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Anne-Katrin Spiess

Anne-Katrin Spiess, (b. 1968, Lugano, Switzerland) creates site-specific installations and performances that often address ecological concerns. Her works have been exhibited at Wave Hill, Bronx, NY; Exit Art, New York, NY; Abingdon Art Center, Jenkintown; PA, Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, ME amongst others. Recent exhibitions include Arte Laguna Exhibition, the Arsenale, Venice, Italy, forthcoming 2021; ART SAFIENTAL, Safiental, Switzerland, 2020; Guemgang Nature Art Biennale, Republic of Korea, 2020; Composed to Decompose, Unison Arts Center, New Paltz, NY, 2020.

Environmental Artist: Anne-Katrin Spiess

Based in New York, USA




Culturally Arts Collective features:

"On The Rise", January 12th - March 31st, 2022,

Milostka Center for Exhibitions 

How are your works born and what is the most important aspect that links them? If there are some, what other artworks/artists have inspired you?

My work is inspired by the encounter between humans and the natural world - it aims to draw attention to issues of trash, recycling, deforestation, and desertification as well ways for humans to exist and connect with nature such as wilderness survival, and plant communication. I also have a keen interest in the end of both human and natural life, and I have created several projects involving burial rituals. Although the visuals of the works are of course an essential element, the text or context I include with a project is often even more important.


I discovered Futurism as a teenager and decided that I wanted my work to have a message and act as a catalyst for change and inspiration. I learned about Land Art during my studies and realized that I needed to not only work in landscapes but in the most remote and isolated sites I could find to create from a completely blank slate. As an adult I encountered “eco-art” and recognized that I could combine my desire to make art in nature with “making a difference” for the health of the planet.

_Anne-Katrin Spiess-Death by Plastic Venice1-2019_.jpg

Death by Plastic, Venice by Anne-Katrin Spiess

Digital C-print. 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm), 2019

How do your installations address environmental issues? What message are you hoping to convey through your installations?

I take great pains to address environmental issues in ways that inspire viewers to enact positive change, and I often offer suggestions for how as humans we can be less of a burden on the environment. I pay close attention to the materials I use, often employing the elements around me as source material. I collect or borrow from nature and occasionally introduce man- or machine-made materials as subtle reminders of human civilization.

The problem of climate change is having an impact on the lives of individuals: where does your need to treat the theme of climate change as the subject of your works come from?

My work in nature has provided me with an acute awareness of the issues facing our planet due to the ever-increasing exploitation of natural resources. I decided early on that my work in nature would be void of significance unless some of my projects specifically address the preservation and protection of natural environments. As my body of environmental work is constantly evolving, the pedagogic and social aspects have become critical modes of engagement. They aim to improve and prove a symbiotic relationship between humans and the natural world.

The issues of climate change and sustainability, while burning for some time, have only been embraced by the masses in recent years: what kind of reactions have you received from audiences towards your performances and installations? Did you notice a different approach to them through the generation of your audience and through the time?

I have been addressing issues of sustainability in my work for over 20 years. Initially many people were completely unaware of the problems the planet was already facing. Thankfully, viewers are now more informed, and as the problems have grown and expanded in scale and scope so has my own sense of urgency and in turn the tactics I use to address and display them.


An example of this resolve to address climatic concerns is my ongoing project “Death by Plastic” (2019-) which uses the metaphor of death to draw attention to the suffering of the planet at the hands of its own inhabitants. Creating a coffin out of Plexiglas was a way of being able to frame, contain and display at once. By doing so I hope to draw people’s attention, inform them, and eventually empower them to enact change themselves.

In your works, what are the aspects related to your personal experiences (for example: personal testimonies related to local climate change)?

Often projects come from firsthand experience. I have witnessed the effects of climate change through my work both in remote sites and large municipalities. Two of the topics I am most passionate about, the inundation of trash (especially plastics) and the effects of desertification, are undeniable. Below are examples in my work that progressively have emerged from experiences in life and art.


In 2001 I discovered massive deforestation was taking place to make disposable wooden chopsticks. I produced and exhibition titled “Chopsticks” for which I printed several thousand flyers in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and English, expounding the issue, and encouraging visitors to hand the flyers to their favorite “chopsticks using” restaurants, asking them to use either bamboo or reusable chopsticks.


Funeral Procession for a Dead Lake”, 2010 is another example. Winnemucca Lake was a rich and vibrant habitat for wildlife, fish, birds and various marsh and meadow species. In 1903 as part of the Newlands Reclamation Act, the Derby Dam was built redirecting water which caused the level of Pyramid Lake to decrease considerably, and eventually ceasing to flow to Winnemucca Lake. In addition, the building of State Highway 447 led to the complete desiccation of the lake by 1939. In the summer of 2010, I enacted a ceremony to pay tribute to Winnemucca Lake and the animal and plant species that no longer inhabit it.

“Death by Plastic” followed an ongoing series of trash collection projects throughout the country. This project came about from a feeling of helplessness (in terms of my own consumerism), but also as a way of drawing attention to the items that we think (or hope) are getting recycled and are instead being landfilled.

What role, as an artist, do you feel you play in the context we are living in?

Artists are uniquely equipped to draw attention to issues of political and social import, but they cannot solve them alone. I hope to draw attention to the issues but also to engage individuals and communities to think together creatively about how we can implement change.

What are the solutions that artists can implement to protect the environment and fight climate change?

Artists can use their work and their networks to continue to draw attention to and raise creative solutions for problems on local and global scales. The power of images has never been more obvious, and as artists we need to continue to underscore both the beauty and ugliness in the world around us.

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