Back to Earth

20 Apr 20 – ongoing Free

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?

Throughout the course of 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. These methodologies and practices will be open-sourced as a toolkit, on our website and via podcast. The first in this process is a new podcast series, exploring the initiatives from the voice of the artist and invited guests, listen here.

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.

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.

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.


Olafur Eliasson: Earth Perspectives

Earth Perspectives, a new participatory artwork by Olafur Eliasson launched on Earth Day, 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.

Find out more here.

Judy Chicago, Swoon and Jane Fonda: #CreateArtforEarth

#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.

Find out more here.

Carolina Caycedo: From River Rights to Just Fair Energy Transition

Drawing on her own Colombian-American roots, multidisciplinary artist Carolina Caycedo is researching community-led alternative energy production across the Americas. The basis of her campaign for Back to Earth is her long-running investigation into human interaction with rivers, from access to clean water supplies to toxicity levels and the impact of dams.

Find out more here.

Maria Thereza Alves: To See the Forest Standing

To See The Forest Standing is an ongoing research-based artwork and campaign by Maria Thereza Alves to bring awareness to the protection, care and preservation of the forest by the AMAAIAC, the Association of the Movement of Indigenous Agroforestry Agents of the State of Acre, Brazil, as well as the threats to this stewardship posed by the aggressive extractive activities of agrobusiness and government alike.

Find out more here.


Discover 50 years of the Serpentine

From the architecture pavilion and digital commissions to the ideas marathon and the General Ecology programme, explore 50 years of artists, projects and exhibitions.

View archive