The Weather War
Galerie Barbara Thumm, Berlin
Together with the Canadian storm chaser and meteorologist Mark Robinson, Bigert & Bergström travelled to the Midwest in the US, to film and document the increasingly hostile weather patterns that are developing today. The exhibition The Weather War centers on B&B’s attempt to intercept a tornado using a device called the Tornado Diverter.
”The idea of creating a protective shield against tornadoes was formulated in 2004 by the Russian scientist Vladimir Pudov, at the Institute for Experimental Meteorology, Obninsk. In 2007, we travelled to Obninsk to interview him for our film, The Weather War. He had just retired from his position at the institute and no longer had the funds needed to further develop his invention. We were intrigued by the scope of his idea of being able to affect the most powerful weather phenomenon on earth, and decided to take up the challenge and build it for him.”[Bigert & Bergström, excerpt from field-guide The Storm, 2012]
In the middle of the gallery the Tornado Diverter machine is presented on a custom built trailer. It is flanked by a group of sculptures and props extracted from the film. The film itself is projected inside a white bunker-like cubicle juxtaposing a big black sphere, titled The Problem, resting in the other corner of the gallery space.
Ever since their first large-scale performance/installation Biosphere III, in 1990, Bigert & Bergström has been obsessed with the climate and its extremes. The weather—both a trivial theme for petty conversation and a life threatening natural force—is central in their art. And they use it to pinpoint our currently exposed position living in a slowly heating lab-maze.
The film The Weather War tracks the history and contemporary struggle, between man and man-made climate, as we approach the tipping point. In a blend of land art performance and road movie, artist duo Bigert & Bergström travel to the US tornado belt with their special machine-sculpture, the Tornado Diverter. The goal: To stop a tornado. Along the way, we see historical examples of how the science of meteorology developed in symbiosis with military goals and how these visions evolved into modern ideas of geo-engineering. Controversial ideas with socio-political consequences, spotlighting the big question of who is really entitled to modified weather.
In a larger perspective, the exhibition touch on the problems faced worldwide due to global climate change. How do we behave to meet those challenges? Do we adapt? Or do we wage war against increasingly aggressive weather phenomena? Bangladesh is building protective walls against coming floods, China shoots rockets into threatening clouds and in Italy, anti-hail cannons are fired to protect the year’s wine harvest.
Photos: Jens Ziehe