Back to Earth

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Open: Tue-Sun 10am-6pm

West Carriage Drive, W2 2AR, London, UK
Open: Tue-Sun 10am-6pm


Back to Earth

to Sun 18 Sep 2022

West Carriage Drive, W2 2AR Back to Earth

Tue-Sun 10am-6pm

Special event: Saturday Talks: Sarah Hamed on Back to Earth. Saturday 6 August, 3pm

Back to Earth is Serpentine’s long-term, interdisciplinary, artistic programme responding to the urgent climate crisis.

Serpentine North Gallery Back to Earth 1

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Serpentine North Gallery Back to Earth 7

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Serpentine North Gallery Back to Earth 10

The programme features an exhibition staged at Serpentine North, 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.

Back to Earth exhibition at Serpentine North

Brian Eno is creating a new sound and light installation emerging from his research into generative compositions.

Artist Tabita Rezaire/Amakaba and architect Yussef Agbo-Ola/Olaniyi Studio presents 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.

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.

Research-based design studio Formafantasma presents 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 wallpaper by artist Carolina Caycedo envelops the exhibition space, collaging satellite images of waterways that have been shaped by human intervention across the Americas. A new film commission, The Family and The Zombie by Karrabing Film Collective, premieres 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 is 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.

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.

Beyond Serpentine North and 2022

Coinciding with the exhibition, Back to Earth LIVE brings together Serpentine’s vast network of individuals and organisations involved in tackling the environmental crisis in an extensive and ambitious 3-month programme of talks, performances and debates.

The programme includes the UK premiere of the award-winning opera performance Sun & Sea, winner of the Golden Lion for best National participation, Venice Biennale 2019, by composer Lina Lapelytė, librettist Vaiva Grainytė and director Rugilė Barzdžiukaite, curated by Lucia Pietroiusti, Founder of Serpentine’s General Ecology programme. Hosted at The Albany, Lewisham, London, from 23 June to 10 July, the show is co-presented by LIFT, the Albany and Serpentine as part of LIFT 2022, Back to Earth and We Are Lewisham. We Are Lewisham is presented by Lewisham Council, in partnership with the Albany. Lewisham is the London Borough of Culture 2022, a Mayor of London initiative.

Reflecting Serpentine’s long-term commitment to working together with artists in the face of climate change and following on from the organisation’s long-standing experience in the production of ambitious, multidisciplinary, live events at the forefront of contemporary thought, the Back to Earth Marathon, co-curated with Brian Eno, will bring together participants across all disciplines to address today’s environmental urgencies on Earth Day 2023 (22nd April).

Back to Earth LIVE also presents the premiere of Manthia Diawara’s Back to Earth film commission, emerging from conversations with the community in which he lives for part of the year, namely the seaside town of Yene, Senegal. The film records the local community’s responses to climate change, and his own part as a filmmaker, in relation to the philosophical thinking of Édouard Glissant. Co-commissioned with MUBI and PCAI Polygreen Culture & Art Initiative. Back to Earth LIVE also features a newly commissioned performance by Himali Singh Soin and David Soin Tappeser, as well as workshops and discussions by Kate Raworth, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and Bones Tan Jones.

Curated by Radical Ecology, a series of workshops, screenings and public events will embed questions around pollution, ecocide, migrant justice and climate finance within the context of the borough, and brings together campaigner Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, ecocide lawyer Philippe Sands and musicians Tomorrow’s Warriors among others eminent participants.

Back to Earth LIVE includes Queer Earth and Liquid Matters, a two-day event co-curated with Jack Halberstam and Macarena Gómez-Barris and presented in collaboration with Queercircle and Stone Nest in July. The shows dive into transformation, queerness, the natural and unnatural, wild, decolonial, Indigenous and submerged perspectives. The programme features talks, performances, film and more from a stellar list of participants including Jack Halberstam, Victoria Hunt, Macarena Gómez-Barris, Juan Francisco Salazar, Xavi Aguirre, P. Staff, Sebastián Calfuqueo, Adham Faramawy, Bhanu Kapil, Bones Tan Jones and Ash Fure.

During the course of Back to Earth, Cooking Sections presents new CLIMAVORE elements of the menu on offer at The Magazine in collaboration with Benugo and chef Tomas Kolkus. The new ingredients Cooking Sections embed in the menu will 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 will be 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.

Back to Earth exhibition at Serpentine North (22 June – 18 September). Installation view. © Courtesy Serpentine.

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