As artistic director of this year’s London Design Biennale, the designer Es Devlin has asked creatives from across the world to come up with ground-breaking solutions to society’s biggest challenges. Here are our top picks, from a forest in the Southbank Centre’s courtyard to a giant silver balloon you can walk into and share your feelings.
Forest for Change
Four-hundred trees have sprung up in the Somerset House courtyard, accompanied by recorded birdsong. There are 23 varieties of trees which are commonly found across the UK and Northern Europe collected together in a riot of greens and reds. It’s quite a sight to see a micro-forest in the middle of London and we suspected it will be one of the most-grammed artworks of 2021.
María Adela Díaz and Joaquin Orellana
Visitors can rock this chain of rainsticks created by María Adela Díaz for the Guatemalan Pavillion – and hear the playful sound in a dramatically-lit room playing music composed by Joaquin Orellana. It’s fun, but the message is all about the dwindling resource of water on our planet.
Empathy Echo Chamber
Finland’s entry is Enni-Kukka Tuomala’s big silver inflatable room. You are invited to step inside and talk in this space that literally and figuratively holds up a mirror to your experiences. At a time when we are increasingly polarised, this work encourages people to reflect on their experiences and perspectives together and respond to each other through empathy.
From Green to Red
“Musical weirdo and visionary” Beatie Wolfe is an artist who has beamed her music into space, been appointed a UN Women role model for innovation, and held an acclaimed solo exhibition of her ‘world first’ album designs at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Her latest work, ‘From Green to Red’ shows a data visualisation of the concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere over the last 800,000 years, accompanied by her ‘Protest Song’ about mankind’s denial of climate change.
Ruup and Form and Naomi McIntosh
Developed with sustainability at its core, these organic structures crafted from wood are intended to recreate the feeling and sensation of being within green landscapes to generate a fresh appreciation for the natural world.
Ben Cullen Williams
If there ever was definitive evidence of global warming, Cullen Williams captured it. He filmed the Larsen-B Ice shelf that splintered off from the Antarctic peninsula in 2002, and has been disintegrating ever since. Cold Flux is a three-channel AI-generated video installation created in collaboration with creative technologist Bryce Cronkite-Ratcliff, showing synthetic landscapes blended with this footage, with a soundtrack by Gaika. The work spotlights Antarctica’s largely unseen crisis and highlights the need for more climate action.
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The Pavilion of the African Diaspora (PoAD)
Luxury product designer Ini Archibong has created this conch-like Pavillion to reflect and represent the stories of the African Diaspora. She writes: ‘The PoAD will serve as an innovative multi-use educational and event facility, and as a sanctuary to tell stories and create a reality where voices are recognised and respected for the diversity of their timbre.’
Design in an Age of Crisis
The Design In An Age Of Crisis Gallery features submissions to a global open call issued in 2020 by Chatham House and London Design Biennale, inviting radical design thinking from the world’s design community, the public and young people. The result is 500 submissions from over 50 countries on solving the world’s biggest problems, in the areas of environment, health, society and work.
The London Design Biennale is at Somerset House from 1–27 June.