How to talk with birds, trees, fish, shells, snakes, bulls and lions

Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin
16.11.2018 – 12.05.2019


Antje Majewski, Snail (Doubles), 2013

The exhibition investigates the reciprocal relationship between human and beyond human beings. It questions the way we communicate and the exhibition is a wakeup call to the human approach to life. The wide-ranging works of art may appear to be a messy business; however, the insistent theme and the artists’ engagement are the mainstay of the exhibition.

The question How to talk with birds, trees, fish, shells, snakes, bulls and lions was the focal point of a conversation between German artist Antje Majewski and the late Senegalese painter, sculptor, performance artist and poet Issa Samb. This conversation initiated a process of ongoing discussions amongst artists who have something to say in the social debate.

Can a shell sing to me? Can a human being be a snake? Can a tree be my mother or father? Can I converse with a river? These are all some of the questions that Antje Majewski and her colleagues from Brazil, Cameroon, China, Colombia, France, Hungary, Poland and Senegal revolve their work around, and together their works of art form the exhibition.Each room activates the viewer’s senses. The artists’ approach to nature and environmental problems is poetic and shows itself through videos, sculptures, installations, photographs, poems, manifestos, paintings and drawings.

How to talk with birds, trees, fish, shells, snakes, bulls and lions tells the artists’ personal stories about their own relationship with specific places that are threatened or destroyed due to human impact. The exhibition is also an invitation to participate with one’s experience and perceptions and to shed light on other aspects of the socio-ecological systems of which human beings are a part.

Antje Majewski, E.F.A. im Garten (E.F.A. in the Garden), 2015

One of the suggestive works of art is the installation E.F.A im Garten by Antje Majewski. The installation responds to a change in the artist’s neighbourhood that took place in the early spring in 2015.
All of a sudden, the allotment gardens near the train tracks in Berlin’s Wedding district were razed to the ground. The following summers Antje Majewski made small film clips that showed the barren land’s transformation. The film clips proved how the true nature took over the provisional autonomous area which Majewski recognized as an “act of anarchist freedom”. The installation incorporates materials found at the demolished zone and the sculptures are painted with colours made from beeswax and natural pigments such as jade and alizarin. E.F.A. stands for “Eco-Feminist Anarchy” – an art collective in the making.

How to talk with birds, trees, fish, shells, snakes, bulls and lions stresses the human form of communication by using the word “talk”. The artists’ aim is to urge human beings to listen instead of talking and to respond with empathy and love instead of action and destruction.

The Hungarian artist Tamás Kaszás is another artist dealing with the theme. Kaszás’ practice points to environmental issues and he writes what he describes as “fictional anthropology” – science fiction scenarios about an imagined future of the planet after the collapse of Western civilization. At Hamburger Bahnhof he presents his work Forest School (2016) which emerged from a manifesto consisting of poetic and practical proposals for finding one’s way in nature. The irony in Tamás Kaszás fictional story Forest School is tangible due to the merger between pure romanticism and his critique of naivety.

The various forms of expression and the complex topic make How to talk with birds, trees, fish, shells, snakes, bulls and lions somewhat abstract. That said, it is the artists’ engagement and the interaction between their works of art that complete the exhibition and leave the audience in a reflective mood.

How to talk with birds, trees, fish, shells, snakes, bulls and lions
An exhibition by Antje Majewski with Agnieszka Brzeżańska & Ewa Ciepielewska, Carolina Caycedo, Paweł Freisler, Olivier Guesselé-Garai, Tamás Kaszás, Paulo Nazareth, Guarani-Kaiowa & Luciana de Oliveira, Issa Samb, Xu Tan, Hervé Yamguen

Where: Hamburger Bahnhof, Invalidenstraße 50-51, 10557 Berlin.
When: Tuesdays-Fridays 10-18 hours, Thursdays until 20, Weekends 11-18