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Art for a Healthy Planet 2021

Sharing great art to inspire action for climate, our environment, and biodiversity

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Sharing great art to inspire action for climate, our environment, and biodiversity

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Art for a Healthy Planet 2021

2021

ART 2030

Image above: Diana Thater, Delphine, 1999. Installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist and LACMA. Photography by Frederik Nilsen.

To put it simply, the state of the planet is broken. Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere. - António Guterres, UN Secretary-General


Nature is currently declining at rates unseen in human history, with up to one million species threatened by extinction. Everything on our planet is interconnected - and we are part of the equation. If we are to avert a climate and biodiversity disaster, we must come together to fundamentally reset our relationship with nature.


In 2021, ART 2030 invites the art sector, the SDG sector and beyond, to raise global public awareness of the challenges to the well-being of the planet and all the life it supports. First launched and initated by ART 2030 in 2020, the Art for a Healthy Planet digital campaign continues to call for urgent action to secure a sustainable future for people and the planet, through the power of art.


On Earth Day and World Environment Day 2021, relay the message by sharing great artworks that speak to the need for a healthy planet on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook .


Join the #ArtforaHealthyPlanet movement!

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Images 1-7: Ernesto Neto, Cura Bra Cura Té, 2019. Installation view at Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. © Pinacoteca de São Paulo. Photos: Levi Fanan. Courtesy Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York and Los Angeles.

Cura Bra Cura Té: Ernesto Neto


For Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto, art is a way to envisage possibilities to foster new ethics of common good and sociability, to build a future in which we as humans live in harmony with nature. Neto's oeuvre is sensorial in its essence - his work is to be touched, played with, handled, walked in, sat on, smelled... Through interaction, he invites audiences to access their intrinsic spirituality and humanism, and to also experience ecology, sensuality, and the spirit of community. Neto creates environments for conviviality, for taking a breath and for stimulating consciousness and awareness.


In his 2019 retrospective Ernesto Neto: Sopro (Blow) at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, the artist created a majestic forest installation entitled Cura Bra Cura Té. Roughly translated as "Cure Brazil, cure the Earth", the title hints at a hidden message from the artist behind the words "Cura Té" - to "Cure Yourself". Through its powerful maternal embrace, the work suggested that the forest will prompt our collective healing. Imbued with medicinal leaves used in indigenous rituals, the aromatic in situ work offered a communal space for gathering, sheltering rituals, celebrations and immersive contemplation, key features that anchor his practice.


At the centre of the space, a wooden pole used for torturing slaves symbolized the brutality of colonialism and necropolitics. With the force and the blow of indigenous and Afro-Brazilian representatives, the trunk was cut in four ritual events in an attempt to illustrate their spirituality and connectedness to the Earth.


Click here to discover Ernesto Neto's Earth Day 2021 contribution.

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Image 1-2: Diana Thater, Delphine, 1999. Installation views at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2015. Images courtesy of the artist and LACMA. Photography by Frederik Nilsen.

Delphine: Diana Thater


Artist Diana Thater is known for creating layered and poetic video installations that engage with threats to the natural world, from the extinction of species to long-lasting environmental disasters. Her immersive works immediately make viewers understand how much they stand to lose.


In Delphine, 1999, Thater worked for the very first time with untrained animals in their natural habitat. A conscious activist for environmental protection and preservation, Thater hopes that Delphine generates a sympathetic response from the viewer and creates a new way to communicate between species. “Just because we can’t communicate verbally doesn’t mean we can’t communicate in other ways,” the artist observes.

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Image 1-3: Diana Thater, Chernobyl, 2011. Installation views at Hauser & Wirth, London. Images courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Chernobyl: Diana Thater


In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine exploded. It allegedly released 100 times more nuclear debris than the Hiroshima bomb and was responsible for the deaths and illnesses of thousands of people. Filmed in the ‘Exclusion Zone’, a 30 kilometre area that surrounds the site of the nuclear disaster, Diana Thater’s Chernobyl, 2011, spotlights the consequences of manmade environmental disasters.


Thater writes: “Chernobyl is falling into ruins, but still looks like a city; there are stores, apartment buildings, schools. Even though it’s deserted and falling apart, animals are moving into the city. On the one hand, you have a perfectly preserved Soviet city from 1970; on the other hand, this irradiated zone where animals live but cannot thrive. Chernobyl represents a failure of a massive political system, a way of life, and of science. Yet nature continues to persist. Not because it wants or chooses to, but because it must.”

Video: Diana Thater, Yes, there will be singing, 2020. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner.

Yes, there will be singing: Diana Thater


In her newest work, Yes, there will be singing, 2020, Diana Thater invites Whale 52 to sing for anyone willing to listen.


Whale 52 is likely a male blue whale, which has never been seen, only heard over a period of decades. He calls out at 52 hertz, a frequency outside that of a normal whale of his kind. Scientists have suggested that the odd frequency of Whale 52’s songs may be due to his being deafened by Navy sonar, seismic surveys, ships and other kinds of human sound pollution, which have been shown to dramatically affect whale vocalisation and hearing.


Nicknamed "the loneliest whale alive," as his possible hearing impairment would have left him unable to communicate with other whales, Whale 52 and his uncommon songs remain a mystery, yet they resonate as potent symbols of how humans disrupt the natural world.

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Calling upon our governments and societies to take urgent action for nature and biodiversity continues to be our priority in 2021. Our goal is to raise awareness about the current climate and biodiversity crisis across the art sector and beyond, to empower actions through art - we trust that these actions, will inspire the entire planet to create real impact and change.


The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat are all products of biodiversity - the interconnected web of life on Earth. Biodiversity is the most complex feature of our planet and it is the most vital. Without biodiversity, there is no future for humanity.


Since the industrial revolution, human activities have increasingly destroyed and degraded forests, grasslands, wetlands and other important ecosystems. 75% of the Earth’s ice-free land surface has already been significantly altered, most of the oceans are polluted, and more than 85% of the area of wetlands has been lost. Globally, monitored population sizes of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have declined an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016, according to World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Planet Report 2020.


The findings are clear: our relationship with nature is broken. When we damage the Earth, we damage our own health - human beings are as susceptible as any other species. A deep cultural and systemic shift is urgently needed. We must rebalance our relationship with the planet to preserve the Earth’s amazing diversity of life and enable a just, healthy and prosperous society – and ultimately to ensure our own survival.

Nancy Holt, Sun Tunnels, 1973–76. Great Basin Desert, Utah. © Holt/Smithson Foundation, Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York. Photo: ZCZ Films/James Fox. Courtesy Holt/Smithson Foundation⁠.

Nancy Holt


For Sun Tunnels (1973-76), Nancy Holt used the natural environment as both medium and subject, emphasizing just how closely intertwined our existence is with the cycles of nature.⁠ Located in a remote valley of Utah’s Great Basin Desert, Sun Tunnels looms along the horizon, visible from over a mile away. The four concrete structures are arranged in a cross formation, positioned precisely to frame the sun as it rises and sets during the summer and winter solstices. Small holes are configured in the concrete to cast projections of constellations along the tunnels’ interior; Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricorn materialize out of sunlight, their patterns illuminated upon the viewer inside. ⁠

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Images 1-3: Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970, Great Salt Lake, Utah © Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation, licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York. Photographs: Gianfranco Gorgoni.⁠

Spiral Jetty: Robert Smithson


Built at the mouth of a terminal basin rich in minerals and nearly devoid of life, Spiral Jetty is a testament to Robert Smithson’s interest in entropy, where the forces of nature can change the work at any moment in time. Smithson completed the work in 1970, drawn to the unique features of Utah's Great Salt Lake, with its salt crystal deposits, black basalt rocks, and the blood-red hue of the lake water, caused by the presence of salt-tolerant bacteria and algae that thrive in the extreme 27 percent salinity of the lake's north arm.


Created at a time when water levels were particularly low, Spiral Jetty was completely submerged in 1972. It was invisible, viewed only through photos and videos taken during its creation. But since 2002, continued droughts in Utah have brought it above the water line for the long term. Though Smithson designed the artwork with the idea that the red-hued water would ebb and flow, ongoing droughts driven by climate change are likely to make it permanently dry. Rather than reddish water, the black basalt rocks that make up the sculpture are now covered in salt crystals. ⁠

As the shoreline continues to recede, the sculpture will continue to transform. Ultimately, Smithson's monumental earthwork encourages us to think more deeply about the world, the environment, and the ecological impact of human life. ⁠

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Images 1-4: Maya Lin, Ghost Forest, 2021. Photos by Andy Romer⁠; Courtesy the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.⁠

Ghost Forest: Maya Lin


Maya Lin’s immersive installation Ghost Forest, 2021, brings into focus the devastating effects of climate change on woodlands around the world.⁠ The work comprises forty-nine haunting Atlantic white-cedar trees, salvaged from New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, a site that is increasingly threatened by hotter temperatures, erratic precipitation patterns, and wildfires.⁠

Atlantic white cedars were once plentiful on the East Coast, but their population has dwindled to below 50,000 acres because of poor land-use practices as well as the effects of climate change, from saltwater infiltration due to rising sea levels to the decline of biodiversity.⁠ "We have very little time left to change our climate change emission patterns and how we live within the natural world," Lin has said about the work, which is on view until 14 November in Madison Square Park, New York City. ⁠


Lin’s Ghost Forest underscores the natural world's fragile equilibrium and stands as a grave reminder of the consequences of inaction to the climate and biodiversity crisis. Within a minimal visual language of austerity and starkness, Lin brings her role as an environmental activist and her vision as an artist to this thought-provoking work.⁠

Acknowledging #ArtforaHealthyPlanet partners, supporters and participants

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