5 things to know about Dear Earth at Hayward Gallery
Hayward Gallery’s 2023 summer show, Dear Earth featured works from 15 international artists responding to the climate emergency.
Each of these artists explore the many different facets of the climate crisis through inventive and moving uses of diverse media that includes video installations, textile sculptures, living plants and running water. Their work highlights not only the immediacy of the crisis for our natural world, but also how for many artists, art and activism are often inseparable.
Dear Earth was at the Hayward Gallery 21 June – 3 September, and here are five more things to know about this timely exhibition, part of a summer of Southbank Centre programming with a focus on our planet.
‘Caring is a form of resistance’
Spoken by artist Otobong Nkanga, these words were a key inspiration for Dear Earth. Nkanga fittingly features in the exhibition too with her In Pursuit of Bling series, which explores the historic impact of industrial mining, and the cost of ‘bling’ on the environment.
The human impact on the environment is also evident in Daiara Tukano’s paintings, which are tributes to the forests that once covered much of Europe – the artist calls the forests ‘our distant cousins’. She belongs to the Yépá Mahsã people (widely known as Tukano) who believe that human beings are equal participants in a dialogue with everything that exists.
Artists are inspired to create by their passion and deep concern for the environment
Displayed out in the open on one of the Hayward Gallery’s sculpture courts, Jenny Kendler's new sculpture Birds Watching III features the eyes of one hundred bird species that, as result of the climate crisis, are on the verge of extinction. Her artistic practice aims at encouraging both empathy and care for the natural world. This commission is made in collaboration with London Zoo, and once Dear Earth closes, the work will relocate to the zoo to be exhibited there.
Andrea Bowers’ very active concern for the environment is reflected in her work exploring the complex relationship between the rights of humans and of nature. Bowers’ hanging sculpture Memorial to Arcadia Woodlands Clear-Cut (Green, Violet, and Brown) commemorates her attempt to save a forest in California, which saw her climbing and tying herself to an oak tree.
Dear Earth takes you on a voyage from the nearby to cultures across the world
Through the art in Dear Earth we each embark on a journey that takes in nearby cultures before being taken around the globe. We traverse the swamps of Louisiana and the depleted and degraded Amazonian rainforest, visit a collapsed mine in Namibia, and experience the icy expanses of the Arctic.
Aluaiy Kaumakan is a member of the Paiwan Nation, and her textile sculpture is intimately connected to her ancestral land and culture. In 2009, a devastating typhoon forced the Indigenous Paiwan community to leave their mountain village in southern Taiwan. Kaumakan’s response was to begin working collaboratively with other displaced women from her community, passing on the traditional Paiwan weaving techniques.
Nearer to home, the collective Ackroyd & Harvey create poignant portraits of inspiring London-based activists. Each portrait is grown from grass seed and highlights the sitters’ dedication to protect our planet. The works embody the four vital resources that we need to sustain life on Earth: air, seed, soil and water.
Green ideology meets green artworks
The artist Hito Steyerl draws the significant carbon footprint of the technological world into focus through her remarkable installation Green Screen. In this monumental work, the artist combines a LED screen constructed from empty bottles and crates, and a living wall of plants. The bioelectrical signals from the plants are converted into sounds and images which are then displayed on the LED wall, where each bottle acts as a single pixel.
The exhibition revisits the work of pioneering environmental artist Agnes Denes
A true pioneer of the environmental art movement, Agnes Denes has been creating outdoor works that engage with nature since the late 1960s, and is acknowledged as creating one of the very first site-specific performance pieces with ecological concerns. A recurring motif in her work is the pyramid, which the artist sees as representing both ‘the past and the possible future we will invent’.
Denes’s The Living Pyramid has become one of the artist’s most iconic works. Recreated for the Hayward Gallery, the pyramid reaches five metres in height and is planted with wildflowers and grasses.
Featured main image: Installation view of Andrea Bowers, Dear Earth (21 Jun – 3 Sep 2023). Photo: Mark Blower. Courtesy the Hayward Gallery.