Rewind/Rewild is an upcoming exhibition in a restored North London glasshouse that explores the ecological implications of ‘rewilding' and the broader possibilities for ‘rewilding' human lives.
For the uninitiated, ‘rewilding’ is a growing ecological movement that seeks to reconsider traditional conservation and land-management practices by allowing ecosystems the autonomy they need to restore their own balance. This generally means taking human interference out of the equation, although at first rewilders might need to take steps to reverse previous attempts to manage the land – removing draining ditches and dams, or fencing out the deer and sheep which are often allowed to thrive in unnaturally large numbers.
This exhibition uses the rewilding movement as a framework for thinking about the relationships between humans and non-human entities such as animals, plants, bacteria and landscapes.
Rewind/Rewild asks questions about the social-cultural conditions that affect our relationship with the environment. For example, a new work by artist and co-curator of the exhibition Beatrice Searle asks why there is a memorial to the man who killed the last wolf in Scotland, but no memorial to the wolf itself, drawing attention to the gendered issues behind this question.
Similarly, a specially made work by Anna Skladmann revisits foundational biblical myths of the garden of Eden to turn an eco-feminist lens on gendered attitudes towards the soil and the plants it nurtures.
Works by emerging and established artists sit alongside each other, with a contribution from well-known artist Marcus Coates, whose video piece makes an apology to the Great Auk – a once-abundant bird driven to extinction by human poaching in the 19thcentury. In other works, agency is shared across species, suggesting the capacity for ecosystems and landscapes to be self-willed, and to establish their own cycles of existence without human interference. In an installation by Julia Crabtree and William Evans, glass vessels contain pondweed, a living substance that responds to the light, location and microbial cultures of the exhibition space.
Rewind/Rewild is set in the recently restored glasshouses at OmVed Gardens in north London's Highgate. This unusual exhibition space offers an alternative model for viewing art: the trees surrounding the building can be seen all around, a moving and living reminder of the real-world implications both of art and of ecological issues. This “perforated” space collapses binary distinctions between indoors and outdoors, the urban and the rural, indicating that all environments are potential sites for encounters with wild flora and fauna.
The exhibition is complemented by an events programme, included a Rewilding Forum, a day of debate around topics including rewilding in practice, environmental aesthetics, ecofeminism, natural networks, urban biodiversity, interspecies collaborations, rewilding architecture, and more.
Words by Anna Souter
Rewind/Rewild is at OmVed Gardens, 1-7 May 2019. Read more here.
Featuring Rodrigo Arteaga, Marcus Coates, Alannah Eileen, Julia Crabtree & William Evans, Hannah Imlach, Fiona Macdonald: Feral Practice, Beatrice Searle, Anna Skladmann and Amy Stephens.
Rewilding Forum, OmVed Gardens, 4 May 2019. Tickets available here.