More than 250 people died in the Alps during the “avalanche winter” of 1951 and more than 300 people in the North Sea floods of 1962. The flooding catastrophe in 1953 cost more than 2,000 human lives. Those were the last natural catastrophes of that scale in central Europe.
Since then there have been storms in Europe, avalanches, and floodings. Climate change and extreme weather phenomena are on the increase. However since the mid-1960s the number of deaths related to such events remained remarkably low in the countries located between the Alps and the North Sea. Here, many more died through traffic accidents, obesity, lack of exercise, stress or drugs. In contemporary Europe civilization is deadlier than nature. It is no wonder Europeans tend to regard nature as picturesque, appealing, tamed. They forgot about nature’s sublime and threatening side thanks to the defenses put in place to protest them from the dangers of nature – and from the dangers that come from unrestrained pollution and carbon emissions.
The photographs in Claudius Schulze’s “States of Nature” series show beautiful European landscapes and the defenses that fortify these idyllic spaces: alpine panoramas are dissected by snow sheds, the North Sea coast furrowed by breakwaters and groynes. However, Schulze’s photos do not claim to delineate the border between “culture” and “nature”. On the contrary: the photographs make clear how much the two sphere penetrate each other, at least in affluent European countries. This is because defenses are the prerequisite to these European landscapes: the sunshine sparkles on the surface of the mountain lakes only because the lake was artificially dammed, the dunes only rise because they are protected against storm surges and vast areas would be inundated by the Ocean if not dyked. This is the dialectic of defenses: they fortify the idyllic and simultaneously reveal its fragility.
His photographs reveal the supposed naturalness of these landscapes as elaborate staging and remind us of the inequality, covered by the staging. At the moment, we still profit from driving climate change through our consumption. At the moment the catastrophes we have equipped ourselves for in and which are the consequences of our actions are largely felt elsewhere and not with us, not in the “First World.” At the moment we are still living carefree – in the belief in the picturesque beauty of nature surrounding us, while elsewhere, catastrophic nature strikes harder than it ever did.
Who? Claudius Schulze
Docking September 1 - 26
Working on State of Nature
About climate change
Gallery owner at ROBERT MORAT | GALERIE
ROBERT ON CLAUDIUS
"Claudius Schulze' series "State of Nature" is at the same time mesmerizingly beautiful and irritating, asking pressuring questions about the consequences of man made climate change and it's manifestation in the landscape. Following the tradition of the classical romantic landscape, Claudius' images document the altering of our environment by modern civilization and the clash of nature and man - to whom nature has always been both, a sublime vision of paradise and the source of fear and threat. "State of Nature" shows this ambiguity and the longing of modern civilization for protection and the illusion of safety. To quote from Claudius' artist statement "Supplying an unequitable desire for perfect security, the modification of the topography has reached an unprecedented level. Limiting the chaotic and destructive forces that once made nature sublime, the new landscape is built with the objective of harmless harmony. Ultimately, nature is turned into a picturesque scenery Europeans perceived it as since the late 19th century". The work asks important questions, questions very present in an exposed country like The Netherlands and he seems to me to be the perfect candidate for a residency at Docking Station."