(Artwork created for Nexus IV - Im Dialog mit der Kurfürstlichen Burg - Exhibition at Boppard Museum in Sept. 2021- Jan. 2022, ARK-RLP Germany, see 'Exhibitions')

 

At the Deutsches Eck headland in Koblenz, Germany the Rhein and the Mosel conflate. The flow of water brings in alien species or neozoen, which, as they settle into their new habitat, squeeze out the rivers' previous occupants. Tourist information boards at the Deutsches Eck call this struggle for survival lebensraumkonkurrenz or “habitat competition”.

 

Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party added an ideological dimension to the concept of lebensraum when they used it as a justification for territorial expansion of Nazi Germany into Central and Eastern Europe. In recent times many people feel their lebensraum is being threatened. On the one hand, influx of migrants into Europe results in ongoing migrant crises as people fear the arrival of 'alien species' in their lebensraum. On the other, the rush for disposable goods and cheap labour has resulted in the mass production of plastic and cheap products, the exploitation of people, and of the planet itself. Our own greed has made places like China rich; authoritarian regimes strong; democracies hollowed out. Plastic goods, destructive for our environment, have led to plastic soup in the ocean as a symbol of the apocalypse.

 

When I went to visit the Boppard Museum in 2020 to see the Thonet furniture, known for its top-level manufacturing, quality and classical beauty, I stayed by chance in an apartment in the neighborhood, which was promoted online as neue renovierte wohnung or “newly-renovated accommodation”. Upon arrival I found that everything was made of plastic: plastic furniture, plastic flowers, plastic tubs, plastic floors, plastic windows. Lebensraumkonkurrenz, was right there in front of my eyes. Photographs I took at the Boppard Museum (Thonet) and in the apartment (plastic) were the basis of this oil paint series in which I juxtapose Thonet's furniture (and a picture of Michael Thonet and his sons; his daughters are absent!) with plastic objects of what we call new today. 

Awareness and sustainability is our only hope for the future.