Back to Earth is Serpentine’s long-term, interdisciplinary, artistic programme responding to the urgent climate crisis. The programme features an exhibition staged at Serpentine North from 22 June to 18 September 2022, with further works situated in Serpentine’s restaurant The Magazine and further afield in Kensington Gardens. Back to Earth also features an extensive live programme with activations during the exhibition and for the next two years.
Evoking responses to the climate emergency and spotlighting a multitude of durational perspectives from across the globe, Back to Earth reflects how we can learn from diverse experiences to create change.
Sun & Sea. © Elon Shoenholz.
About Back to Earth
Back to Earth is a multi-year project that invites over sixty leading artists, architects, poets, filmmakers, scientists, thinkers and designers to respond to the environmental crisis. With the support of partner organisations and networks, these collaborators are devising artistic campaigns, protocols and initiatives.
Interdisciplinary at its core, Back to Earth manifests throughout all of Serpentine’s onsite, offsite and online programmes, sharing its resources in order to amplify ongoing projects or campaigns around the climate emergency, as well as to develop new ones. Back to Earth considers ecology as embedded in everyday practices and agencies.
Back to Earth is a programme about change and a catalyst for change. Echoing the global response to the climate crisis, Back to Earth is a complex web of interconnected research, interventions and activities. The project asks: What new ecosystems can foster agency within organisations? Which kinds of research-sharing, resource-sharing and collaborative working practices are necessary to present complex responses to complex problems? How can arts institutions bring visibility to climate actions that create positive change for communities, places and imaginations around the world?
Carolina Caycedo, This Land is a Poem of Ten Rivers Healing, 2022. Latex print on PVC free wallpaper. Back to Earth exhibition at Serpentine North (22 June – 18 September). Installation view. © readsreads.info. Courtesy Serpentine.
The programme emerged out of Serpentine’s long-standing engagement with the topics of extinction and the disappearance of species, knowledges and customs, which began with the 2014 Extinction Marathon, co-curated with artist Gustav Metzger, as well as out of General Ecology, Serpentine’s overarching environmental research project. Collaborators include Judy Chicago, Sir David Adjaye, Vivienne Westwood, Etel Adnan and Olafur Eliasson.
Championing new ideas in contemporary art since 1970, Serpentine has presented pioneering exhibitions for half a century from a wide range of emerging practitioners to the most internationally recognised artists of our time.
140 Artists‘ Ideas for Planet Earth edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Kostas Stasinopoulos has been relaunched as a paperback edition. Through 140 drawings, thought experiments, recipes, activist instructions, gardening ideas, insurgences and personal revolutions, artists who spend their lives thinking outside the box guide readers to a new worldview.
Tabita Rezaire/AMAKABA and Yussef Agbo-Ola/OLANIYI STUDIO, IKUM: Drying Temple, 2022. Dyed cotton tensiles, reclaimed pine frame, medicinal plants, recycled cellulose cable ties. Back to Earth exhibition at Serpentine North (22 June – 18 September). Installation view. © readsreads.info. Courtesy Serpentine..
Brian Eno has created a new sound and light installation emerging from his research into generative compositions and Agnes Denes presents her flag The Future is Fragile, Handle with Care.
Artist Tabita Rezaire/Amakaba and architect Yussef Agbo-Ola/Olaniyi Studio present an installation exploring our relationship to medicinal plants. They have designed a temple as a multisensory space for audiences to remind themselves of the healing powers of plants. The temple is constructed using materials recycled from Serpentine’s previous exhibitions and adorned with specially woven panels that will be reassembled into a building in Amakaba, Rezaire’s centre for agroecology in French Guiana. This installation is presented in collaboration with Palais de Tokyo, Paris.
A new wallpaper by artist Carolina Caycedo envelops the exhibition space, collaging satellite images of waterways that have been shaped by human intervention across the Americas.
Further highlights include a series of earth and clay forms by Dineo Seshee Bopape. The artist’s movements and breath are translated into sound pieces by animist and shaman Catitu Tayassu in a collaboration that explores methods of reengaging with our bodies, lands and ancestors.
Seba Calfuqueo, Tray Tray Ko, video, 6’13, 2022, film still, photo by: Sebastian Melo. © Serpentine and the artist.
Research-based design studio Formafantasma present a manifesto for exhibition-making that minimises carbon emissions, alongside many other artist’s designed posters. Artist Giles Round’s intervention features mirrored surfaces and forms based on the satellites that survey environmental changes to maximise natural daylight and reduce the need for artificial lighting.
A new film commission, The Family and The Zombie by Karrabing Film Collective, is premiering in the UK to explore the significance of connection to land and in Indigenous communities.
A unique smell score by artist and researcher Sissel Tolaas evolves through the space and over the course of the exhibition, drawing on the emotional power of our sense of smell to address the need for change in response to the climate emergency.
Expanding beyond the exhibition space, the gallery shop has been transformed through a collaboration between design and experiential futures company Superflux and designer Ghazaal Vojdani. They present a shop for the future that aims to gather knowledge from a group of advisors, offering visitors a selection of books and products that reflect alternative models of consumption in a changed climate.
During the course of Back to Earth, Cooking Sections present new CLIMAVORE elements of the menu on offer at The Magazine in collaboration with Benugo. The new ingredients Cooking Sections embed in the menu continue to have a focus on regenerative aquaculture and agriculture.
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s Pollinator Pathmaker at North Flower Walk in Kensington Gardens and online at www.pollinator.art is ongoing for the next two years. This uses a data-led algorithmic method of planting to focus on the needs of pollinators in the UK. Along with external partners, a methodology for recording and monitoring pollinator patterns is being developed.
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Pollinator Pathmaker, Serpentine Edition Garden, 2022. Back to Earth exhibition at Serpentine North (22 June – 18 September). Installation view. © readsreads.info. Courtesy Serpentine
Bettina Korek and Hans Ulrich Obrist said: „Now in its third year, the Back to Earth initiative has been a remarkable testament to what a dynamic platform for interdisciplinary ideas and practices Serpentine is. This exhibition is a chance to share a selection of Back to Earth projects with audiences, under the common banner of a show, to think about the interplay among artists, thinkers, performers and curators, and to consider the importance of building new connections between art and society. There could not be a more universal subject matter than the Earth and the climate crisis we are facing as natural beings. We are galvanised by the calls for change and creative solutions that have come to life through Back to Earth and hope that they inspire more.“
Placing sustainability at the core of the exhibition, Back to Earth at Serpentine North continues to use existing structures and reuse the materials from disassembled parts of Radio Ballads, the preceding exhibition, to minimise waste build and reimagine exhibition making. Almost all work has been produced locally and inks and papers involved in printed materials have been selected to prioritise recycled processes.
Press release Serpentine Galleries
Title Image: Seba Calfuqueo, Tray Tray Ko, video, 6’13, 2022, film still, photo by: Sebastian Melo