Oliver Ressler, Everything's coming together while everything's falling apart, 2015-2018. Video still

Everything's coming together while everything's falling apart

2015-2018. HD video, 36′ 33″

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.

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.

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” at MNAC – National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest. The project was later expanded to a 4-channel video installation and will be ongoing, with further episodes to be added as the struggle against a fossil fuel-dependent economy continues.

Director and producer: Oliver Ressler
Cinematography, audio recording: Thomas Parb, Oliver Ressler
Narration text: Oliver Ressler & Matthew Hyland
Editing: Oliver Ressler
Narrator: Renée Gadsden
Color correction: Rudolf Gottsberger
Sound design and music: Vinzenz Schwab, Rudolf Gottsberger
The project received support from the ERSTE Foundation, BKA – Kunst, Otto Mauer Fonds, MNAC – National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest, 3. Berliner Herbstsalon / Maxim Gorki Theater, < rotor > center for contemporary art.
Special thanks to: Calin Dan, TJ Demos, Ende Gelände, Christiane Erharter, Matthew Hyland, John Jordan, Erden Kosova, Anton Lederer, Max Liljefors, Margarethe Makovec, Adriana Oprea, Johanna Schwanberg, Walter Seidl, and Janet Stewart.


Oliver Ressler, New Model Army, 2018. Video still

New Model Army

2018. Stand-in activists

Humanity is on the brink of global ecological catastrophe. Copernicus Climate Change Service data show global temperature in 2016 close to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. Many scientists regard this threshold as the “red line” beyond which global warming will rampage beyond hope of control.

Human survival is at stake, yet public outcry for immediate action remains strangely muted, at least within official politics and media.

Meanwhile, a new social movement – the climate movement – has formed in response to dominant states' refusal to cut CO2 emissions, much less take seriously the threat of irreversible ruin. This movement is bigger and more unified than it looks, because spectators see only occasional footage of isolated “newsworthy” interventions rather than the relentless pressure exerted by activists all over the world. The movement will not negotiate “concessions” from extractive industries. It will not be bought off with eco-crime-scene jobs, royalty deals, belated observance of safety standards or conscience-cleansing carbon offset programs. It just says “NO”. “New Model Army” breaks the official silence, bringing spectres of the unseen climate movement protagonists into the gallery in the form of life-size mannequins. The mannequins stand in for activists whose civil disobedience ensures that no new eco-looting enterprise, however routine it may seem to stockholders, can ever be considered a done deal. These models are not even a perfect template or paradigm: something real but not yet real enough; container of the Geist of something still to come. The mannequins are stand-ins, visible ciphers for the unseen action of the climate movement everywhere. The modified mannequins hold up headline-style slogans concerning the crossing of the 1.5° threshold, e.g. “BLOODY RED LINES: CARBON UNCHAINED” and “400 CARBON PARTICLES – RED LINE CUTS GLOBAL THROAT”.

One mannequin is dressed as a polar bear – a species whose survival is threatened as the Arctic sea-ice falls away from under its feet. Another is the double of an Ende Gelände activist – one of thousands who shut down Europe's filthiest coal-fired power plant and thousands everywhere intent on spoiling carbon-fattened business plans.

The first two activist figures from the “New Model Army” were seen together in Oliver Ressler’s solo exhibition “Property is Theft” (2016) at MNAC – National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest. Others showed up in “The Extractive Machine – Neo-colonialisms and Environmental Resources” (2017) at the PAV (Parco Arte Vivente) in Torino. They surround the video installation “Everything's coming together while everything's falling apart”, acting as a sort of silent entourage. Rumours suggest that this army will grow over time.

Note on terminology

New Model Army – As in the organized “rabble” that won the English revolutionary war of the 1640s: the “factious inferior persons” whose dangerously democratic Councils of War, habit of “mutual edification” and network of “Agitators” (the first known use of the word) frightened their own commanders into destroying them within a couple of years. This armed collective of those who “filled dung carts ... before they were captains” secured common survival when the vampire caste (or “0.1%”) of the time threatened to bleed the land dry. At which point the petty proprietors who had gained most from the victory lashed out at Agitators and Levellers, crushing the triumphant rabble by forcing it to fight itself. Survivors became firepower for Irish and Caribbean plantations. 350 years of defeat and counting. If the same thing happens to the climate “army”, there won't be that much time.

Text by Oliver Ressler. Thanks to Matthew Hyland for co-authoring


Oliver Ressler, born in Knittelfeld, Austria, in 1970, lives and works in Vienna.

1989 – 1995 University for Applied Arts, Vienna (A)

Oliver Ressler 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. Over the years, he collaborated with the artists Zanny Begg (Sydney), Ines Doujak (Vienna), Martin Krenn (Vienna), Carlos Motta (New York), Gregory Sholette (New York), David Thorne (Los Angeles) and the political scientist Dario Azzellini (Berlin/New York).