Skip to content Skip to footer

Tallinn Art Hall presents Oliver Ressler: Barricading the Ice Sheets

August 27–November 6, 2022
What parts do artists and art professionals play in the campaigns for climate justice? Barricading the Ice Sheets (2019–2022) by artist Oliver Ressler is on display at Tallinn Art Hall for the first time in Estonia and gives important insight on these movements throughout Europe and beyond. Corina L. Apostol, who has previously collaborated with the artist on projects centered around environmental and political issues, is the exhibition’s curator.
Ressler, a multimedia artist from Vienna, has maintained an artistic practice around this subject over the years that combines art and activism, emphasizing the way that the state of the climate affects every aspect of our lives as well as forms of collective resistance and offering beneficial solutions for society. By citing examples of deeper connection between art and social movements, Ressler himself has emphasized the significance of artists and cultural practitioners becoming a part of the “climate justice movement” as opposed to the “climate movement.” The exhibition’s title alludes to the significant duties that the movement for climate justice undertakes and the strategies it employs to accomplish its objectives. As the artist points out, it is actually impossible to blockade the melting ice sheets. Despite this, the movement is working to do something that has never been done before because it is acutely conscious of the stakes involved with the interconnected threats to our world. Can a group of people work together to achieve the seemingly impossible?
A multi-channel video installation, photographic pieces, previously unseen works of art, prints, drawings, and sculptures are all included in the institution’s Main Hall show. The artist explains the intricate relationships between the environment, politics, economy, and the possibilities for social change through a non-neutral viewpoint. He gathers activists from all backgrounds, whose viewpoints are clearly expressed and documented, exposing for the first time how they are organized and behave in the fight against climate collapse that is being fueled by strong capitalist entities. When making his films, Ressler collaborates closely with activists he knows or has met while traveling, and these individuals end up in his documentary archive. Each piece is customized to the feedback he receives from recorded material, exposing ideological stances, political preferences, and levels of personal engagement.
The goal of Barricading the Ice Sheets is to provide a summary of the many mobilizations (actions, protests, gatherings, and meetings) of global change agents. Ressler blends documentary and artistic concerns while calling attention to the shortcomings of the global climate policy through significant regional events and self-reflecting on his dual roles as a participant in the movement and artist crafting its visual history. Through the use of his works by social movements and as creative means of awareness for a young generation of citizens who are more engaged in mass mobilization, the artist is able to transcend the boundaries of the art world and speak to a wider audience.
How can we, as artists, citizens, activists, students, and community organizers, collaboratively rethink and construct radical, anti-hegemonic practices that enable the formation of a new commons and help us reimagine climate resilience after viewing the exhibition? The fact that Ressler’s multi-year creative research project is being shown in Tallinn and Estonia, a region likewise threatened by extensive deforestation, impending sea level rise, and aggressive gentrification motivated by climate change, is important. Although the Baltic states have been portrayed in the media as being “least affected” by climate disasters, recent student and activist mobilizations have highlighted the very real effects of the rapidly shifting environmental conditions and ongoing ecological destruction that profit-driven companies have unleashed. Natural resources that are depleting have similarly been picked out as valuable commodities to be further exploited in order to maximize private wealth in neighboring Eastern European and Nordic nations. Governments in this country have also failed to implement substantial environmental regulations, opting instead for a profit-driven strategy that has encountered growing local opposition from concerned individuals.
What does Ressler’s body of work add to these regional and local problems? What does it reveal about the potential for collective participation of artists and art workers in social movements? What does it reveal about the evolving nature of art activism, which can often appear completely helpless in the face of such high stakes for the planet? Since art is never neutral, it has the power to alter not only the surroundings but also the way we view ourselves and the world around us. 

How are activists’ ideas and political activities sustained when artists collaborate with them? We invite viewers to visualize the subjectivities, struggles, and truths of those involved in social movements that cross the barriers of geopolitical fragmentation by staging this exhibition at the Tallinn Art Hall in a context that is visibly affected by climate change despite the myth that Estonia is a green forest nation.

Please email Alexia Menikou at [email protected] with any questions from the international press.

About Tallinn Art Hall
The Tallinn Art Hall Foundation is a contemporary art institution established in 1934 with an exhibition programme in three galleries on the central square of Tallinn—the Tallinn Art Hall, the Art Hall Gallery and the nearby City Gallery.

Tallinn Art Hall delivers a compelling program for modern audiences, covers the most important topics in contemporary art and society, and supports artists in producing new exhibitions and works. We facilitate an active exchange of ideas between the local and global art scenes and viewers as members of the greater global contemporary art scene. In addition, we also plan international exhibitions. We place a high importance on our program’s contemporary, global, well-curated, and cross-generational appeal.

Tallinn Art Hall
Vabaduse väljak 8
10146 Tallinn
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 11am–6pm

T +372 5873 6841
[email protected]
Instagram / Facebook