Tabish Khan the @LondonArtCritic reviews the current exhibition at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
When was the last time you picked up a clump of soil just to take in its texture, ran your hand through grass for the sensation of doing so, or watched butterflies dance around each other when you’re already late for your next meeting or appointment?
If you live in a major city like London, life rushes past you and we’re always playing catch up – I’m writing this review while on a train to another exhibition, absorbed in my laptop instead of taking in the scenery rushing by. Many of us have lost our time and connection with nature, and the Super Natural exhibition at the Eden Project in Cornwall is all about challenging us to reconnect with the natural world around us.
The Eden project is a massive site in Cornwall that includes two biomes filled with plant life from around the world – one with a Mediterranean climate and the other with rainforest flora and some adorable fauna in the form of some roul-rouls, mango shaped and coloured birds used for pest control. It’s a stunning site and an experience that I highly recommend visiting, the hardest part being resisting the urge to take a pair of the incredibly tame roul-rouls home.
The exhibition itself is in the rather sterile gallery space and it does feel like working them into the wider grounds would have made them more impactful, even if that would be a lot trickier in terms of looking after the work. This is reflected by the fact the most effective work is located outside the gallery – Ingela Ihrman’s ‘First came the landscape’, a human-like skeleton constructed out of pieces of a fallen tree with thick branches for ribs and chunks of the trunk for the limbs. The work will evolve as it naturally decays and hands-on visitors move the ‘bones’ about.
Likewise with the Ai Weiwei’s giant tree root segment recreated in iron that is currently in the gallery but will be relocated to the rainforest biome where it feels like it would be more at home.
This is not to say that even in the gallery setting these works can’t be thought provoking as Iman Datoo’s sound piece asks us to look at potatoes and really study them, their eyes and their colour. Her choice of potatoes is because almost all cultures have a dish featuring them and we take them for granted without really considering their shape and size – it’s a lovely meditative process.
Kedisha Coakley also focuses on food with bronze casts of fruits, including passion fruit and lychee, immortalising the thrown aside skins of the fruits we eat. Each fruit has a history tied to how it ended up on our shores – through migration and colonialism, though it does feel like this could be explored further in the work tying it to the peoples who eat them and how this forges connections back to the countries of their parents and grandparents.
By itself Super Natural is unlikely to bring in visitors, but given the Eden Project has hundreds of thousands of visitors every year it’s a great chance to tie art into their visits. Now if you’ll excuse me it’s time to take a break from my laptop and go for a walk in my nearest park.
Super Natural is on at the Eden Project, Cornwall until 1 May. Entry is included in the price of admission to the Eden Project (£32.50-£37.50 for adults).
First image: Work by Ingela Ihrman, image courtesy Eden project.
Second image: © Ai Weiwei; Courtesy of the Artist and Lisson Gallery