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Tuesday 13 April 2021

Artist in Focus: Ackroyd & Harvey

Ackroyd & Harvey © Jeff Spicer, Getty

Innovative and prolific, Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey are internationally acclaimed for their multi-disciplinary work that intersects the realms of art, activism, architecture, and science.

In anticipation of our new main gallery exhibition Remember the Future opening next month discover more about this multi award winning artist duo.

Working in collaboration since 1990 Ackroyd & Harvey develop bold and impactful art works and installations that encourage us to question our established ways of viewing the world.

Frequently their work experiments with natural materials and processes. Through manipulating the natural process of photosynthesis, the duo pioneered the act of creating images of people and other subjects from living grass grown in situ in galleries. These works bring into focus our human impact on the natural world both literally and metaphorically as well as inviting us to think about the natural cycles of germination and growth.

Credit: Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Their work using grass has also expanded beyond the gallery into monumental architectural interventions such as on the inside of a disused Church in Dilston Grove, South London in 2003, The Cunningham building for Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013, and an installation at Vester Allé 7 for ARoS Triennial 2017. There are also more intimate examples; such as coats of living grass worn by Extinction Rebellion protestors at London Fashion Week.

Dilston Grove, 2003

Another ongoing series of work with organic materials centres on trees.  Beuys’ Acorns is an open-ended research project initiated in 2007 when the artists germinated hundreds of acorns collected from Joseph Beuys’s seminal artwork 7000 Oaks. Today, they have 200 surviving young trees acting as both an artwork and a catalyst for public engagement and research in galleries, museums, botanic gardens, sites of special interest and exhibition spaces across the UK and France. They will be exhibited at London’s Tate Modern this year in response to the climate emergency and to celebrate the centenary of Beuys.

Beuys' Acorns, 2019 at Bloomberg Arcade. Photo credit Exploration Architecture

Through public space interventions and contributions to protests and parades Ackroyd & Harvey actively invite the accidental viewer to experience their work. This desire to connect with a wide audience reflects their passion for advocating for climate justice with their art acting as a call to arms to address the challenges of climate crisis and ecocide. They are widely regarded as being some of the leading advocates of placing the climate and ecological emergency into the centre of cultural landscape. In 2019 they co-founded Culture Declares Emergency, an international movement of individuals and organisations demanding positive action in the sector.

Ackroyd & Harvey

This collaborative approach is also reflected in the highly disciplinary way their work is developed and the way it treads the line between scientific insight and creative intervention. Frequently their work evolves through extended periods of research responding to people and place. Together and individually they have joined scientists, researchers, and other artists and creatives to study the impact of climate change on several voyages to the artic organised by Cape Farewell to study the impact of climate change.

Cape Farewell Expedition, 2007

Ackroyd & Harvey will be exhibition a range of work as part of Remember the Future opening on Tuesday 18 May.

On Thursday 22 April for Earth Day 2021 Ackroyd & Harvey will be answering your questions about their work and how art can be a part of the fight to tackle climate emergency.

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