Ai Weiwei among others to present AR works in global exhibition premiering at Cornwall's Eden Project

Seeing the Invisible kicks off in the UK this September, before heading to 11 participating gardens across Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and USA.

2 July 2021


Premiering in September 2021, Seeing the Invisible is a new expansive exhibition opening in 12 gardens across six countries, bringing together dozens of international artists who are all presenting works made using augmented reality technology (AR). The artists include Ai Weiwei, thhe Chinese contemporary artist and activist known for his political sculptures and public pieces; Refik Anadol, a Turkish-American new media artist and designer who employs machine learning algorithms; El Anatsui, a Ghanaian sculptor known for his bottle-top installation; along with a selection of other participating artists. The show will open at Cornwall's Eden Project, with installations housed amongst its large-scale biomes of rainforests and plants.

Spanning various countries, Seeing the Invisible will present the same commissioned artworks in each of the 12 outdoor garden locations, placing the AR works amongst different biomes from around the world. The nature of AR means that the works involved can be placed amongst varying landscapes and features, all without the limitations of physical exhibition and spatial design; many of the works shown will also address themes of nature, environment, sustainability and the digital environment. Visitors will be able to interact with the exhibition through an app designed to be downloaded to phones and tablets, opening up a collaborative nature between the audience, artists and natural location.

“As a cultural destination set within a regenerated, natural landscape, the idea of immersing digital installations within that environment will be a thrill for our visitors and, indeed, us as hosts,” says David Harland, interim chief executive at the Eden Project in the press release. “To experience extraordinary digital works that enable us to view the natural world around them though a new lens will reach hearts and minds, as well as informing and educating simultaneously.


Seeing the Invisible: Ori Gersht, On Reflection Virtual, 2014 (Copyright © Ori Gersht, 2014)

The other locations at which the show will premier are Denver Botanic Gardens, USA; Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, Israel; Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa; Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, USA; Massachusetts Horticultural Society in Wellesley, USA; Royal Botanical Gardens in Ontario, Canada; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scotland; Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Cranbourne Gardens, Australia; Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne Gardens, Australia; San Diego Botanic Garden, USA and Tucson Botanical Gardens, USA.

The show has been initiated by the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens and Outset Contemporary Art Fund, and is co-curated by Hadas Maor and Til Michael Haring. The full list of artists are as followed: Ai Weiwei, Refik Anadol, El Anatsui, Ori Gersht, Isaac Julien, Mohammed Kazem, Sigalit Landau, Daito Menabe, Sarah Meyohas, Mel O’Callaghan, Pamela Rosenkranz. Timur Si-Qin and Jakob Kudsk Steensen.

Seeing the Invisible co-curator Hadas Maor says in the announcement: “This exhibition allows artists who have not previously worked in AR to expand on ideas that are central to their practice in entirely new ways. In doing so, the exhibition engages a wide range of visitors with contemporary artworks, including a number that address critical issues around the environment, through this exciting new medium.”  

“Coming out of the pandemic when outdoor experiences and nature have taken on a new meaning and gravity in our lives, this exhibition represents a fresh way for people to engage with art and nature simultaneously,” added Seeing the Invisible Co-Curator Tal Michael Haring. “The interplay of these augmented reality works in vibrant natural settings breaks down the binary between what is often considered ‘natural’ versus ‘digital’, and in this way provides an exhibition experience that is much more connected to the way we live today.” 


Seeing the Invisible: El Anatsui, AG & BA, 2014. Installation Aluminium and copper wire and nylon string dimensions variable. Photo Jonathan G (Copyright © El Anatsui, 2014)


Seeing the Invisible: Mohammed Kazem, Directions (Zero), 2010, Project for a situated work in public space (Copyright © Mohammed Kazem, 2010)


Seeing the Invisible: Water Organ, AR, image by Jakob Kudsk Steensen, 2022 (Copyright © Jakob Kudsk Steensen, 2022)


Seeing the Invisible: Mel O’Callaghan, Respire, Respire, 2019. Dielectric glass, 1500cm diameter. Installation view, UQ Art Museum, Brisbane, 2020. Photo: Clemens Habicht (Copyright © Mel O’Callaghan, 2019)

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Seeing the Invisible: Sigalit Landau, Salt Stalagmite #1 [Three Bridges], (detail), 2021 (Copyright © Sigalit Landau, 2021)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima. 

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