People have conducted studies of baboons, of the levels of sweetness in the oceans, and of the migratory patterns of swallows – studies including everything from minute traces of minerals to detailed drawings of lemons. Recently an exhibition opened that feels like a much more vital endeavor: an examination of the human relationship to the natural world at large. The Human/Nature project recently sent a group of artists to UNESCO World Heritage sites to compose artworks exploring the changing nature of some of the most biodiverse regions on earth.

World Heritage Sites are places determined by the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization to be of immense natural and cultural value. They range in character from architectual monuments, like the pyramids of Egypt, to natural wonders, like the Great Barrier Reef.

The artists of Human/Nature spent time in International Peace Parks, remote jungles, and historic nature preserves. One of the project’s goals is to enact a responsive and respectful curation of the planet. “People can change the world through conservation, but we have to realize that the way the world is depicted also changes the world,” says project artist Diana Thater. Perhaps by spending time to reflect on some of the earth’s most precious places, we can come to appreciate the precious planet as a whole.

The resulting works examine these precious sites, often involving their communities in the act of creation. Artist Ann Hamilton composed a text tracing Galapagos Island species that was then read aloud by local children with megaphones. Rigo 23 made sculptures using traditional methods with indigenous communities in Brazil. Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle made a film of the Mitsubishi saltworks.

The artworks will be on display at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA), and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD).

+ Human/Nature