The Hayward Gallery presents Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis, a timely exhibition exploring how international contemporary artists are helping to reframe our responses to the climate crisis.
Dear Earth hopes to inspire a renewed sense of connection with the natural world, and invite audiences to consider the unique and evolving role art has to play in today’s climate debate and activism.
This thematically pioneering, group exhibition features works from fifteen international artists with a focus on foregrounding feminist and diverse perspectives on our relationship with the Earth.
The show also includes a multitude of new commissions from artists and community groups including Hito Steyerl, Cornelia Parker, Daiara Tukano, Richard Mosse, Jenny Kendler, Grounded Ecotherapy and Ackroyd & Harvey. Dear Earth also marks the first time artists Daiara Tukano and Aluaiy Kaumakan have shown their work in a major UK art institution.
With featured artist Otobong Nkanga’s suggestion that “caring is a form of resistance” at its core, Dear Earth is a hopeful and compassionate show drawing on themes of resilience, care and tending. It encourages audiences to collectively explore how care for our planet is embedded in political, spiritual and environmental actions, including through the perspectives of animals, plants, rivers, oceans and marginalised communities worldwide.
Dear Earth is presented as part of Planet Summer, the Southbank Centre’s wider summer season of work centering on the climate emergency. With a focus on empathy and activism, it encompasses performance, literature, poetry and spoken word, as well as classical and contemporary music across the site. The summer programme is reflective of the Southbank Centre’s commitment to sustainability and its continued work to be a Net Zero carbon site by 2035 (Scope 1 and 2). You can read more on Planet Summer and our sustainability targets here.
The exhibition Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis brings together three generations of artists who offer us compelling ways to reflect on and reset our relationship to the major environmental issues of our time. Designed to engage us on multiple levels, their artworks are a source of inspiration, hope and resilience. This is an exhibition that aims not to breed despair, but to bring audiences closer to this overwhelming subject in ways that can spark active and imaginative responses.Rachel Thomas, Chief Curator at the Hayward Gallery
Works featured in the exhibition encompass a multidisciplinary range of media, from seedling grass to water and tapestry to sculpture. A number of works are also installed across the Southbank Centre site, including a new, permanent pocket forest in collaboration with urban rewilding organisation SUGi that comprises 390 trees. You can read more on this here.
Dear Earth brings an important new perspective to the fore by focusing on artists whose work emphasises an ethic of care and compassion in how they engage with the climate emergency. Leading on from the Hayward’s 2020 Among the Trees exhibition, it embodies the Gallery’s ongoing commitment to presenting engaging and thought-provoking artworks that address this central issue of our time.Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward Gallery,
Ackroyd & Harvey are British artists acclaimed for creating works that intersect art, activism, architecture, biology, ecology and history. The duo have been commissioned to make a new ‘photographic photosynthesis’ series comprising large-scale portraits of environmental activists made from seedling grass. This series is conceptually aligned with campaigns to “reclaim the commons”. The portraits each represent one of the four cornerstones of the commons, namely soil, air, water and seed, in the call for Rights of Nature, climate and ecological justice.
Andrea Bowers is a Los-Angeles-based artist working in a variety of media including video, drawing and installation. For Dear Earth, Bowers is showcasing her sculptural works alongside intricate acrylic paintings on reclaimed cardboard, rooted in ideas of activism and feminism.
Imani Jacqueline Brown is an artist, activist and researcher from New Orleans, living in London. For the show, the artist is presenting several works including a video installation titled What remains at the ends of the earth? (2022). This piece has previously been shown at the Berlin Biennial. The work explores the coastal wetlands of Louisiana, USA, which are rapidly disintegrating into the sea. The video will spotlight the detrimental impact from the fossil fuel industries operating there and the resistance of the land against its destruction including the restorative effects of magnolia and willow trees that were planted by enslaved people in memory of their loved ones.
Agnes Denes is a Hungarian-born American conceptual artist based in New York and is considered a pioneer of environmental art. The artist spotlights her iconic work The Living Pyramid (2015). Reaching five metres in height, it is shown indoors for the first time and is planted with grasses and wildflowers. The Living Pyramid is accompanied by a series of drawings, prints, and architectural models.
John Gerrard was born in 1974 in Tipperary, Ireland, and he currently lives in Dublin, Ireland. Gerrard is best-known for his sculptures that typically take the form of digital simulations displayed using real-time computer graphics. On the occasion of the exhibition, the artist presents Surrender (Flag) 2023, a digital simulation that will be shown outside the gallery on a large LED screen. From September 29, Surrender (Flag) 2023 will feature in U2’s first live show in four years, “U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At Sphere” in Las Vegas.
Cristina Iglesias is a Spanish installation artist and sculptor living and working in Torrelodones, Madrid. Iglesias presents Pabellón de Cristal I, an immersive environment that combines glass, bronze and steel with swirling water that runs over geological structures below your feet.
Aluaiy Kaumakan is an interdisciplinary textile sculptor and installation artist from the Paiwan Paridrayan tribe of indigenous peoples in Taiwan. She is presenting The Axis of Life & Vines in the Mountain (2018), a textile installation made using a traditional technique of hooking and weaving, called Lemikalik in Paiwanese. Lemikalik refers to the intertwining of threads and materials but also to the intertwining of memories and cultural legacies passed down through generations. After the devastating impact of Typhoon Morakot in 2009, which displaced the Paridrayan people, art became a force of rebirth and cohesion, and a way for Kaumakan to reconnect with important cultural traditions.
Jenny Kendler is an American interdisciplinary environmental artist, activist, naturalist and wild forager who lives and works in Chicago. In collaboration with ZSL, the artist has been commissioned to create a new, site-specific presentation called Birds Watching III, a large-scale sculpture composed of a ‘flock’ of birds’ eyes, each one belonging to a species of local and British birds endangered by the climate crisis. This work acts as a powerful statement about the importance of conservation. Kendler also presents Tell It To The Birds, which will translate human language into birdsong to create a deeper connection to nature.
Richard Mosse is an Irish artist, currently based in New York, whose work centres around documenting some of the most significant humanitarian and environmental crises of our time. For Dear Earth, the artist presents a new film commission that focuses on environmental devastation in the Amazon rainforest. This has been done through a series of poignant speeches by Yanomami indigenous people of the Amazonian rainforest of Roraima and Amazonas states, which straddles the Brazil-Venezuela border.
Otobong Nkanga is a Nigerian-born visual and performance artist based in Antwerp, Belgium. Nkanga’s works are central to the exhibition, with her suggestion that “to care is a form of resistance” underpinning Dear Earth. The show presents a range of the artist’s work across different mediums, from tapestry to sculpture, film to photography. The artist’s work includes The Trifurcation, a large installation featuring the trunk and roots of a naturally-felled sweet chestnut tree and three glass biospheres that act as miniature ecosystems.
Cornelia Parker is a British visual artist, best known for her sculpture and installation art. For Dear Earth, Parker has been commissioned to create a new, two-channel video in dialogue with children from London schools about their perspective on the future. Through this artwork, the artist aims to raise awareness on the urgent need for action to address the environmental crisis.
Himali Singh Soin is a writer and artist who currently works in between New Delhi and London. Singh Soin’s interdisciplinary work focuses on the nature of identity, environmental issues and the notion of deep time. For the exhibition, the artist presents a video work as part of an ongoing series of interdisciplinary artworks titled we are opposite like that (2017-2022). Pairing poetry and archival material, the video recounts the stories of Victorian anxiety over encroaching glaciers and an alien figure who transforms into shimmering ice.
Hito Steyerl is a German filmmaker, moving image artist, writer and innovator of the essay documentary. For Dear Earth, Steyerl was commissioned to create a video presented on a large-scale DIY LED screen made of recycled bottles and vegetation. The project expands and updates an open-source design originally developed by renowned hackerspace c-Base in Berlin. The installation is Steyerl’s conceptual take on a ‘green screen’ and raises issues of sustainability in digital technology.
Daiara Tukano is a Brazilian visual artist, independent communicator, indigenous rights activist, and human rights researcher who belongs to the Eremiri Hãusiro Parameri clan of the Yépá Mahsã people (known as Tukano). The artist’s practice is based on research of Tukano traditions and spirituality, especially the Hori: visions triggered by traditional medicine from which the Tukano’s knowledge and history stem. For the exhibition, Tukano has created large-scale paintings focused on forests that will span over eight metres.
Paul Pulford and Grounded Ecotherapy have created Precious Stones, a new garden commission in the Queen Elizabeth Hall’s roof garden. The project is directed by Paul Pulford, founder of Grounded Ecotherapy, a scheme that provides therapy and skills through gardening for people with experience of substance misuse, mental health difficulties and homelessness. Precious Stones is made up from stones, tiles, bricks, as well as surplus building materials from around the Southbank Centre area. With the help of volunteers, the team arranged the materials to create an eclectic mosaic of salvaged materials covering the wildflower meadows. The project responds to the growing impact of the climate crisis and the necessity to build resilient communities and farming practices. This new garden is bedded using a technique called rock mulching, an ancestral water-retention technique of Native American people in the southwestern United States. The method allows rainwater to permeate the soil, while evaporating moisture condensed into droplets, replenishing the earth. This arrangement cools the environment and acts as a natural drip irrigation system, preserving water and supporting wildlife.
The catalogue for the exhibition features texts on each artist, and essays by Rachel Thomas, Rebecca Solnit, Maja and Reuben Fowkes, Greta Thunberg and Imani Jacqueline Brown. It also includes a conversion between artist Jenny Kendler and birder J. Drew Lanham, a manifesto by Agnes Denes, poetry by Deena Metzger and an extract from an interview on activism by Andrea Bowers. The catalogue is designed by Melanie Mues, and the cover features a detail of the drawing Reconciliation (2018) by Otobong Nkanga.
Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis is curated by Chief Curator Rachel Thomas with Assistant Curator Marie-Charlotte Carrier and Curatorial Assistant Debbie Meniru.
Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis, 21st June – 3rd September 2023, Hayward Gallery
Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis is generously supported by Simon Morris and Annalisa Burello, Catherine Walsh and the Dear Earth: Exhibition Supporters’ Group: Andrew Kreps Gallery; Pace Gallery; Esther Schipper, Berlin/Paris/Seoul; Bianca and Stuart Roden; Charlotte Feng Ford; Monica Monajem; Gagosian; Lisson Gallery; Jack Shainman Gallery; Trevor Bowen; and Vielmetter Los Angeles. With additional support from Mariana Clayton, Mercedes Vilardell, The African Arts Trust, the Goethe-Institut London and ZSL (Zoological Society of London).
We are grateful for the Hayward Gallery Commissioning Committee’s key support in helping us to realise the outdoor commissions for Dear Earth.
The public programme is kindly supported by the Gaia Art Foundation.