Headline: How Normal Is Our Reality?

Perceptions of the Arctic take centre-stage in the recent work of Hamburg-based conceptual artist Swaantje Güntzel, created during her tenure as the resident Art Fellow at the Research Institute for Sustainability - Helmholtz Centre Potsdam. Now several galleries across Germany are showcasing Güntzel’s art, including works from previous years.

Swaantje Güntzel, Eisbär, 2024, Photo Tobias Hübel
An AI generated this image of a polar bear confined in a zoo. Swaantje Güntzel/ Foto von T. Hübel

Conceptual artist Swaantje Güntzel has explored perceptions of the Arctic region during a year-long fellowship at the Research Institute for Sustainability - Helmholtz Centre Potsdam (RIFS). The works created during her fellowship include a somewhat surprising image of a polar bear that was generated in a process akin to painting by numbers. What initially appears to be the image of a typical polar bear was actually made using the DALL.E 2 artificial intelligence image generation system. When Güntzel entered the term "polar bear”, the images generated by the AI all featured polar bears confined in zoos, rather than in the wild. This work will be on display at Güntzel’s solo exhibition "Normalitätssimulation" (Simulation of Normality) at Galerie Holthoff in Hamburg, which opens on Friday, 3 May.

The bear reflects a key concern of Güntzel: Why does humanity – against its better judgment – give in to the desire to ignore the urgency of this moment? Güntzel’s works cast a spotlight on the parallel reality that this creates, one in which we simulate normality rather than taking action. Using commonly available materials, techniques and found objects, Güntzel draws attention to the banality of the choices we make in everyday life and the broader context of the ecological consequences that these decisions ultimately incur.

Güntzel’s solo exhibition at Galerie Holthoff follows in the wake of the high-profile exhibition "Caspar David Friedrich. Art for a New Age" at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, which also featured her work. Later this month, she will also be showing at "Echos der Zukunft" (Echoes of the Future), an exhibition curated by Tuçe Erel and hosted at Potsdam’s Biosphere (opens 18 May at 6.00 pm). In June, Kunsthalle Bahnitz will celebrate its fifteenth anniversary with the exhibition “Schöne Aussichten” (Beautiful Views) (opens 22 June at 1.00 pm). Works by Güntzel will also be shown at the exhibition, which will consider the environmental and climate crises as well as the relationship between humankind and nature.

Another exhibition, hosted by the the Lippische Gesellschaft für Kunst, will take place at Detmold Castle from 15 September to 20 October 2024 and will also feature works created by Swaantje Güntzel during her tenure as RIFS Art Fellow in Potsdam. These works on display will also examine perceptions of the Arctic and how these shape our understanding of the region. How do we translate ecological realities into images and why do we hold fast to the vision of the Arctic as a landscape untouched by humankind?


Exhibtions featuring work by RIFS Fellow Swaantje Güntzel
03.05.24HamburgSwaantje Güntzel "Normalitätssimulation"Galerie Holthoff
18.05.24PotsdamEchos der ZukunftBiosphäre
22.06.2024BahnitzSchöne AussichtenKunsthalle
15.9.24DetmoldSwaantje Güntzel - KonzeptkunstKunst im Schloss