The world feels so overwhelming right now. Yes, the pandemic is waning but we’ve gone straight into a cost of living crisis and there’s the horrific war in Ukraine, and let’s not forget the massive elephant in the room that is the climate emergency.
The latter is the topic of a dense exhibition at Barbican that covers the horrific devastation we are unleashing on the planet. Outside the main Curve gallery exhibition space is a beautiful set of leaves hanging from the ceiling that flickers from solid to transparent, by Thijs Biersteker. It’s mesmerising and then you read that each leaf that goes transparent represents the loss of 128 square metres of the Amazon rainforest – averaging 641 square metres per second. It’s utterly horrifying and also an example of how artists can take hard to process numbers and make it into something powerful and confrontational.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom and many of the exhibitors are showcasing ideas that could help us live more sustainably such as fashion made from plants and sustainable alternatives for wood and concrete.
Innovations abound but it’s important to note that living harmoniously with nature is something indigenous communities have been doing for centuries and the industrialised world has been at best ignoring them, at worst exploiting them. One concept in this show is manipulating trees to create bridges and walkways - it’s particularly appealing given the Barbican has walkways at elevated levels it’s not too much of a reach to imagine living walkways criss-crossing London above street level, with leaves sheltering us from the rain and sun – how magical would that be?
Noise Aquarium, Victoria Vesna-Adam Bogdan
Alongside the powerful messages,there are some mesmerising artworks on display too including a towering digital recreation of a tree by Marshmallow Laser Feast that shows how a lot of the action occurs under the surface and below the ground as we see nutrients flow up and down inside a tree towards the canopy and down into its roots. The exhibition in the Curve space ends with a sonic waterfall by Silent Studios whose sounds are designed to relieve anxiety and it’s what’s needed after absorbing such an informative exhibition.
The climate emergency requires action and it’s great to see so much activity focussed on highlighting the importance of nature, building awareness of the devastation we are unleashing on the planet and the solutions available to us. These may not be the solutions that solve the climate emergency but seeing so much work being done in this area it will leave visitors with a sense of optimism that we will find a way to live more harmoniously on Earth. If there’s one word that sums up this exhibition it’s hope, and we could all use some of that right now.
|What||Our Time on Earth|
|Where||Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Barbican (underground)|
05 May 22 – 29 Aug 22, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM