6–channel video installation
Courtesy the Artist, àngels Barcelona and The Gallery Apart, Rome

Not too long ago, global warming was science fiction. Now it has become hard science, and a reality we already live in. The latest reports from the sober Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggest that the planet may be approaching multiple thresholds of irreversible damage faster than was ever anticipated.

The title “Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart” refers to a situation in which all the technology needed to end the age of fossil fuel already exists. Whether the present ecological, social and economic crisis will be overcome is primarily a question of political power. The climate movement is now stronger than ever. It obstructed pipeline projects such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. It stopped Arctic drilling and blocked fracking all over the globe. Coal-fired power plants were shut down by resistance, and the divestment movement that pressures institutions to unload their stocks from fossil fuel corporations has had successes.

The story of this ongoing film project may turn out to be a story of the beginning of the climate revolution, the moment when popular resistance began to reconfigure the world. The project follows the climate movement in its struggles to dismantle an economic system heavily dependent on fossil fuels. It records key events for the climate movement, bringing together many situations, contexts, voices and experiences. There is one film for each event.

In the first film (17 min., 2016), activists contest the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, a city then under a state of emergency (effectively made permanent by recent French legislation). Like twenty failed annual climate conferences before it, COP21 in Paris in 2015 proved the incapacity of governments to commit themselves to any binding agreement that would curtail global warming through a definite strategy for the end of fossil fuel use. The resulting Climate Agreement avoids anything that would harm the economic interests of corporations. The governments now pretending that non-binding agreements can hold back climate change are the same ones whose binding free trade pacts make dead letter of local environmental and climate legislation.

The film on the Ende Gelände (end of the road) action (12 min., 2016) shifts the focus to a massive civil disobedience action at the Lusatia lignite coal fields (near Berlin). 4,000 activists entered an open-cast mine, blocking the loading station and the rail connection to a coal-fired power plant. The blockades disrupted the coal supply and forced the Swedish proprietor Vattenfall to shut the power station down.

The action was part of an international “global escalation” against the fossil fuel industry, calling on the world to “Break Free from Fossil Fuels” and putting that imperative directly into practice.

Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart: Ende Gelände, 12 min., 2016

The film on the ZAD (36 min., 2017) focuses on Europe’s largest autonomous territory, located close to Nantes in France. The ZAD (zone to defend) emerged from the struggle against a new airport. In 2012 the French state’s attempt to evict the zone was fiercely resisted by more than 40,000 people. The police have not set foot there since. Today 250 people in 60 collectives live permanently at the ZAD occupying the wetlands, fields and forests. The ZAD is a successful example of the way resistance and the creation of alternatives need to happen at the same time. While people take back control over their lives with self-organized bakeries, workshops, a brewery, medicinal herb gardens, a rap studio, weekly newspaper and a library, they hinder the construction of an unnecessary, ecologically disastrous airport project. The film is built around a group discussion with activists living at the ZAD.

The film “Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart: Code Rood” (14 min., 2018) highlights a civil disobedience action in the port of Amsterdam in June 2017. The blockade of Europe’s second-largest coal port draws a red line against this important fossil-capitalist infrastructure facility. The largest single source of the coal shipments is Colombia, where coal is extracted under ecologically and socially devastating conditions.

“Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart: Limity jsme my” (10 min., 2019) leads us directly into the blockade of Bílina coal mine in Northern Bohemia in the Czech Republic. 280 of approximately 400 activists taking part were detained. The camera follows a group of activists awaiting deportation inside a police kettle, against the backdrop of a landscape defaced by lignite strip-mining. While the screen shows images filmed from inside a prisoner transport vehicle, we hear the voice of a semi-fictional character, reflecting on mass civil disobedience.

The film “Everything‘s coming together while everything‘s falling apart: Venice Climate Camp” (21 min., 2020) celebrates the Venice Climate Camp of September 2019, organized by the No Grandi Navi (“no big ships”) committee together with Fridays for Future and many more activists from all over Europe. Leaving the camp on the Lido at dawn, 200 activists forced their way into the Venice Film Festival enclosure, where they occupied the red carpet for nine hours. Making full use of the international media presence, the activists laid claim to the world attention focused on the day’s prize giving ceremony, turning it to the agenda of the climate movement. The Venice Film Festival as such was not the target of the blockade, but the activists took a sharply critical position on its neglect of an important opportunity to call publicly for climate justice.

“Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart: Venice Climate Camp”, 21 min., 4K, AT 2020

Despite the efforts of government and corporate PR to convince us otherwise, whether fossil fuels will be abandoned and when this will happen will be decided primarily by social movements and the degree of pressure they exert on institutions. Powerful structures force us into lives that destroy our livelihood. It is these structures that must be changed, and nothing but our action in common can change them.

“Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart” was first presented as a 2-channel video installation as part of Oliver Ressler’s solo exhibition “Property is Theft” (2016) at MNAC – National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest. The project was in 2020 expanded to a 6-channel video.

Oliver Ressler (1970, Knittelfeld, Austria) is an artist and filmmaker who produces installations, projects in the public space, and films on issues such as economics, democracy, global warming, forms of resistance and social alternatives.