Come Home Again by Es Devlin
Es Devlin is asking visitors to come home again. Not in the architecture designed by humans, but back in nature where the Earth bonds with the living beings. Devlin first creates an illuminated sculpture that takes its shape and influence from the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. She collaborates with Cartier to materialize the large-scale public artwork and places it in Tate Modern Community Garden in London, adjacent to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Once the monumental architecture becomes installed, she steps inside and draws 243 endangered species listed on London’s priority conservation list which includes moths, birds, beetles, wildflowers, fish, and fungi. Her pencil marks the white backdrop of the dome with intricate details and complex linings that underline her species under the soft glow. She steps outside, and the lights go on. Right there in the illuminated dome of Come Home Again, in place until October 1st this year, several drawn species soar, glide, and crawl with glee to invoke Devlin’s advocacy to protect biodiversity.
Devlin ties in a dome to one’s home, a sanctuary that safeguards inhabitants from the external environment. It becomes a refuge one seeks to linger in when there is nowhere else to go to quiet themselves. The artist sees her work, which took her four months to complete, as a call to see, hear, and feel one’s shelter in a city that brims with interconnected culture and species. She wants visitors to remember how essential nature and species are to people who seem to forget that they also form part of the living beings and play their own crucial roles in the biosphere. To reiterate their characters in the real-world stage, Devlin has drawn the endangered species to inform their visitors of their names and stories, and their current state of being under threat due to manmade decisions and actions.
photos by Matt Alexander
Informing visitors about the endangered species
Es Devlin’s Come Hoem Again echoes the thoughts of the climate activist Joanna Macy, who she quotes: ‘Now it can dawn on us: we are the world knowing itself. As we relinquish our isolation, we come home again…we come home to our mutual belonging.’ The sliced and open-scale model of the dome found St. Paul’s Cathedral stands tall during the day to welcome visitors and interact with the drawn species. They can slowly climb up through choral tiers and witness the drawings zoom in as they become closer to their details.
The immersive experience comes into a full circle with the surrounding soundscape of the endangered species along with their names pronounced via voiceovers. The printed QR codes on the walls guide the visitors to information and stories about each of the species and let them in on why it is necessary to reconsider human actions that harm biodiversity. When the day ends and the night dawns, the magic of the illuminated dome begins as an interpretation of Choral Even song is sung by London-based choral groups at sunset combined with the voices of the birds, bats, and insects that also consider London their home.
Come Home Again, Es Devlin, 2022
Steps to reverse the decline of biodiversity
London’s 243 priority species have been identified by the London Biodiversity Action Plan as declining in numbers within the city and as priorities for active conservation and protection. Visitors of Come Home Again by Es Devlin are can engage with London Wildlife Trust to contribute and learn more about the endangered species. As Mathew Frith comments, the Director of Policy and Research at London Wildlife Trust, the survival of the city’s wildlife is now at a tipping point after decades of decline in many species, and reversing the decline depends not only on changing everyday practice, but also on managing the city’s green spaces and climate-adaptive technologies, and making sure the city’s wildlife is supported. ‘Come Home Again is an important exploration of the role of art in the protection of London’s species and nature’s recovery across and beyond the city,’ he adds.
243 endangered species are drawn inside the illuminated dome
a projection is also installed to display the species on the backdrop