Biocenosis21 is an international exhibition of contemporary art on the theme of biodiversity, organized by Art of Change 21 within the IUCN World Conservation Congress and at La Traverse, next September in Marseille.

Curated by Alice Audouin, founder of Art of Change 21, it brings together Marie-Sarah Adenis, Art Orienté Objet, Thijs Biersteker, Julian Charrière, Marcus Coates, Abdessamad El Montassir, John Gerrard, Jérémy Gobé, Caroline Halley des Fontaines, Camille Henrot, Janet Laurence, Lin-May Saeed, Tomás Saraceno and Michael Wang.

France is hosting from September 4 to 11, 2021 the next IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) World Conservation Congress at Parc Chanot in Marseille. Organized every four years, it is the world’s largest meeting on biodiversity. The Congress brings together the best international experts, countries, institutions and companies, to draw up a detailed inventory of biodiversity, raise public awareness and obtain ambitious international commitments. This highly anticipated edition incorporates contemporary art for the first time, commissioned by the French Office for Biodiversity, with the exhibition Biocenosis21.

This highly anticipated edition incorporates contemporary art for the first time, commissioned by the French Office for Biodiversity, with the exhibition Biocenosis21.

Biocenosis (the term was introduced into scientific language in 1877 by the German biologist Möbius) is an association of different organisms forming a closely integrated community. It corresponds to all living beings (animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, etc.) established in the same living space and linked by reciprocal dependence. At a time when biodiversity is collapsing in the face of the destruction of natural spaces and global warming, Art of Change 21 is activating an artistic biocenosis at the heart of Marseille’s biotope, around the challenges of the 21st century. Together, the artists form a community to provoke emotions, exchanges, ideas and engagement.

Biocenosis21 brings together 14 of the most inspiring French and international artists, committed to biodiversity, and gives a carte blanche to Photoclimat.

The exhibition allows visitors to see, feel and understand differently the challenges of biodiversity and global warming, and highlights a relationship between humans and non-humans, a bearer of hope. The selected artists are not only just inspired by nature, they are also researchers, activists and activators of solutions.

The Biocenosis21 exhibition integrates eco-design into its approach. Selection of artists is based on criteria such as: same geographical area, grouping of transport, more ecological printing solutions, movement of artists and teams by train… These are among the principles applied in the organization of the exhibition with the enlightened advice of the Karbone Agency, founded by Fanny Legros, also a member of Art of Change 21. An environmental assessment of the exhibition will be published, including its carbon footprint.

The different facets of biodiversity addressed in the artworks

Energy choices, demographic growth and economic activities, since the industrial era, generate pressure and are today destroying biodiversity, and yet humans do not change their behaviour and continue their course. The series Not Clean Yet by Camille Henrot highlights this with an element of humor.

However, a movement is emerging that brings hope. Artists are at the heart of this dynamic of reversing a world that has become counterproductive, denouncing it and opening the way to another relationship with the living, which is not only more ethical and responsible, but more cooperative and benevolent.

Artists place “care”, empathy and knowledge in a new relationship to non-humans. American artist Michael Wang takes care of species that no longer exist in the wild but only in human activities (laboratories, farming, aquariums…) in his series Extinct in the Wild. Object Oriented Art rescues a kangaroo wrecked by a car in Pieta Amazonia; German artist Lin-May Saeed frees an elephant from its chains and gives understanding and love to hyenas, a species often despised by humans; the Argentinian artist Tomas Saraceno, along with Spider Cube, cooperates with spiders and reveals their connection to the living and the cosmos; Le Calendrier de la Nature (Nature’s Calendar), by Marcus Coates, delivers a daily nature scoop, a humorous way to understand how species live; and the artist Jérémy Gobé has given himself the mission of repairing the damage caused by human activities on corals, with his Corail Artefact project.

The impact of human activities on biodiversity, such as nuclear tests with Coconut Lead Fondue and Pacific Fiction by Julian Charrière, pollution of freshwater with (Flag) River by John Gerrard, or the devastating effects of deforestation with the monumental light and sound installation that lives to the rhythm of real-time data on deforestation in the Amazon, and Wither by Dutch artist Thijs Biersteker, promotes awareness. Among the natural disasters linked to human activities, the fires in Australia in late 2019 have decimated billions of species; Australian artist Janet Laurence has created the Requieum in video form in response. Abdessamad El Montassir draws a community of destiny between humans and plants in the desert, undergoing the same pressures, capable of the same resilience, with his video Galb’Echaouf.

Caroline Halley des Fontaines’ photographic work on the colors of nature from the Lighscapes series, diffuses a spiritual vibration, opening the way to a more harmonious Whole. This global view also includes viruses, which have now become the scapegoats for the health crisis. Artist, designer and scientist Marie-Sarah Adenis rehabilitates them with Le virus que donc je suis ( The virus that I therefore am), showcasing their major role in human evolution. The artist also reverses the hierarchical image of the phylogenetic tree (on the evolution of species) for a more egalitarian representation in Tousteszincs.

What if, beyond its relationship to living things through manipulation, illustrated by Leavis (John Gerrard’s SpaceLab), the human species, on the contrary, explored its place in a new paradigm, that of the biocenosis, of a community of interdependent living beings all now linked together in a community of destiny in the face of the ecological crisis?

Some prestigious partners

The French Biodiversity Office (OFB) mandated a grant to the Art of Change 21 association to organize a contemporary art exhibition in the Espaces Générations Nature (EGN) of the IUCN World Conservation Congress .

Biocenosis21’ main partners are the Schneider Electric Foundation, LVMH – as institutional partner, the French Biodiversity Office and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, with the support of Maison Ruinart.


Alice Audouin

July 2021

Credits : Wither, 2019, Thijs Biertseker, photo courtesy of the artist / The Liberation of Animals from their Cages XVIII / Olifant Gate, 2016, Lin-may Saeed, photo by Wolfgang Günzel / Coconut Leaf Fondue – First Light, 2016, Julian Charrière, photography, photo by Astrid Gallinat

Find all the articles from Impact Art News n°32 – July / August 2021

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