Langen Foundation, Neuss, Germany, 2022
04 September 22 – 06 August 2023
Curated by Dehlia Hannah and Nadim Samman
Controlled Burn at Langen Foundation confronts our alienation from the materials, processes and infrastructures which makes the continuous flow of energy possible. In the solo exhibition, fires that usually burn out of sight—underground, beyond the city limits, in distant pasts, and warming futures—are brought to light. Deepening reflections on ideas of nature and our place therein, Controlled Burn interrogates the dark vitality of materials used for fuel: coal, petroleum, palm oil, sunshine, and more. Charrière’s speculative visions range over the fossilized biomes of past geological ages, as well as atmospheres saturated with the burnt residues of modernity’s excess. Together the works therein question humankind’s fraught grip on fire and the agency of plants in shaping planetary futures.
Powered by solar energy harvested by the site-specific ensemble Drain the Swamp (2022), located directly facing museum, the show takes place throughout and around the entirety of the Tadao Ando designed museum. Charriére’s most extensive exhibition to date, it hosts the premiere of Controlled Burn (2022) and Panchronic Garden (2022). The former is an aerial journey through imploding fireworks, exploring the extraction architectures with which our species terraforms the Earth. In the latter, visitors enter a darkened forest overgrown with Carboniferous era vegetation–so named for the rich deposits of coal that it bequeathed us. As if descending directly into a coal seam fire, it is an immersive encounter with ghosts of former life-worlds, audibly crackling amongst the shadows. Addressing the entanglement of environmental and geopolitical issues, the exhibition features a collection of sculptures, films, and photographs alluding not only to the mining culture of North Rhine-Westphalia but also to the Insel Hombroich at the site of a former NATO rocket storage facility.
Controlled Burn dreams with fire, yet the exhibition’s scope is not limited to imagining. In cooperation with the non-profit organization Art into Acres, the artist and the Langen Foundation will support the conservation of 11,307 hectares of primordial cloud forest in Peru. The solar power plant featured as part of Drain The Swamp, a modified Solartainer by Africa GreenTec, will be given to a community of national park rangers in Namibia in support of their conservation efforts. As a meditation on the poetics and politics of combustion, the exhibition intervenes in the world it represents.
All works by Julian Charrière. Installation views: Langen Foundation, Neuss, Germany, 2022 by Jens Ziehe – unless otherwise specified in the Captions.