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Oliver Ressler. Barricading the Ice Sheets

Curator Corina L. Apostol

Barricading the Ice Sheets investigates global warming, the climate justice movement and the relation of the latter to the arts. The title refers to the scale of the emergency the climate justice movement faces and the scope of what it sets out to do. It is physically impossible to barricade ice sheets as they melt, but the movement is attempting something historically unprecedented, because never before in the recorded human history has our planet confronted such an absolute threat. When the Arctic ice melts, sea levels will rise everywhere; islands and cities will sink, and the global exploitation of agriculture/fisheries lurches off schedule.


For Barricading the Ice Sheets the artist has recorded and documented some exemplary mobilisations, activities, assemblies and work meetings of the climate movements. There is no “neutral” position from which we could merely document a social movement. Every decision – concerning how and what to record and what to omit, or what to include/exclude when editing the direct quotes of the activists – must be recognised as simultaneously conditioned by and constitutive of the relation to that movement. Consequently, the artistic production drawn from Oliver Ressler’s research will include material that might momentarily be seen as straightforwardly “documentary”, along with other elements where the “artistic” engagement is more obvious. Any sustained attention to the work, however, will reveal its systematic blurring of any artificial line between “documentation” and “artwork”.


Oliver Ressler is an artist and filmmaker who produces installations, projects in public space, and films on issues such as economics, democracy, migration, the climate crisis, forms of resistance and social alternatives. Ressler has had solo and group exhibitions at Berkeley Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, Centro Cultural Conde Duque, Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum, The Cube Project Space,  Kunsthaus Graz, Museo Reina Sofía; Van Abbe Museum, MASSMoCA, Centre Pompidou, the biennials in Venice (2013), Athens (2013, 2015), Quebec (2014), Helsinki (2014), Kyiv (2017), Gothenburg (2019) and Stavanger (2019), and at Documenta 14 (2017). Ressler has completed 38 films that have been screened in thousands of events of social movements, art institutions and film festivals. Since 2019, Ressler directs Barricading the Ice Sheets, a research project on the climate justice movement, funded by the Austrian Science Fund, that will lead to an exhibition at Camera Austria in Graz in September 2021.