Actions for the Earth: Art, Care & Ecology: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Actions for the Earth: Art, Care & Ecology

January 26-July 7, 2024
Main and Alsdorf Galleries
Cecilia Vicuña, Semiya (Seed Song), 2015, color, sound, HD video, 07:43, Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

Actions for the Earth: Art, Care & Ecology is a traveling exhibition that considers kinship, healing, and restorative interventions as artistic practices and strategies to foster a deeper consciousness of our interconnectedness with the earth.

A recent overlapping of worldwide crises related to ongoing climate change, entrenched social inequity, and renewed concerns over public health has underscored the need for complex approaches. It has become necessary to assume global responsibilities while caring for our local environment; to find new antidotes to oppressive structures of power; to grasp nature, health, and sustainability as intertwined.

For decades, artists have sought greater understanding of this interconnectedness, drawing from multiple disciplines beyond established art practices. Actions for the Earth presents the work of eighteen artists and collectives who foreground reciprocity and exchange in their work by sharing participatory interventions, healing practices, ecology and science, as well as ancient beliefs. The artists create space for honoring ancestors, the significance of Indigenous knowledges, and engage in fantastical speculation through science-fiction and organic, digital, and spiritual network sciences.

Actions for the Earth is a resource for current times, reminding us that we are connected within a constellation of living networks, inseparable from the earth. The exhibition emphasizes learning, care, and intimacy, inviting its publics to participate in instruction-based meditation and deep listening among other actions. During the tour, projects will generate site-specific exchanges between the artists, the environment, and local communities, growing and changing over time.

Artists: Ackroyd and Harvey, Lhola Amira, Arahmaiani, Sayan Chanda, Hylozoic/Desires (Himali Singh Soin & David Soin Tappeser), lololol, Ana Mendieta, Zarina Muhammad, Patrina Munuŋgurr, Pauline Oliveros, Yoko Ono, Eric-Paul Riege, Tabita Rezaire, Cecilia Vicuña, Katie West, and Zheng Bo

About "Actions for the Earth"

Lhola Amira, IRMANDADE: The Shape of Water in Pindorama, 2018-2020

Lhola Amira, IRMANDADE: The Shape of Water in Pindorama, 2018-2020

HD video, single channel sound, film still. Image courtesy of SMAC Gallery, copyright Lhola Amira.
Katie West, Clearing, 2019

Katie West, Clearing, 2019

installation view, TarraWarra Museum of Art. Photo: Andrew Curtis. Courtesy the artist.
Tabita Rezaire, Premium Connect, 2017,

Tabita Rezaire, Premium Connect, 2017

video with LED glow, still from Premium Connect (2017). Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, South Africa
Zheng Bo, Ecosensibility Exercises, installation view, 2021

Zheng Bo, Ecosensibility Exercises, installation view, 2021

Gropius Bau, Berlin. Photo: Eike Walkenhorst. Courtesy the artist; Gropius Bau; Edouard Malingue Gallery.
Arahmaiani, Memory of Nature, 2013

Arahmaiani, Memory of Nature, 2013

Singapore. Courtesy the artist.


Actions for the Earth: Art, Care & Ecology is curated by Sharmila Wood. Wood is a Perth, Western Australia-based independent curator who works on creative and cultural initiatives producing, curating, and commissioning artwork. She is interested in interdisciplinary approaches around environmental, social, and spatial justice and conceptualizes socially engaged processes to make art interventions. Wood has held arts positions in New Delhi, Los Angeles, Sydney, and Perth, edits books and writes regularly for arts publications and journals. She holds a Masters of Art History & Curatorship from the University of Sydney and is currently Director of Tarruru, where she continues her work across borders.

Block Museum consulting curator Stephanie Smith is a Chicago-based curator, writer, and arts leader whose collaborative, socially engaged projects assert art’s power to envision and enact other futures. She values place-responsive, generous, and hospitable ways of working—honed through 25+ years of curatorial practice including senior roles at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and Institute for Contemporary Art in Richmond, Virginia. In 2022, Smith joined Awi’nakola (“we are one with the land and the sea”), a project based in British Columbia in which artists, scientists, and Indigenous knowledge keepers are seeking effective responses to the climate crisis and working together to regenerate land and culture.

Key curatorial projects include Rashid Johnson: Monument (ICA), Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art (Smart + tour, received Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award) and Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art (Smart + ICI + tour). Notable co-curated projects include Commonwealth (Beta-Local + Philadelphia Contemporary + ICA), Agora: 4th Athens Biennial, and Heartland (Smart + VanAbbemuseum). Smith teaches, writes, serves on the advisory board for MARCH, and was a contributing editor at Afterall journal. She served as Provostial Researcher at the University of Chicago’s Franke Institute for the Humanities (2022–2023), holds an MA from Rice University, and is researching Chicagoland—on long-term, place-based, artist-led projects in Chicago—for her PhD with the University of Amsterdam.

Exhibition Credits

Actions for the Earth: Art, Care & Ecology is a traveling exhibition curated by Sharmila Wood and produced by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York. It is the result of a series of programs, pioneered with the support of the Hartfield Foundation, aimed at providing opportunities to alumni of ICI’s Curatorial Intensive as they move through the stages of their career, and reflecting ICI’s commitment to fostering and championing new curatorial voices who will shape the future of the field. Actions for the Earth is made possible with the generous support of ICI’s Board of Trustees and International Forum. Exhibition graphics by Untitled Agency, Marrakesh. The Block's presentation of this exhibition is supported in part by the Illinois Arts Council Agency, the Bernstein Family Contemporary Art Fund, the Dorothy J. Speidel Fund, and the Alsdorf Gallery at The Block Museum Endowment. The Block Museum presentation of the exhibition was coordinated by consulting curator Stephanie Smith.