Paul Spendier: Seasonal Depression
At first glance, the space suggests a picturesque holiday image that evokes ourcollective desire for wellness. But on closer inspection, the sterility of the landscape,manifesting itself in steel, branchwood, and plastic, resembles a rather dystopianimitation thereof—what is authentic about this natural environment anyway? SeasonalDepression unfolds, dismantles, and reconnects our ironclad notions of the binary oppositionsnatural-artificial, individual-collective, and real-authentic.
The discourse around our current era, the Anthropocene, addresses the irreversibleintervention of humans in their environment that has been fuelled by capitalism andcolonialism. However, the notion of a pristine nature has always been fallacious: “The evolutionof our “selves” is already polluted by histories of encounter; we are mixed up with others beforewe even begin any new collaboration”, writes Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing in The Mushroom at theEnd of the World. The cherry tree placed in the centre of the space loses its ability to change,which humans take over from now on. Thanks to magnets and screw caps, it is dead easy totake the tree apart using the building-block concept, just to put it back together againaccording to individual preferences. Here, nature is completely subjected to the visions of therational homo oeconomicus who wants to conquer and dominate it, while at the same timedoes not want to recognise himself as part of it. The cherry tree rests on a pedestal made ofstainless steel, which uproots it from its surroundings and turns it into an aestheticizedreminder of the illusion of unruly nature. When trying to capture a piece of nature in a certainmoment, any possibility of symbiotic collaboration is denied, which ultimately results in thesubjugation of the environment.
The motif of playful intervention is also reflected in the colourful sculptures scattered onthe ground. Model aeroplanes painted in the corporate identity of major airline companies takeon the circular form of the ouroboros; the snake that bites its own tail. In the holistic form of theouroboros, opposites are united as everything is encased in it. The sculptures thus becomehybrids of machine and animal in the bright camouflage of consumerism, endlesslyincorporating the inseparable connection between industry, the environment, andresponsibility.
Two shiny stainless steel deck chairs of high quality complement the scenery. Theyradiate the kind of wealth and exclusivity that one hopes to gain from their possession. Thechairs’ armrests follow the conjunctures and depressions of the economic crises of 1981 and2008, two events that carried the greed for profit to extremes and further exacerbated socialdiscrepancies. While the misery of the many degenerates into a variable on the graph, theprofit of the individual converts into a desirable piece of design furniture. In Capitalist Realism: IsThere No Alternative?, Mark Fisher analyses how ”[c]apitalism seamlessly occupies the horizonsof the thinkable” culminating in the apparent lack of alternatives to “capitalist realism”. In theplace of collective utopia, there is now only enough space for the lush excess of the individual,who indulges in luxury on the shoulders of the community. Seasonal Depression critiquesextractivist practices through playful irony and highlights the possibilities of artistic interventionwithin that system.