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Art Talks: The Plundering by Oliver Ressler

Published: 31-03-2015

Contemporary Art Centre of Thesasloniki  (Warehouse B1, Port)
Tuesday, March 31, 2015, 18:00
Free Admission

Today, the most massive forms of plundering are committed by states or corporations. The plundering of state coffers to bail out banks directly lead to austerity programs that leave behind people without access to health care or affordable housing. Forced resettlement of people to make land available for mining corporations, the construction of dams or houses, usually leave behind people who end up more impoverished than they used to be. David Harvey talks about an “accumulation by dispossession”, a form of appropriation that involves not primarily the generation of wealth but rather taking possession of existing wealth, usually from the poor or the public sector, through legal or illegal means, and most often in situations where the limits of legality are unclear (see Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Commonwealth, 2010).

In his talk, Oliver Ressler will focus on his exhibition The Plunderung at LENTOS Kunstmuseum in Linz that took place from 3 October 2014 to 1 February 2015. The works assembled in this exhibition have in common the focus on different forms of plundering: the theft of raw materials in the Global South by transnational commodity trading and mining companies (The Visible and the Invisible); the extraction of the diminishing reserves of crude oil (Leave It in the Ground); aggressive bouts of privatization in the former Soviet republic of Georgia (The Plundering); the exclusion of the public, as a consequence of the creation of “gated communities”, from spaces formerly generally accessible (Don’t Purchase A Better World); and the siphoning off of taxpayers’ money to “save” banks from the fallout of the financial and economic crisis (The Bull Laid Bear). In a system of representative democracy that has become less and less responsive to the interests of the electorate, elections tend to mutate into a meaningless ritual, while self-appointed political and economic elites make the real decisions away from public debates (Elections are a Con).

The emphasis of Ressler’s artistic practice is on ways of resisting and alternative organizing as a reaction to political, economic and social grievances.


Oliver Ressler, born 1970, lives and works in Vienna and produces installations, projects in public space, and films on issues such as economics, democracy, global warming, forms of resistance and social alternatives. Over the years Ressler has collaborated on films, exhibitions, curatorial projects and books with the artists Dario Azzellini (Berlin), Zanny Begg (Sydney), Ines Doujak (Vienna), Martin Krenn (Vienna), Carlos Motta (New York), Ana Pečar (Maribor), Gregory Sholette (New York), and David Thorne (Los Angeles).

Oliver Ressler has had solo exhibitions in major art spaces such as Berkeley Art Museum, USA; Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul; Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade; Centro Cultural Conde Duque, Madrid; Bunkier Sztuki Contemporary Art Gallery, Krakow; Kunstraum der Universität Lüneburg; Kalmar Art Museum, Sweden; Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum, Egypt; The Cube Project Space, Taipei; and Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdansk. Between 2014 and 2016 a cycle of solo exhibitions takes place at Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz; n.b.k., Berlin; ar/ge kunst Galleria Museo, Bolzano; and Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo – CAAC, Seville.

Ressler has participated in more than 250 group exhibitions, including in 2014 at Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid; SALT Beyoğlu, Istanbul; Espai d'art contemporani de Castelló, Castelló, Spain; in 2013 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Castello di Rivoli, Torino; Museum of Contemporary Art, Krakow; Lofoten International Art Festival – LIAF, Norway; Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven; International Contemporary Arts Festival, Riga; Steirischer Herbst, Graz; ZKM, Karlsruhe; in 2012 at Kadist Foundation, Paris; Artspace, Sydney; Tirana Architecture Week, Tirana; DOX Center for Contemporary Art, Prague; in 2011 at Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven; MASSMoCA, North Adams, USA; Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina, Novi Sad; Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo – CAAC, Seville; Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City; in 2010 at National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens; Raven Row, London; Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham; Overgaden, Copenhagen; Museum Berardo Collection, Lisbon.

Oliver Ressler has shown extensively in the context of large-scale international exhibitions such as the biennials in Prague (2005), Seville (2006), Moscow (2007), Taipei (2008), Lyon (2009), Gyumri (2012), Venice (2013), Athens (2013), Helsinki (2014), Marrakech (2014) and Quebec (2014). 

Already years before the financial and economic crisis in 2008, Ressler started unprecedented research into alternatives to capitalism, Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies (2003 – 2008), which lead to 21 exhibitions all around the world and the production of 16 videos within the non-hierarchically arranged archive on social alternatives. Ressler’s book Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies was published by the Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdansk in 2007.

Since Ressler launched his first film Rote Zora in 2000, he has realized twenty films, including three films in collaboration with Dario Azzellini on the political processes in Venezuela and three films on the alter-globalization movement. His films have been screened in thousands of events of social movements, art institutions and film festivals, including European Media Art Festival, Osnabrück; Lisbon International Independent Film Festival, Lisbon; Antenna Documentary Festival, Sydney; FILMETS Badalona Film Festival, Barcelona; Impakt, Utrecht; Kasseler Dokumentarfilm- & Videofest, Kassel; Duisburger Filmwoche; International Media Art Biennale WRO, Wroclaw; Image Forum Festival, Tokyo; Centre Pompidou, Paris; ICA, London; New Museum, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas; Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto; and MAMbo—Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna.

In 2002, Ressler won first prize at the International Media Art Award of the ZKM.

A retrospective of his films took place at Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève in 2013.

For the Taipei Biennale 2008, Ressler curated an exhibition on the alter-globalization movement, A World Where Many Worlds Fit. A traveling show on the financial crisis, It’s the Political Economy, Stupid, co-curated with Gregory Sholette, has been presented at eight venues so far since 2001, including Centre of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki; Pori Art Museum, Finland; Gallery 400, Chicago; and Galerija Nova, Zagreb. The book It’s The Political Economy, Stupid: The Global Financial Crisis in Art and Theory was published by Pluto Press in 2013.

In collaboration with Ines Doujak he co-curated Utopian Pulse – Flares in the Darkroom for the gallery and the façade of Secession in Vienna throughout 2014.


Webpage: www.ressler.at