What if you – or actually, modern artists- thought about nature as an actor? The nature found in classical works of art? To perform the thoughts, bring the art into a conversation?

You’d get Ganymed Nature, this year’s edition of the Ganymed art performances, bringing paintings to modern interpretive life.

On the invitation of the Natural History Museum and Art History Museum of Vienna, I was able to take a look behind the scenes and a look at these, well, scenes of an exhibition. Or actually, scenes/performances in an exhibition…

Natural History Museum of Vienna

Silent Treasures

Having world famous natural and art history museums right next to each other in ‘your’ city presents a double problem:

These museums are there, anyways. You probably visited them sometime long ago, because one has to.
So, you don’t go there anymore.

As museums, much as they do to entice repeat visits, they also feel a bit stuffy and highbrow. Objects in a museum don’t just speak for themselves, don’t fit into the modern entertainment landscapes of our minds – and smartphones.
So, you don’t even want to go there.

Then again, the objects illustrating eons of the world’s history, the works of art showing the development of painting in Europe… these are treasures.

Rubens' Helena Fourment and Maria Lassnig's Iris, Standing

Rubens’ Helena Fourment and Maria Lassnig’s Iris, Standing, brought in contrast in the exhibition “The Shape of Time” (© KHM-Museumsverband, Maria Lassnig Stiftung, Wien, respectively)

They speak to us if only we let them, if only we learn more to see more. Or if we let others present what they said to them.

Getting modern artists into such a dialogue with works of art in Vienna’s grand Art History Museum has been a/the aim of the “Ganymed” project for a while now. This year, 2018, the theme is nature.

Nature? What Does Nature Have To Do With Art?

We have famous landscape paintings, famous still lives, saintly figures on mountains and in caves – you name it.

Nature, the way we often think of it, is everywhere even in the grand works of art.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder's The Hunters in the Snow

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s The Hunters in the Snow. Nature, naturally.

It is not often an actor in its own right, but in our lives, it actually can be.

With climate change, with weather extremes – and also, with issues of nutrition and disease, pollution and fertility – it is likely to become more of an influence again.

Certainly, more of an influence than we recently like to think it is.

For Ganymed Nature, for once, I am not producing an English version of a video about it. The performance is made for a German-speaking audience, in such a way that it wouldn’t make sense.

It makes sense to give a few impressions, though.

"Twilight Train", inspired by Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Der Düstere Tag (The Dark Day)

“Twilight Train”, inspired by Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Der Düstere Tag (The Dark Day)

"The Last Rose of Summer", inspired by "Erzherzogin Marie Antoinette, Königin von Frankreich" (Arch Duchess Marie Antoinette, Queen of France)

“The Last Rose of Summer”, inspired by “Erzherzogin Marie Antoinette, Königin von Frankreich” (Arch Duchess Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, by Marie-Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun)

Seeing More – In Museums

Finally, I want to leave you, my dear readers, with that thought:

Do visit museums.

But, not because they are world famous and you must have quickly seen the most renowned works in them.
Rather, taking the time to wander their halls, see what speaks to you. And learning more so you can see more.

Typically, the problem is that we increasingly expect the world to just capture our attention, the way social media captures our attentions… and data.

Sometimes it does.

More often, it is on us to learn to see. To see more, to learn more… to get at home in this world ;)