Sustainable Practice:
Klima Biennale Wien

In response to the urgency of the climate crisis, Vienna has launched Klima Biennale Wien, “the first ever climate-focused art festival in the world.” It’s a survey that prioritises the intersection of art and ecology. Hosted by KunstHausWien, the festival spans 100 days, from 5 April to 14 July, and offers an interdisciplinary, interactive and international programme throughout the Austrian capital. The European edition encourages local and global participation in dialogue about future social developments, thinking in particular about how to create a sustainable future. Against the backdrop of escalating climate concerns, Klima Biennial sets the tone for innovation and collaboration in addressing environmental challenges, from the planet’s rising sea levels to dwindling diversity and increasing emissions. It’s an event that joins a league of sustainably focused international events, such as Helsinki Biennial or the highly anticipated Venice Biennale, whose goal is to “extend the achievement of carbon neutrality certification.”

The Biennale will take place across Vienna and encompass museums, exhibition spaces and public spaces, with the Kunst Haus Wien serving as the biennial’s central hub. Here, Sophie Haslinger curates Into the Woods, a group show that that highlights the vitality of forests. More than ever, the world’s forests have become monuments to the imbalances found on our planet. These green spaces filter water and air, supply resources and food and act as homes to over 80% of the world’s land-based species of animals, plants and insects. Responding to this, Into the Woods speaks to the effects of deforestation, in addition to the tensions that exist between economic and sunstainable conservation. Artists such as photographer Richard Mosse and Susanne Kriemann recognise the impact of monocultures, from the brutal reality of industrial-scale logging in the Amazon rainforest to the stripping back of Romania’s primary forests. Set within the setting of Kunst Haus Wien, a 20th century building home to over 260 plant species, the works serve as poginant reminders of the urgent need to safeguard and advocate our most precious ecosystems.

Elsewhere, Belgium researcher and field-based visual artist Laure Winants travels to the Arctic to investigate the phenomena of light and colour. For her photography project From a Tongue We Are Losing, the artist joined a team of multidisciplinary researchers embarking on a four month expedition. Winants developed special techniques to capture the unique conditions of the Arctic. She made the data tangible and emotionally perceptible, highlighting the interdependence of ecosystems, creating a dialogue between art, science, and technology. In the experimental series Time Capsules, on display at Foto Arsenal Wien, Winants creates neon, infrared-like photograms onto which forms of cut out ice are applied. While they reveal the structure of the crystals, they also cast a shadow on certain elements that have been present for millions of years. Each composition is unique: an amalgamation of glowing blue, pink and yellow tones.

Finally, in a project curated specially for the Biennale, artistic collective Troika have created an immersive work that raises questions about our possible (mis)adaptations in response to climate change. In an exhibited film, a robot arm covered in fur is depicted cutting down the final tree on Earth. The scene transitions from the video’s setting into a physical space where 3D-printed sculptures, created from digital replicas of museum objects, inhabit a flooded landscape, resembling mysterious creatures. The piece speaks to the consequences of unchecked environmental destruction, portraying a stark vision of the environment where humanity’s disregard for nature has led to its ultimate demise. It’s a stark and haunting vision but one that underscores programme director Sithara Pathirana and artistic director Claudius Schulze’s assertions, “Climate change is real; our responsibility is to ensure a future worth living for all. Our goal for the Klima Biennale is to leverage the power of art and transdisciplinary exchange to develop systemic, holistic approaches that reconcile ecological balance with economy and prosperity.”

Klima Biennale Wien | 5 April – 14 July

Image Credits:

1. Kunst Haus Wien/Kevin Grabowski

2. Anca Benera & Arnold Estefán, UnWorlding, 2024

3. Laure Winants. From a Tongue We Are Losing

4. © Photo: Motion Capture Animation © Troika