Of all the new realities that are part of our current climate chaos, one of the most distressing is the uncomfortable feeling that what we call “nature” – in the past portrayed as enduringly peaceful and regular – has become so volatile that the basic safety of the home we associate with it, is no longer guaranteed. An emotional state related to this phenomenon has been recently termed “solastalgia”, a type of homesickness triggered by the powerlessness in the face of relentless environmental change .
If recent decades were marked by the drive to disconnect from a physical location and embrace the promise of globalization, the climate crisis has revived fundamental ideas of place and belonging. This is expressed in a renewed sense of care for the planet, but also seems to be at the heart of increasingly harsh policies to obtain the right to belong, installed by those who fortify borders and seem to imagine their nation state as an exclusive shelter . The exhibition explores these complex realities, where concepts of belonging are set against the assumed freedoms of ownership. Contrary to notions of belonging, ownership of land has rarely required an obligation of care. It has been implemented so widely across borders and communities that an extractivist relationship to the earth and people is now normalized, with dividing lines firmly set across race, gender and class.
The exhibition title is borrowed from the lyrics of the 1985 pop song “We Belong” by Pat Benatar. A few months after “We Belong” climbed to the top of the pop charts in the West, Mikhail Gorbachev announced Perestroika, which led Estonians to openly protest their belonging to the Soviet Union. The ecological movement against phosphorite mines that peaked in 1987 became an important catalyst of Estonian independence and a national identification with forests established in the early 20th century still plays a role today. The Estonian case adds complexity to the relationship between nationalism and ecological care while the memory of the Cold War blocs questions the lines of sympathy along which future alliances will be built.
Heidi Ballet is a Belgian independent curator based in Berlin with a background in Chinese Studies and a research interest in oceanic territory. In 2018 she curated Beaufort 2018, a sculpture triennial along the Belgian coast. In 2017, Ballet curated together with Milena Hoegsberg the Lofoten Biennial (LIAF) in northern Norway titled I Taste The Future, a site-specific project with a thematic focus on new ecologies. In 2016, she curated the Satellite exhibition series Our Ocean, Your Horizon at Jeu de Paume Paris and CAPC Bordeaux. Between 2012 and 2015, Ballet worked as a researcher and assistant curator for the Taipei Biennale (2012) and for Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (2013-2015). Before relocating to Berlin, she was gallery director at Jan Mot from 2008 until 2012. Her writing has appeared in Mousse Magazine, Randian and Art Papers.