Exploring radical ideas around the climate crisis, Barbican’s latest immersive exhibition, Our Time On Earth transforms their Curve gallery.
Our Time On Earth is a meditative experience. In the first space, visitors are encouraged to pause and listen to the voice playing overhead, “your breath comes from sea creatures and trees”, and “just one breath shared by all living things”. This novel way to begin viewing an exhibition sets the tone – not dissimilar to adjusting your breathing and setting your intention at the start of a yoga class.
The exhibition features work from 18 artists including Marshmallow Lazor Feast, SUPERFLUX and Silent Studio. Many of the works presented explore the role of technology in connecting with nature and our approach to the climate crisis. Consequently, Our Time On Earth is quite tech-heavy; animation, video, and interactive screens. However, this focus prompts interesting questions, which are explored throughout the show; can we live sustainably and continue to focus on the digital? Is it possible to truly connect with nature digitally? …Is this exhibition environmentally friendly?
Marshmallow Lazor Feast’s Sanctuary of the Unseen Forest explores this idea further, presenting a viewer-engulfing digital animation of the intricate nerve network of a tree and its roots. Created in collaboration with Bio-Leadership Project founder Andres Roberts, the piece demonstrates the tree’s role in connecting the soil and the sky, and ultimately, creating the air we breathe. The gentle ebb and flow of the video are equally part fascinating and part mesmerising.
In the next space along we see SUPERFLUX’s Refuge for Resistance, a dining table installation ready to host a multi-species dinner party. The work encourages the viewer to consider their place in a natural world where all living beings are considered equal. In contrast, positioned alongside Refuge for Resistance is a digital image of a city, devoid of human activity and reclaimed by nature; animals wander, vines grow freely, and tower blocks crumble. It’s peaceful but unnerving – reminiscent of a shot from The Last Of Us. This dystopian feeling is definitely not recurrent in Our Time On Earth, instead, viewers are prompted to slow down, consider and reflect on our relationship with nature.
A little deeper in the exhibition there is a focus on textile production. We’re shown examples of innovative sustainable materials currently being tested, developed and even sold. In one of the glass cabinets we see a dress with a Zara label, raising perhaps one of the most fundamental questions of the climate crisis – can we live sustainably whilst still being ruled by capitalism?
Our Time On Earth is pragmatic, inspiring…maybe even, hopeful. In the midst of the ever-worsening climate crisis, it’s great to see the power of collective creativity and its application to envisioning a better future for Earth.
Our Time on Earth runs from 5 May – 29 August 2022. Find out more and book tickets here.
“Sanctuary of the Unseen Forest” by Marshmallow Lazor Feast photographed by Amy Melling (see biog below)
Reviewed by Amy Melling – Amy is a Curator and Creative Producer whose practice is centred around community-led arts projects. Her current research is focused on curatorial methods for exhibiting artworks outside. Amy has a keen interest in the arts and recently completed an MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL.