International exhibitions

International 2009 Archives

Radical Nature
Art & Architecture for a changing planet, 1969-2009
Barbican Art Gallery, London (U.K.)
10.06- 20.09.2009

07.09 - 25.11.2012

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Press release

The beauty and wonder of nature have always provided inspiration for artists and architects. Since the 1960s, the increasingly evident degradation of the natural world and the effects of climate change have brought a new urgency to their responses. Radical Nature is the first exhibition to bring together key figures across different generations who have created visionary works and inspiring solutions for our ever-changing planet.

Radical Nature draws on ideas that have emerged out of Land Art, environmental activism, experimental architecture and utopianism. The starting point for the exhibition are works by pioneering figures such as the California-based architectural collective Ant Farm; and artists Joseph Beuys, Hans Haacke, Newton and Helen Harrison and Robert Smithson. These historical pieces are presented alongside works by a younger generation of artists including Simon Starling, Luke Fowler and Heather and Ivan Morison. The exhibition also features new, specially commissioned installations.


Exhibition 10 June - 20 September 2009. Barbican Art Gallery, Barbican Centre, Silk Street - London EC2Y-8DS. Open daily 11am-8pm except Wed 11am-6pm. Open until 10pm every Thu.

Ugo Rondinone, The Night of Lead, Museo de Arte Contempaneo, Leon

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2012. All Rights Reserved

While composed of these different elements, Radical Nature is conceived as a single natural landscape, an artificial garden dramatically invading the exhibition space. The inspirational nature of many of the works aim to conjure imaginative scenarios that present new models for our relationship to the natural world. For example, the unrealised Dolphin Embassy (1974-78) by Ant Farm poetically envisages a solar-powered research centre designed to foster a direct dialogue between man and dolphin. Fallen Forest (2006) by Henrik Håkansson, featured prominently in the main gallery space comprises a large section of lush forest flipped on its side to grow horizontally – perhaps acting as a reminder of the fragility of the earth’s ecosystem. Many of the works in the exhibition present nature as a utopia: American artist Agnes Denes harvested wheat in downtown New York (Wheatfield—A Wheatfield—A Confrontation, 1982) and German architect Wolf H. Hilbertz conceived a floating city of growing coral (Autopia Ampere, 1997).

Temporary art installation on the lakeside terrace

The Barbican Art Gallery would like to site a temporary artwork on the Lakeside Terrace as part of our exciting summer exhibition, ‘Radical Nature’ which runs from 19 June to 20 September.

The work is called ‘I am so sorry. Goodbye’ and is by the artists Heather and Ivan Morison. Previously shown in Tatton Park, the structure is made up of two joined geodesic domes made of wood and covered in attractive wooden slats. The total length of the two domes together is 9 metres, and at the highest point they are approximately 4 metres tall. The overall effect is simple and natural.

We would like to site the domes on the Lakeside Terrace near to the lake opposite the church, with the entrance door facing in the direction of the Art Centre. Inside the domes, there will be a couple of tables and chairs, and an attendant who will serve hibiscus tea for free to anybody who wishes to enter. The attendant will not talk beyond saying ‘I am so sorry. Goodbye’. There would be a small, simple signboard explaining the artwork just by the entrance.

As the domes are already built, as they have already been shown previously, we will need only assemble the domes and will do so with screws to minimise any ‘banging’ and therefore disruption from noise. The Barbican Art Gallery would like the dome to remain open during the main gallery opening hours.

Use of level 3 balcones

In addition to the piece on the Waterside Terrace, we hope to locate two works in the terraces adjacent to the Art Gallery and facing the Waterside. ‘Condensed Farm’ by Netwon and Helen Meyer Harrison will consist of a variety of planting pots of different size containing plants and vegetables. The majority of the containers will be located inside the gallery and will be equipped with grow lights. We are considering having some pots in one of the balconies coming off the gallery. The visual impact of the work from outside will be very limited, and visitors will only be allowed to view the piece during gallery opening hours. The second work is a new piece by the artistic collective A12. We are still waiting for their final proposal which we should be able to present at the meeting, for discussion.

Newton and Helen Harrison, Full Farm, 1974.

The photographs shown here show a previous work by the artists, similar to the one being planned for the Barbican Art Gallery. The diagram below shows how the gallery plan to display the planters.


The Barbican Art Gallery is currently investigating the possibility of planting a wheatfield on the Barbican Centre lakeside. This would an art work but artist Agnes Denes created a similar work on a landfill in Manhattan's financial district, summer 1982. Some pictures from this art work, along with a diagram showing the proposed location on the Barbican Centre lakeside terrace is below. Please note the drawing of the lakeside terrace is not to scale – the exact location and size of the wheatfield is yet to be determined.