Gestures of Disappearance
VisArts’ 2023 Bresler Resident Murat Cem Mengüç
February 9-March 17, 2024
Murat Cem Mengüç’s Gestures of Disappearance is a contemporary art project about climate change and, specifically, the carbon footprint of art making. As such, it has a multidisciplinary nature, including not just artistic expression and reflection, but also actual carbon emission calculations of the works involved in their presentation.
Gestures of Disappearance is an ongoing project by Mengüç that focuses on the environmental impact of artists and their works. The initiative organizes workshops for both artists and non-artists interested in calculating the CO2e footprint of art.
As part of his Bresler Residency, Mengüç organized the inaugural workshop for Gestures of Disappearance, which convened seven artists and one curator who met 14 times between February and May 2023. Together, they researched and discussed the CO2e footprint of their artistic practices, as well as broader topics related to climate change and the environment.
Participants critically examined the environmental impact of their own practices and explored new strategies to create and present art that honestly acknowledges its environmental consequences. This exhibition represents the culmination of their efforts and a gesture in response to the ongoing environmental crisis threatening our planet.
Currently, many artists are vocal about climate change, contributing to a growing movement within the art world focused on ecology and environmental issues. However, few artists address the environmental impact of their own practices. Like much of the general population, many artists attribute climate change primarily to large industries and systemic failures within the current economic and political landscape.
While this perspective has true merit, it is crucial to recognize that up to two-thirds of the world’s CO2e footprint stems from everyday household practices. Without a cultural shift, our planet’s ecology may face irreversible damage. Historically, such cultural shifts have not originated from top-down directives but rather from grassroots, collective movements.
Given that artists often view themselves as creative and forward-thinking members of society, we advocate for direct engagement with these pressing environmental issues as an integral part of the artistic process.
Artists: Inga Adda, Benedetta Castrioto, Maggie Gourlay, Susan Main, Murat Cem Mengüc, Louisa Neill, Kevin Pyle, Gabriel Soto
About the Artist
Murat Cem Mengüç is an artist, writer and historian whose works appeared in solo shows, group exhibitions and numerous publications. He is the founder of Studio Teleocene which is dedicated to the study of art and environment and a member of the Cultivate Projects, a platform for a contemporary redefinition of landscape. He lives and grows food in North Potomac, Maryland, at the intersection of the Potomac River and the Seneca Trail, the ancestral home of the Piscataway Indian confederacy.
Image: Ephemera (detail), courtesy of Gabriel Soto