VIRTUE & VIRTUOSITY | EXHIBITION12 March 2022 — 22 May 2022
Top image credit: Maya Kilic, OverAbundance, video still, 2022. Commissioned by Cement Fondu. Image 2-6: Virtue & Virtuosity installation view.
BETTER NATURE is a new annual program of art and events that examines ecological ideas from a more-than-human perspective, responding to our time of planetary crisis by embracing the complex entanglement of human and non-human worlds.
Inspired by Superflux’s field guide Calling for the practice of a more-than-human politics, the inaugural BETTER NATURE exhibition, Virtue & Virtuosity, finds us in a ‘State of Impasse’, in which the prospect of climate catastrophe with no hopeful pathways forward means that “a “cold panic” and an impotent fear of the future sets in, functionally demobilising people.” Not designed to motivate, shame or preach about ecological inaction and climate catastrophe, this show instead mirrors us back at ourselves, frozen between denialism and doom, complicity and rage, and awash with apathy, overwhelm and confusion about how to really make a difference.
In spectacular displays of colour and accomplishment, the artworks in Virtue & Virtuosity draw viewers into deeper reflection on our relationships to each other, non-human species and broader colonial, capitalist and ecological systems. The artists use virtuosity to capture attention and direct it toward the murky areas between performance and authenticity, individualism and collective responsibility, action and inaction.
For caring individuals facing the incomprehensible scale of the global ecological crisis, this exhibition questions if performances of care and consumer choices may be impactful tactics; if digital approximations and proclamations of a connection to nature are valid options among not that many. Have we found ourselves in a time when the difference between virtue and virtue-signalling has disappeared altogether?
Addressing the emotional complexity of this era of ‘impasse’, some works point to a simultaneous desire for the natural world and disconnect from it. They highlight the prevalence of its abstracted form as image or concept, such as in branding, popular culture and fine art, as well as the ways we incorporate ‘naturalness’ and ‘realness’ into personal lifestyles and identities.
Other works speak to traditional, symbiotic relationships with the environment that have variously been degraded, destroyed and desecrated by extractive colonial powers and a belated interest in ’sustainable’ practices. [Chantal Fraser’s bejewelled wind turbine, for instance, asks if the inclusion of First Nations and Pacific Islander artworks in White institutions is an example of virtue-signalling, whereby the gallery benefits from the association while unsustainably extracting the artists’ resources of creativity and power.]
In this unprecedented time, it is truly challenging to comprehend and reconcile the daunting reality of our planet’s needs with life’s daily demands, while taking care of ourselves and each other. We welcome you to join us in the BETTER NATURE program of workshops, conversations, screenings and events that invite moments of ‘collective clarity and hope’.
The BETTER NATURE program is inspired by Superflux’s field guide Calling for the practice of a more-than-human politics, which you can read here.
SATURDAY 12 MARCH
12 MARCH – 22 MAY
SPEAKING IN COLOUR
THURSDAY – SUNDAY
THIS PROJECT IS SUPPORTED BY THE NSW GOVERNMENT THROUGH CREATE NSW.