Three hundred trees are growing in a soccer stadium in Austria in an epic work of Land Art that aims to raise awareness about the world’s climate emergency, and the dangers of deforestation. The remarkable installation organized by the Swiss curator Klaus Littmann is the realization of a long-held dream based on an artist’s drawing he saw more than three decades ago.
Littmann confesses that Max Peintner sounded skeptical that his vision, which he created in 1970, could be ever be realized. But the Basel-born curator, who studied with Joseph Beuys, will unveil the meticulously planned art project in the city of Klagenfurt in southern Austria on September 8. Called For Forest–The Unending Attraction of Nature, it has transformed the Wörthersee soccer stadium into a temporary forest of trees native to Austria and Central Europe.
The curator has transplanted hundreds of specimens, some of them fully grown and weighing up to six tonnes each, to create the living work of art inspired by Peintner’s work, which predates Beuys’s proposal to plant 7,000 oak trees at documenta in Kassel in 1982.
The installation in Austria took a total of 22 days to execute, with diverse species like alder, aspen, field maple, and common oak being sourced from nurseries in Italy, Germany, and Belgium. The team, which was overseen by the firm Enea Landscape Architecture, opted to source from three locations to minimize the number of journeys involved in moving the plants to Austria.
Each will be transplanted again at the end of October after For Forest closes. Mindful of the ecological footprint of the project, the curator explains that they will be moved to a site near the stadium.
The Swiss curator first saw Peintner’s work on paper more than 30 years ago. “I am very glad that [his] dystopian drawing ‘The Unending Attraction of Nature’ has finally become a reality,” Littmann tells artnet News. “Never has the timing of one of my projects been so spot on,” the 68-year-old curator added.
Peintner, who is due to attend the opening of For Forest this weekend, represented Austria at the 1986 Venice Biennale. Littmann’s version of his drawing opens as this year’s Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion-winning Lithuanian Pavilion also raises awareness about climate change. The operatic installation features an indoor beach.
With forest fires raging in the Amazon, and Hurricane Dorian causing devastation in the Bahamas, the experience of nature contained inside the man-made structure of the soccer stadium seems set to also strike an emotional chord among spectators. The audience will be able to view the forest from many different angles within the 30,000-seat stadium. The ephemeral work will continually change as leaves on the tree change color and drop during the fall.
“With this art intervention I would like to challenge our perception of nature and sharpen our awareness of the future relationship between nature and humankind,” the curator says. “This project is also a warning,” he adds: “Nature, which we now take for granted, might someday only be found in specially assigned spaces, as is already the case with zoo animals.”
The installation is the highlight of a program of related exhibitions and events across the Austrian city, which includes performances and theater pieces. There will also be a group show called “Touch Wood” at the Museum of Modern Art in Carinthia and at the Stadtgalerie Klagenfurt, which explore the theme of forests.
“FOR FOREST” will be on view at Wörthersee Stadion from September 8 through October 27, Klagenfurt.
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