• The Nature of Cities

    United Nations Pavilion, Shanghai Expo, China, July, 2010. UNEP asked Art Works for Change to produce an art installation for the UN Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Sixteen video artists, architects and animators created short videos addressing the theme of urban biodiversity. The renowned Zoetrope Aubry Productions provided the design and technical editing for the project. The result will be a visually compelling and entertaining exhibition, combined with effective storytelling, that informs and inspires viewers to respect nature and her ecosystems. The UN anticipates that the installation be seen by 40,000 visitors a day.

    • “Dragonfly, A Metabolic Farm for Urban Architecture” by Vincent Callebaut,  explores how to bring the garden back to an urban environment and rethink the durability of the city and food production. 

    • “Slurb,” a video by Marina Zurkow, portrays the rising sea levels, pollution, and the overuse of natural resources, as they drown the built environment, reminding us of the real possibility of environmental cataclysm from unaddressed climate change. 

    • Based on the growth of its financial services industry, Charlotte, North Carolina, Rob Carter’s animation, “Metropolis” depicts a bleak future in which the disproportionate new architecture dwarfs the once lush green landscape.

    • In the video by Catherine Chalmers, “We Rule,” an intimate vantage point of ants magnifies the striking beauty of these tiny creatures and their resemblance to our own behaviors of industriousness. 

    • Ri Crawford’s “Abyssal City,” incorporates illustrations by the 19th century artist, Ernst Haeckel. Using time-lapse photography, we see a coastal city that has been flooded as a result of global warming. 

    • In the video by Molly Schwartz, “The Belly of Eels,” the narrative follows the life-cycle of the eel from salt-water larval creature to maturing eel as it enters the riverbeds alongside the inhabited urban world of humans.

    • “The Nature of Cities,” a multi-video installation, was created by Art Works for Change for the United Nations Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo 2010.

    • Anthony Discenza video of “Drift,” manipulates film and television footage in order to raise critical questions about urban sprawl and consumerism.

    • Cao Fei, “The Birth of RMB City,” reflects China’s recent urban and cultural explosion. The architecture of RMB City is a fusion of ancient and modern Chinese icons, blurring the distinction between fantasy architecture and the fast development of modern Chinese cities. 

    Exhibition Statement

    Cities are alive — with people, trees, critters, and all the diversity of life. Like all living creatures, cities consume oxygen, transform food and fuel into activity, and create waste. They can be healthy or ill, sprawling or spare, bustling with life or eerily devoid of activity.
    Cities make up just 2 percent of the Earth’s surface, but they house half of the world’s people and consume 75 percent of its resources. Cities have a voracious appetite for energy, materials, water, food, and more. When we over-consume those resources, we don’t merely harm the natural environment, we affect the quality of our own lives, as well as those thousands of miles away.
    How do we keep urban metabolisms healthy and safe? Think of your own body: It takes awareness and vigilance to refrain from illness, disease, and danger. It takes balance — nutritionally, physically, and emotionally. It takes resilience to regain equilibrium after being stressed. So, too, with cities. An unhealthy city risks the dangers of deficiency and excess. It is a life out of balance.
    Cities have a lot to learn from nature: how it produces its own food, uses only energy from the sun, provides heating and cooling, protects itself to severe weather, and generally creates conditions conducive to life. Nature can teach us how to design buildings that require no air conditioning, even in hot climates. It can teach us how to clean water without harsh chemicals. It can teach us how to live abundantly while creating zero waste.
    The lessons are there, if we just listen to the Earth — the wisdom that Nature has attained during her more than 3 billion years of life.
    The Nature of Cities Exhibition

    Participating Artists

    Allora & Calzadilla
    Vincent Callebaut
    Rob Carter
    Catherine Chalmers
    Ri Crawford
    Anthony Discenza
    Cao Fei
    Hall Moline
    Katja Loher
    Kevin Nolting
    Sven Pahlsson
    Kahn Selesnick
    Molly Schwartz
    Marina Zurkow