Slow Violence, the audiovisual installation by French artist Joanie Lemercier, exposes the impact of technology and energy consumption at a solo exhibition in Madrid.
The installation shows a giant bucket-wheel excavator scooping up earth from a plateau - pictured above. The machine is impressive and we read that it is a Bagger 293, the world's largest machine able to scoop 240,000 m3 of soil per day. The scene is at the Hambach open-pit coal mine close to Cologne, Germany, and the excavator is destroying the last remains of the 12,000-year-old Hambach forest to access the lignite deposits beneath. Operated by energy giant RWE, the 85 km2 mine extracts 40 million tonnes of lignite
yearly for electricity generation in North Rhine-Westphalia, and emits 100 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
Lemercier has traveled to the mine to film several aspects related to its exploitation: the activism supporting its closure; the destruction of the community; and the beauty of the remaining forest. He has called the artwork The Hambach Project and the Technological Sublime (2019-21), and has structured it in four audiovisual installations, one of which is Slow Violence.
In addition to destroying a forest and polluting the environment, the Hambach mine has inflicted damage to the local communities and cultural heritage with the demolition of buildings and towns as the mine was expanding.
|Immerath's St. Lambertus church demolition / Slow Violence, The Hambach Project & the Technological Sublime, 2019-21|
The installation Here Once Stood a Forest celebrates the ancient Hambach forest - its beauty and rich biodiversity - with a projection of the forest during daytime and a night view where a laser lights up the smallest details.
Over the past 40 years, 90% of the forest has been destroyed for coal extraction. Since 2012 the forest has been a symbol of Germany's fight against climate change.
|Laser lighting / Here Once Stood a Forest, The Hambach Project & the Technological Sublime, 2019-21|
|Hambach Forest / Here Once Stood a Forest, The Hambach Project & the Technological Sublime, 2019-21|
With Action, Comes Hope is the last installation of The Hambach Project and the Technological Sublime. It shows impressive environmental activism opposing the mine and how climate action can look like.
The artist tells how The Hambach Project has shifted his perspective on climate action and how he wants to do something and support activists through his work. This might come in addition to Lemercier's efforts to audit and minimize his carbon footprint as a digital artist. In March 2021 Lemercier notoriously teamed up with other digital artists to raise awareness on the huge CO2 footprint of CryptoArt.
|Activists / With Action Comes Hope, The Hambach Project & the Technological Sublime, 2019-21|
The show closes with Desirable Futures, a space packed with a mix of photography and projections with the artist's version of the future, a rather green and hopeful one. The space is possibly an invitation to visitors to think creatively about the future, while the previous installations provide encouragement to question our own use of technology and to take action.
|Desirable Futures, 2020-21|
This is Lemercier's first large exhibition and displays fifteen years of practice with seven installations.