is an installation in which metal buckets are hung from the ceiling by steel cables. These contain holes out of which drips water into corresponding buckets set on the floor. The buckets hanging from the ceiling are refilled at regular intervals. Originally conceived for a building in Belo Horizonte by Oskar Niemeyer, the work not only reflects the decline of Brazilian modern architecture, that is the original overestimation of concrete as a building material, which led to the dripping of rain water in buildings throughout the entire country. The work also offers a sensory experience of this element, with the sound of rainwater resonating throughout the exhibition.

Daniel Gustav Cramer works in various media, including photography, video, sculpture, books, and text. Given their simplicity, his works seem unspectacular at first glance. The work “Tales (Vernazza, Italy, September 2012)” consists of six photographs which sequentially depict the sun rising behind a green hill. The framing of the image is always the same, and the only thing that changes is the increasing intensity of the sun on the grass. The difference between the images constitutes a narrative progression and a notion of continuity, as present in many of Cramer’s works. Refelcting the utopian belief in the transcendental and historical continuity, they draw on the romantic tradition.

In the Kunstverein Flo Maak combines a picture of a tornado on the wall with a photograph of a world map that hangs in the Musée Royal de l’Armée et d’ Histoire Militaire in Brussels in a way that allows the viewer to simultaneously look at the map and the sky, and thus the weather, which is visible through the 19th century glass ceiling. In front of the image on the wall hangs a room divider made of a shower wall component with waterdroplet integrated into the surface design. The title of this construction is “Kaltfront” (Cold Front), a metereological term that also implies a military operation. The room divider partially obstructs the view of the image on the wall. From a distance the viewer is never able to see the entire tornado but must look through the grid-like pattern of the room divider. The photograph next to it indicates a historical backdrop, the 19th century strivings for military dominance reflected in a flat, and thus easier to control, image of the earth.

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