News & Insights

Shifting Perspectives on Nature through Spectacle and Public Art


This month we’ve enjoyed visiting the stunning and awe-inspiring Gaia a touring artwork by Luke Jerram (currently at Rochester Cathedral until 12 June).

Published date: 31 May 2022

Following on from a previous visit of his Museum of the Moon, this remarkable suspended revolving globe created from 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface provides a unique opportunity to see our planet, floating in three dimensions.

As the interpretation on the website explains:

‘The installation aims to create a sense of the Overview Effect, which was first described by author Frank White in 1987. Common features of the experience for astronauts are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. 

The artwork also acts as a mirror to major events in society. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the artwork may provide the viewer with a new perspective of our place on the planet; a sense that societies of the Earth are all interconnected and that we have a responsibility toward one another. After the lockdown, there has been a renewed respect for nature.

A specially made surround sound composition by BAFTA award winning Composer Dan Jones is played alongside the sculpture.

Unlike the moon, which we have been gazing at for millennia, the first-time humankind got to see the Earth in its entirety as a blue marble floating in space was in 1972 with NASA’s Apollo 17 mission. At this moment, our perception and understanding of our planet changed forever. Hanging in the black emptiness of space the Earth seems isolated, a precious and fragile island of life.’

We found the experience both mesmerising and thought-provoking, simultaneously a simple concept but complex to create and install – an excellent example of the power of public art.

From further afield, we’ve also been admiring the Superbloom installation at The Tower of London. Following on from previous temporary exhibitions in the space, including the ceramic Remembrance Poppies created to mark the Centenary of World War One in 2014, Superbloom has been commissioned as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Through other projects we came across the planting designer Nigel Dunnett. He’s a thought leader in sustainable planting and simple maintenance to help address climate change.

‘To mark the occasion, over 20 million seeds have been sown in the moat which will develop and morph over the course of the summer, to create a beautiful, new naturalistic landscape. Designed to attract pollinators, ‘Superbloom’ will bring a wonderful natural beauty to this urban space and introduce a new biodiverse habitat for wildlife. It will celebrate the value of nature for our wellbeing.

Both of these shared public experiences have got us thinking about other current and recent installations set in, created from or about nature and the planet, and how coming together with other people to witness these spectacles and reflect on themes relating to the environment can shift perspectives and have a subtle but profound and lasting impact – creating memories and perhaps inspiring individual changes in behaviour that will benefit the environment for years to come.

One of our current commissioned artists FleaFolly Architects who are working with us at Castle Hill South, Ebbsfleet Garden City, are preparing to unveil The False Banana Pavilion from 8th July at Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex. As part of the immersive Nourish programme this Summer, visitors can step inside this unique structure inspired by traditional Ethiopian huts to celebrate the ‘wondercrop’ enset, a wild relative of our domesticated banana, and a staple crop for 20 million people in Ethiopia, with some incredible climate-resilient qualities. The experience is designed to nourish mind and body and prompt reflections on the power and potential of this remarkable plant and the future of food and farming.

Have you encountered any artistic spectacles that have changed how you see our world and nature? We’d love to hear what you’ve been up to or if you have any plans to venture out to see some public art this Summer.

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