A commission of new contemporary artwork by Lucy + Jorge Orta at the Natural History Museum
6 October – 12 December 2010
Artists Lucy + Jorge Orta reveal their new set of artworks inspired by the Amazonian rainforest, in a new exhibition at the Natural History Museum to open on 6 October.
Shown for the first time, the specially commissioned artworks were inspired by the Orta’s expedition to the Peruvian rainforest. During the trip, the duo assisted scientists with their collecting. Their experiences have helped shape an exhibition that weaves scientific, aesthetic and cultural paradigms to give insights into the area’s huge diversity of living organisms and to the space they occupy in the planet’s evolution.
Lucy Orta said, ‘We journeyed to the Amazon to experience the immensity and grandeur of such a vulnerable living organism. We found the rainforest to be a beautiful oasis of diversity, in a state of crisis. By gaining an insight, we hope our artworks can evoke such feelings so nature can once again invade our minds.’
Drawing on the Museum’s collections and scientific expertise, the artworks included in this exhibition will range from aluminium and porcelain sculptures, a pirogue (canoe) to a video installation combining imagery and poetry. The artists hope the works will restore visitors’ focus on the natural world, both its beauty and its imperilled state.
The works explore the fragile balance between the many thousands of species that live in the Amazon regions and the cycles of life and death. The artists strive to restore enjoyment of the natural world and to convey its value to daily lives.
Referring to questions of survival and the interconnectivity of living things, the large sculpture Madre de Dios Fluvial Intervention Unit, sees hundreds of tiny animals keeping afloat on a five-metre long canoe, reflected into infinity by mirror surfaces.
The video projection Amazonia draws the viewer in through its mesmerising imagery and sounds recorded during the expedition through the Peruvian rainforest. Its narrative, composed by eco poet Mario Petrucci, starts with the voice of Gaia, the Greek goddess of nature:
My centre is everywhere
Everything – huge and hung together
The poem unfolds through a dialogue between a man and a woman, a story that shapes and prompts the listener to reflect on the plight of nature and takes the viewer on a journey.
At the heart of the exhibition, visitors are invited to take home a piece of Amazonia, through the participative artwork Perpetual Amazonia. This two-part artwork is comprised of an ongoing series of original photographs, individually marked with the co-ordinates of a square metre plot of land in the Manu Biosphere Reserve, and a poster that invites the visitor to become a steward for the land. In exchange the visitors are invited to donate to the rainforest’s conservation and the scientific research that takes place there, allowing the visitor to think about how much nature is worth and how they value it themselves.
Bergit Arends, the exhibition curator, said ‘With the invitation to take a journey through the exhibition and to participate, the artists urge us to become better stewards of nature.’
Lucy + Jorge Orta have collaborated since 1991. Their solo exhibitions have included: Barbican Art Gallery London; ICA London; Modern Art Museum Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney; as well as the Venice, Havana and Johannesburg Biennials.
In 2007, the artists received the Green Leaf Award for artistic excellence with an environmental message, presented by the United Nations Environment Programme in partnership with the Natural World Museum at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway.
Amazonia is the latest in the Museum’s contemporary art programme, which invites artists to use our science, research and history to stimulate new perspectives. Past exhibitions have explored climate change, biodiversity loss, human and animal emotional expressions, and the history of collections.
Curated by Bergit Arends