Julian Charrière

Controlled Burn

04.09.2022 – 06.08.2023

From 4 September 2022 to 6 August 2023 Julian Charrière’s solo exhibition Controlled Burn will occupy the whole of the Tadao Ando designed Langen Foundation in Neuss, North Rhine-Westphalia, Featuring new commissions set within a constellation of major works from Charrière’s oeuvre, Controlled Burn represents one of the most extensive exhibition of the artist.

Julian Charrière is a French-Swiss artist based in Berlin. Charrière’s work explores ideas of nature and its transformation over deep geological time. His work addresses urgent ecological concerns, often stemming from fieldwork at signal locations such as volcanoes, glaciers, oil palm plantations, undersea and radioactive sites.

Europe faces an unprecedented energy crisis, in which environmental goals collide with urgent political priorities. As Europe begins to restart coal-fired power plants and nuclear reactors, Controlled Burn confronts our alienation from the materials, processes, and infrastructures that make the continuous flow of energy possible. In this exhibition, fires that usually burn out of sight—underground, beyond the city limits, in distant pasts, and warming futures—are brought to light. 

Julian Charrière’s work addresses urgent ecological concerns, often stemming from fieldwork at signal locations such as volcanoes, glaciers, undersea, and radioactive zones. Deepening his reflections upon ideas of nature and our place therein, Controlled Burn interrogates the dark vitality of materials used for fuel: coal, petroleum, palm oil, sunshine, and more. Charrière’s speculative visions range over the fossilized life-worlds of past geological ages, as well as atmospheres saturated with the burnt residues of modernity’s excess. Controlled Burn questions humankind’s fraught grip on fire and the agency of plants in shaping planetary futures.

Powered by solar energy harvested by the site-specific ensemble Drain the Swamp (2022), located directly in front of the museum, the exhibition takes place throughout the Langen Foundation building and surroundings. Controlled Burn debuts a suite of ambitious commissioned artworks, set within a constellation of key pieces from Charrière’s oeuvre. It is the artist’s most extensive exhibition to date. Addressing the entanglement of environmental and geopolitical issues, it also features installations that allude to the insel Hombroich’s prior use as a NATO rocket storage facility.

Controlled Burn dreams with fire, yet the exhibition’s scope is not limited to imagining. In cooperation with the not-for-profit organization Art into Acres, the artist and the Langen Foundation will support the conservation of 11,307 hectares of primordial cloud forest in Peru. The solar power plant, a modified Solartainer by Africa GreenTec whose presence in the exhibition is co-financed by the philanthropist Constantin Schwaab and Julian Charriere, will be given to a community that is home to national park rangers in Namibia, supporting their conservation efforts. As a meditation on the poetics and politics of combustion, the exhibition intervenes in the world it represents. 

Curated by Dehlia Hannah & Nadim Samman

Photo Film Still © The Artist, VG BildKunst Bonn