While the artistic activity of Autumn 2020 has been hampered, shaken up and weakened by the resurgence of the pandemic, contemporary art exhibitions on ecological issues are in rude health! Having explored a number of exhibitions in France (see our article, here), now we offer you an overview of some of the highlights and unusual exhibitions taking place internationally.

Four great figures of contemporary art are simultaneously accelerating environmental awareness in different parts of the world. Tomás Saraceno pushes his realistic utopias, from post-carbon mobility to new interspecies relationships, in two solo exhibitions, “Event Horizon” in Copenhagen, and “Moving Atmospheres” in Moscow. While Otobong Nkanga’s solo exhibition “There’s No Such Thing as Solid Ground” continues to impress in Berlin, she is preparing to inaugurate “Uncertain Where The Next Wind Blows” in Oslo, once again demonstrating the interdependence between humans and their environment. John Gerrard, father of the famous “Western Flag”, is currently adding his “response to the escalating climate crisis” in Galway, the European Capital of Culture 2020 situated in his native Ireland, with a simulation in a monumental cube, a “Mirror Pavilion” which reconnects us with the soil and the sun, the atavistic harvest ritual and local mythological figures. Gerrard also opens the new exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, dedicated to the digital world and its vision of the future. Finally, Olafur Eliasson (patron of Art of Change 21) closes his solo exhibition in Tokyo, “Sometimes the River is the Bridge”, and inaugurates his permanent installation, “Our Glacial Perspectives”, at the top of the Tyrolean Alps, an optical and interactive sculpture device that makes us aware of the gradual disappearance of glaciers and the freezing prospects of our planet…

Meanwhile, two young and engaged artists, who share the same passion for the Arctic and its extreme weather, are also marking this artistic autumn with solo shows. In Lisbon, “Triple Point” by the Englishwoman Hannah Rowan is deploying the innovative concept of “Hydrofeminism”, borrowed from researcher Astrida Neimanis. Hydrofeminism develops an innovative new mode of posthuman feminist phenomenology that understands our bodies as being fundamentally part of the natural world and not separate from or privileged to it. In Switzerland, “Towards No Earthly Pole” by artist Julian Charrière, reports on the transformation of the poles in the era of the Anthropocene. The exhibition combines new pieces with its now cult series “The Blue Fossil Entropic Stories”.


Crédit : Julian Charière, “Tropisme”, Towards no Earthy Pole, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Suisse, 2020, photo: Jens Ziehe
Crédit : Hannah Rowan, “Triple Point”, Galerie Bello Campo, 2020, courtesy of the artist

A number of group exhibitions have also adopted environmental themes, crossed with scientific, technological and philosophical issues. “Critical Zones – Observatories for Earthly Politics” at ZKM (the Karlsruhe Center for Art and Media) collects knowledge and experiences on critical situations which are increasing with the ecological crisis. Bruno Latour and his co-curators and friends such as Peter Weibel, bring together, among others, Uriel Orlow, Fabien Léaustic, Petra Maitz, Sarah Sze and Anna Atkins.

“ECODATA, the RIXC Art-Science Festival in Riga, explores the ‘ecosystemic perspective’! Its main exhibition bridges the gap between technological and ecological, as well as incorporating technological issues into ecological art. Fifteen artists and collectives present works of a new genre, including Ursula Biemann, the artist duo Semiconductor, and Marcus Maeder. Finally, the Migros Museum in Zurich inaugurates the group show “Potential Worlds 2: Eco-Fictions” which brings hope and solutions to the former alarming “Potential Worlds 1: Planetary Memories” (see our article, here). Artists look for new ways of life and imagine new relationships between humans and nature, as solutions for today’s ecological situation. Among the artists invited are Bo Zheng, Tue Greenfort, Adrián Villar Rojas…

Going beyond the limits of simple physical exposure, these exhibitions offer virtual tours and numerous online meetings (note that the guided tour of the “Critical Zone” takes place on October 30th). 

The trees that have been suffering from heatwaves and recent fires stand out as an exhibition theme in their own right. This is evidenced by the great success of “Nous, les Arbres” (‘We, the trees’) at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. In London, while the exhibition “Cambio” by Formafantasma resumes its exploration of the timber industry at the Serpentine Gallery (see our article, here), the Hayward Gallery offers a more academic exhibition: “Among the Trees” with Rachel Sussman, Guiseppe Penone, and Eija-Liisa Ahtila. Finally, at the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hannover, the Berlin artist Olaf Holzapfel has assembled a monumental installation featuring trunks of trees that have died because of drought. The work is called “Sit-in”: how long will we continue to sit and discuss the ruins of our high carbon lifestyles before taking action?

Alice Audouin et Marie Leprêtre



Event Horizon (solo show by Tomás Saraceno) – Cisternerne Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark – June 2 to November 30th, 2020.

Moving Atmospheres (solo show by Tomás Saraceno) – Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia – October 11th, 2020 to February 14th, 2021.

There’s No Such Thing as Solid Ground (solo show by Otobong Nkanga) – Gropius Bau, Berlin, Germany – July 10th to December 13th, 2020.

Uncertain Where The Next Wind Blows (solo show by Otobong Nkanga) – Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, Norway – November 13th, 2020 to January 31st, 2021.

Mirror Pavilion (solo show by John Gerrard) – Claddagh Quay, Galway, Ireland – September 3rd – 26th, 2020 – and Derrigimlagh Bog, Connemara, Ireland – March 20th – April 11th, 2021.

Immaterial – Re Material (collective exhibition) – Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China – from September 26th, 2020 to January 17th, 2021.

Sometimes the river is the bridge (solo show by Olafur Eliasson) – Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan – June 9th to September 27th, 2020.

Triple Point (solo show by Hannah Rowan) – Belo Campo, Francisco Fino Gallery, Lisbon, Portugal – September 18th to October 22nd, 2020.

Towards No Earthly Pole (solo show by Julian Charrière) – Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland – September 6th, 2020 to January 3rd, 2021.

Critical Zones – Observatories for Earthly Politics (collective exhibition) – ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany – May 23rd, 2020 to August 8th, 2021

ECODATA, the Riga Art-Science Festival (collective exhibition) – RIXC Gallery, National Library of Latvia, Riga, Latvia – from October 8th to December 12th, 2020.

Potential Worlds 2: Eco-Fictions (collective exhibition) – Migros Museum, Zurich, Switzerland – from October 24th, 2020 to February 21st, 2021.

Formafantasma : Cambio (collective exhibition) – Serpentine Galleries, London, United Kingdom – September 29th to November 15th, 2020.

Among the Trees (collective exhibition) – Hayward Gallery, London, United Kingdom – August 1st to October 31st, 2020.

ARTS and CRAFTS Between Tradition, Discourse, and Technologies (collective exhibition) – Kestner-Gesellschaft Gallery, Hanover, Germany – from October 2nd, 2020 to January 10th, 2021.


October 2020 

Translated from French by Alice Audouin and Jeremy Allen

Crédit : “Our Glacial Perspective”,  Olafur Eliasson, 2020, photo: David Orru

Find all the articles from Impact Art News n°23 – October 2020

To subscribe to Impact Art News (free): here