Biennial theme 2019I20 "Naturgemälde"


Over the course of two years, our biennial theme for 2019|20 “Naturgemälde“ will explore the representation of natural phenomena in science and art via a varied line-up of events.

Alexander von Humboldt subtitled a famous drawing from 1807 “Naturgemälde der Anden”. This literally translates to “nature-painting of the Andes”. The drawing depicts the South American volcano Chimborazo, which at the time was thought to be the highest mountain in the world. Humboldt had climbed it on his South American expedition in 1802. He decided to draw the volcano in cross-section, thus enabling him to inscribe the names of the plants at the elevation where they actually grew. Humboldt flanked the illustration with charts of additional information, such as the heights of other mountains, data on air pressure and soil conditions as well as regional fauna. By focusing the drawing on climatic conditions Humboldt distanced himself from previous forms of representation strictly geared to a tabular taxonomy of plants. The “Naturgemälde der Anden” captured Humboldt’s holistic world view on a sheet of paper and was enthusiastically received by his contemporaries. The painting has since become an icon for the history of science: It is now regarded as the origin of info graphics and as the starting point for the development of the new discipline of plant geography.

Humboldt's famed drawing reveals how closely the actual form of representation and world view are interwoven. The biennual theme 2019|20 “Naturgemälde” aims to translate and apply this concept to the present day. We will invite you to a wide array of events at which we will jointly investigate how the term “Naturgemälde” can be understood in the natural sciences and what aesthetic implications it has: What is our understanding of a “Naturgemälde” today? How does modeling function in the natural sciences? How can climate change be visualized? What are the ethical and political dimensions of modern representations of natural phenomena?  Which possibilities do computer simulations offer for future depictions of nature? Can modern “nature-paintings” benefit from collective forms of science such as “citizen science”? What kind of aesthetic signature does “nature writing” have in literature? How are 19th century landscapes interlinked with the perspective of colonialism? What significance does the examination of nature have in modern art? And what does a “Naturgemälde” sound like in modern sound art?

We look forward to delve into this catalogue of questions and your queries at the planned lectures, concerts and exhibitions and invite you to jointly discover the historic, modern and future “Naturgemälde”!