Back to earth

Olafur Eliasson’s new participatory artwork imagines a new future for our planet
Art | 16 April 2020
Text Finn Blythe
This article is part of Eco Watch

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson is preparing a new artwork to be unveiled on Earth Day (22nd April) for the Serpentine Gallery’s Back to Earth series, an annual invitation to artists, scientists, architects and musicians to create a work that responds to our environmental crisis.

For Eliasson, nature and an awareness of the natural world are at the core of his multi-disciplinary practice. Anyone who saw his Tate exhibition last year (or his turbine commission Weather Project in 2003) and witnessed his 40ft waterfall, wall of living moss and photographs of shrinking glaciers will know how deeply ecology permeates his works, not to mention the vast slabs of glacial ice that Eliasson hauled from Greenland to melt in the streets of London.

For the Serpentine, Eliasson will challenge singular perceptions of the world, demonstrating how maps, space and the earth itself are merely human constructs that only reveal part of a far larger picture. Earth perspectives will demonstrate how these means of ordering and standardising our environments require careful reconsideration if we are to change course for the better.

“Today, ‘the world as we know it’ is a phrase of the past,” said Eliasson. “The current health crisis has brought our societies close to a halt, affecting our economies, our freedoms, and even our social ties. We must take the time to empathise with all those struck by the crisis and also seize this opportunity to imagine together the earth that we want to inhabit in the future – in all its wonders and beauty, in the face of all the challenges ahead of us.”

Earth perspectives envisions the earth we want to live on together by welcoming multiple perspectives – not only human perspectives but also those of plants, animals, and nature. A glacier’s perspective deviates from that of a human. The same goes for a river. On Earth Day, I want to advocate – as on any other day – that we recognise these various perspectives and, together, celebrate their co-existence.”

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