December 23, 2019
We are currently facing an ecological and climate crisis. The planet is at risk of catastrophic effects from global warming and it is hugely important – now more than ever – that we recognise the damage caused from human activities and begin to take real, immediate action towards lowering the impending impacts.
Eco-Visionaries is a timely, must-see exhibition that explores how artists, designers and architects are responding to the most urgent issues that are contributing to our rapidly changing world.
Looking beyond the mainstream notions of sustainability, Eco-Visionaries presents innovative approaches from climate change to species extinction and resource depletion.
Before submerging yourself in the exhibition, you encounter an abundance of information in the corridor; a timeline introduces a selection of key events in recent ecological history, environmental activism and its connection to creative practices.
Way back in 1750, the world population was estimated to be 700 million. The estimation for 2050 is expected to reach 9.7 billion, which is 20% higher than today’s population of 7.8 billion! Our growing population is leading to the destruction of ecosystems, the extinction of species and a resource crisis. Global warming will accelerate the rate of extinction and is responsible for the melting of polar ice caps, rising sea levels, extreme weather events, droughts and floods.
We need to understand how to sustain the environment on a global scale. ‘The planet faces an uncertain future, but it is still possible for it to heal and grow’. We are striving to survive!
Through film, installation, architectural models and photography, the works in this exhibition are brought together by international practitioners, including Olafur Eliasson Hon RA, Virgil Abloh, Rimini Protokoll, HeHe, Ana Vaz and Tristan Bera, and Nerea Calvillo.
Here are a few of my favourite pieces from the participants above that I class as ‘exhibition standouts’:
The first piece you face is HeHe’s mixed media installation, Domestic catastrophe N°3: La Planète Laboratoire. A globe is suspended in a murky tank, spinning slowly on its axis. The murkiness of green dust evokes the natural gases and human-made emissions surrounding the planet. You are able to tangibly see how pollution is harming the Earth. It is accompanied by the melody of Clara Rockmore’s haunting theremin performance of Camille Saint-Saens’ Le Cygne (The Swan), suggesting humanity’s slow response and apathetic attitude towards the climate-change emergency.
I am a huge fan of Olafur Eliasson, so was elated to see his work feature in this exhibition. The Ice Melting Series archives twenty photographs of glacial ice melting into the terrain in Iceland. Glaciers cover roughly 10% of the world’s surface. Here, Eliasson draws attention to the polar ice caps that our planet is sadly losing after staying frozen for centuries, due to our seemingly small and isolated actions.
Virgil Abloh is known for being one of the many kings of fashion, yet his occupation as an artist has not been overlooked from his long list of talents. The polymath has designed a polished bronze Alaska Chair, inspired by the mass-consumption of our everyday lives and regular floods in Venice caused by high tides and warm winds. The chair is partly submerged by the rising flood waters, with a doorstep wedge symbolically representing the short-term, makeshift solutions we have for tackling climate change.
Eco-Visionaries definitely saves the best until last. Rimini Protokoll’s win > < win is an immersive, interactive experience that displays one of the most common jellyfish species, moon jellyfish. The installation compares self-aware humans to spineless, brainless animals that pulsate through the water by instinct with no intention. They are the complete opposite of a human. When we disappear from the planet, we do not know if or when human life will continue, however, jellyfish are immortal. They love warming water as it helps them do more; they grow faster, eat and breed more, and thus live longer. This work is a simple yet beautiful interplay between jellyfish and climate change.
Eco-Visionaries is by far the most significant exhibition I have visited all year. I entered with a sense of wonder and left feeling euphoric with lots of new knowledge and a greater appreciation of what needs to be done. I wanted to learn more and read the hard-hitting facts. This exhibition ticked every box for me.
It is crucial that we reach zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 to avoid climate breakdown. Together with conservation organisations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature and Greenpeace, environmental activists such as Greta Thunberg, and major United Nations conferences such as The Earth Summit, the Paris Agreement and COP25 covering sustainability and climate change, we can seek visionary optimism.
I would highly recommend this exhibition to every human! The planet is home to all of us and to all life. We owe it to our home and environment to respect, take care of and protect it. For ourselves and future generations, let us start by taking action today!
‘Eco-Visionaries’ is running at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in the Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries until Sunday 23rd February 2020.
Additional events are accompanying the ‘Eco-Visionaries’ exhibition, take a look here.