Back to Earth

22 Apr 2020 to 1 Apr 2022

Back to Earth

Listen to Serpentine Podcast: Back to Earth

A multi-year project bringing together over sixty artist-led environmental campaigns.

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Scroll down to learn more about recently-launched campaigns by Judy Chicago, Jane Fonda and Swoon; and Olafur Eliasson

Back to Earth is a new multi-year project that invites over sixty leading artists, architects, poets, filmmakers, scientists, thinkers and designers, to devise artist-led campaigns, protocols and initiatives responding to the environmental crisis, with the support of partner organisations and networks.

Interdisciplinary at its very core, Back to Earth will manifest throughout all of the Galleries’ programmes onsite, offsite and online, sharing its resources to amplify ongoing projects or campaigns, or develop new ones. 

Back to Earth thinks about ecology as it weaves in and out of those practices and agencies embedded in the everyday. Rather than celebrating escape strategies from Earth, reserved for the few, it roots itself firmly in the messy and complex realities of the ground we walk on. A multi-disciplinary project taking place across all of the Serpentine’s strands, Back to Earth is both a programme about change and a catalyst for change. Much like the climate crisis itself, Back to Earth is a complex web of interconnected research, interventions and activities. It asks: What new ecosystems can foster agency within ecosystems? What kinds of research-sharing, resource-sharing and collaborative working practices are necessary to present complex responses to complex problems?

The methodologies and practices of Back to Earth will be open-sourced as a toolkit, on our website and via a series of podcasts, you can listen to the new series here and hear us explore the progress and findings of each of the initiatives with artists and invited guests. Throughout the project, we will be tracking how each campaign, as well as the programming and organisational structure that subtends them, can become a prototype that can be translated or applied throughout other organisations.

Back to Earth emerges out of the Serpentine’s long-standing engagement with the topics of extinction and the disappearance of species, knowledges and customs, which began with the 2014 Extinction Marathon, co-curated with artist Gustav Metzger, as well as out of General Ecology, the Serpentine’s multi-year project taking place across public programmes, publications, exhibition and radio with the aim of embedding environmental and ecological concerns across the Galleries’ programmes, infrastructure and networks. 

As all of the projects within Back to Earth will manifest themselves in different ways, onsite, offsite and online, and at different paces, Back to Earth is an anniversary unlike others: rather than celebrate the last 50 years of the Serpentine, it calls forth artists, partners and friends to look ahead and imagine together, for the sake of the next 50, 500 and 5,000 years.

Back to Earth is curated and produced by: 

Rebecca Lewin, Curator, Exhibitions and Design
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director
Jo Paton, Chief Producer
Lucia Pietroiusti, Curator, General Ecology
Holly Shuttleworth, Producer 
Kostas Stasinopoulos, Assistant Curator, Live Programmes 

with further collaborations taking place across the entire organisation of the Serpentine Galleries.


Earth Perspectives: Olafur Eliasson, from 22 April

Earth perspectives, a new participatory artwork by Olafur Eliasson, will be launched on Earth Day on Wednesday 22 April 2020 as part of Back to Earth. Olafur Eliasson’s new work, Earth perspectives encapsulates how maps, space, and the earth itself are human constructs, which we have the power to see from other perspectives, whether individually or collectively. 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. Download Earth perspectives here.

#CreateArtforEarth: Judy Chicago, Swoon and Jane Fonda, from 20 April

#CreateArtForEarth campaign kicks off with an open call for anyone to submit art or messages addressing climate justice and post them to social media using the hashtag #CreateArtForEarth. Submissions can be in any form: paintings, photographs, sculptures, images, texts, poems, symbols, or any other visual representation that carries an environmental message. Find out more on our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. During this period of uncertainty and social distancing, while streets are empty and in person demonstrations are suspended, #CreateArtForEarth is a call to make protest visible and create art that reflects our mutual commitment to stop the climate crisis and protect our planet.


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Judy Chicago Polar Bear

Judy Chicago Polar Bear

Create Art for Earth

Create Art for Earth

Back to Earth

Back to Earth


The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish

The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants

Jenna Sutela

Sporulating Paragraph, 2017
Photo: Istvan Virag

Courtesy of the artist and Momentum 9

Back to Earth Podcast

Back to Earth Podcast

Symposium: The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish, Part 2: We have never been one

Gruff Theatre performing Anna Tsing's Golden Snail Opera at The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish, Part 2: we have never been one, 1 December 2018, Ambika P3