Show Navigation

News & Events

Radical Nature

Radical Nature

Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969-2009

9th January – 17th April

Radical Nature – Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969-2009, a major new exhibition curated by Francesco Manacorda which was launched at the Barbican in London in the summer of 2009 will be brought to three separate venues in East Ayrshire in the New Year. As the title suggests the exhibition explores the role of the environment in art and architecture and is the first major exhibition to trace the post war history of artists’ engagement with ecology and environmentalism. Radical Nature includes artists and architects from across the world that over the last forty years have created visionary works and inspiring solutions for our ever-changing planet.

The exhibition will be housed in three venues within East Ayrshire -The Dick, The Baird and Doon Valley Museum. These venues will form the primary stage of a world tour and will be the only Scottish venues to host the prestigious exhibition. The exhibition will be supported by an extensive educational programme and events and activities aimed at schools, families and those interested in environmental issues.

Key pieces in the exhibition transform the gallery into a dramatic and fantastical landscape. Pioneering figures such as Richard Buckminster Fuller, Hans Haacke, Newton Harrison and Helen Mayer-Harrison and Robert Smithson are presented alongside works by a younger generation of artists including Heather and Ivan Morison and Simon Starling.

Traditionally seen as opposites, the natural world has often been idealised and disconnected from man’s technological and cultural one. While the beauty and wonder of nature has always provided inspiration for artists and architects, the perception of the natural world as being pure and distant was shaken by a greater awareness of environmental issues. Since the late 1960s, the increasingly evident degradation of the planet began to infiltrate the wider collective consciousness and a number of artists and architects began to integrate social action and protest into their practice. This politicisation frequently brought about a reconsideration of our concept of nature, a process that more recently has focused on the known effects of climate change, bringing a new urgency to the work of practitioners today.

Full Farm (1972), by Newton Harrison and Helen Mayer Harrison, grows fruit and vegetables in a farm inside the gallery space. Tomas Saraceno invents flying habitats based on the shape of clouds and bubbles. His ongoing series, Flying Gardens, comprises a suspended bubble structure supporting a small garden of Tillandsia plants that receive all their nutritional needs from the air. Using nature as an artistic material is another central concern of the artists exhibiting in Radical Nature. Spiral Jetty (1970) by Robert Smithson – one of the most prominent figures in the Land Art movement – is a giant intervention into the Great Salt Lake in Utah. A film entitled The Spiral Jetty (1970) depicts the 457-metre-long spiral path which was made from
basalt and deliberately left to be affected by the lake and its high salinity. Over time salt crystals have grown onto it turning the surrounding water red, and for almost three decades, as the lake’s water level rose, the piece was entirely submerged.
Artists Agnes Denes and Joseph Beuys have both realised iconic interventions with the aim of making a political comment on the state of the environment. Denes’ Wheatfield – A Confrontation (1982) involved, as the title suggests, the planting of a field of wheat in downtown Manhattan. This subversive action brought into question the separation between urban living and the large part of the globe used for agriculture.

Leader of East Ayrshire Council Douglas Reid said of the exhibition “East Ayrshire Council is delighted to bring this amazing exhibition featuring live exhibits to the area. We are all increasingly aware of our impact on the environment and are taking steps to minimise the damage we do. These artists were ahead of their time in recognising the problem and drawing attention to environmental issues. With our children leading the way in teaching us, the adults, about our effect on the planet, we have put together an exciting educational package in addition to walks, talks and events which will be of interest to anyone concerned with ‘green’ issues”.

Radical Nature – Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969-2009 has been brought to Ayrshire by East Ayrshire Council in association with The Barbican Art Gallery, The City of London Corporation and The Scottish Arts Council. The exhibition opens on 9th January and continues until 17th April and access is FREE at all venues.