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Ice caps, forests and avocados: the London Design Biennale looks ace this year

There’s a theme of ‘Resonance’, and lots of cool stuff around climate and the environment

Chris Waywell
Written by
Chris Waywell

A while back, we told you about the Centrepiece of the London Design Biennale: a whole forest of 400 trees in the courtyard of Somerset House. Well, now there are more details of the rest of the 2021 programme, and it looks mighty impressive.

Alongside the woody extravaganza, there are pavilions from countries across the world, many of them addressing global ecological concerns. The installation for Antarctica will use AI to examine whether the melting of the icecaps is reversible, while Canada is getting visitors to physically bend themselves around its installation, drawing attention to the destructive impact on the planet of artificial heating and cooling systems.

Chile, ‘Tectonic Resonances’
Chile, ‘Tectonic Resonances’. Photograph: Sebastían Jatz Rawicz

Other countries are going a bit more leftfield. Germany is presenting a display of disposable cutlery to examine throwaway culture, Japan’s entry looks at the ancient art of washi paper-making and papier-mâché, and Latvia is celebrating its national literature with something described as ‘a performative living monument’, which suggests many things, not all of them good.

The Americas, meanwhile, are concentrating on their loss of natural resources.  Venezuela’s installation investigates the replacement of fossil fuels with new natural sources of energy, such as avocado seeds, Guatemala is presenting a sound installation of massed rain sticks to reflect on its loss of water, and Chile is also using sounds – this time of rocks – to consider how we coexist on our planet with other lifeforms and natural systems.

Venezuela, ‘La Rentrada’
Venezuela, ‘La Rentrada’. Photograph: Griffin Moore.

It really sounds like this should be a great show to visit. There will also be a series of events and discussions, in case that little lot hasn’t provided you with enough food for thought. Don’t forget, you can always go for a nice walk in the woods afterwards.

London Design Biennale 2021. Somerset House. Jun 1-27. General admission from £22.50. Details and tickets here.

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