For ten days from the 21st of September 2022, a half dome sculpture titled ‘Come Home Again’, sat in front of the Tate Modern. The sculpture imitated the structure of St Paul’s cathedral, cut in half to let visitors explore what was inside. With a monochrome styling, Artist Es Devlin filled the sculpture with hand drawn charcoal interpretations of the 243 animals and insects on London’s endangered species list. Through the placement of QR codes, the audience can scan and learn about the different species by engaging with London Wildlife Trust’s website (Chan 2022). A “rewilding of brains” (AnOther, 2022) is encouraged through soundscapes, light and a short talk given by Es Devlin on the theme of ‘making space for animals and insects in our imagination’. The soundscapes involving the sounds of birds, bats and insects, were paired with a selection of London-based choirs, with their interpretation of a Choral Evensong. The project is the result of a funded ‘collaboration’ between artist Es Devlin and Cartier – the luxury jewelry brand (Tank Magazine, 2022). Artist Es Devlin explained in an interview that when meeting the CEO of Cartier, Cyrille Vigneron, she “found that his priorities, his raging curiosity, were very aligned with mine,” (Ibid). Due to such a comment and an apparent long-term relationship between artist and brand, it feels important to outline their ecological standpoints which inspired the project ‘Come Home Again’.

In 2020, Cartier as a brand introduced a project titled ‘Cartier for Nature’, with the intention of strengthening their commitments to protect the environment (Cartier for nature, 2022). Their website states “Cartier for Nature advocates for the principle of nature-based solutions, actions that help sustainably protect, manage, and restore ecosystems for the benefits of human well- being and biodiversity” (Ibid). The brand approaches the climate crisis through solutions, driven by “scientific data” and a desire for “effective impact” (Ibid). Projects carried out under ‘Cartier by Nature’ vary immensely, but an interview for Elle magazine with Cyrille Vigneron highlights Cartier’s specific interest in “beauty, art and nature” as a reason behind why the brand choose to channel some of their money into arts and culture projects (Bird, 2022). Es Devlin; however, sees this project as more than being about beauty as she thinks “there’s a lot of work around climate change that says, ‘Look at this, this is beautiful, we’re about to lose it,’ or ‘look at this, this is on fire,’ and do you feel a responsibility? If you’re going to call someone’s attention to something, you need to give them a way in, a portal.” (AnOther 2022). Interviews with Es Devlin further expand on the intended environmental message of ‘Come Home Again’, establishing the sculpture as a piece that encourages its audience to see London through a “Non-Human” perspective; to disrupt the assumption that “life will be a human one”(Chan 2022). By creating a large dome which people may walk in and out of, Devlin is seeking “to establish a temporary new spiritual space in the city dedicated to those lives and languages in the city at risk of eradication” (Ibid). The relationship between artist and brand can be seen as a strengthening of Cartier’s aim to appear involved and interested in the environment. High praise from mainstream digital outlets, evidence how this collaboration has aided the reputation of cartier, with Elle magazine describing it as “A rare pause in the fashion industry machine to call attention to London’s endangered species” and changing “our approach to the animal kingdom” (Ibid).

Artist Es Devlin makes it clear in media interviews she has been influenced by what she describes as “eco philosophy” (AnOther 2022), which approaches the climate disaster through a ‘non- human’ lens. The sculpture is described by Devlin as providing a ‘home’ for animals and insects to live alongside humans; to show an audience there is no need for a separation between humans and nature. However, in her appeal for a holistic approach to the natural world, Devlin divorces the separation between humans and nature from any political or critical narratives. To make a ‘call to action’ for ecological interconnectedness, says Hickel, asks for an understanding of the world as a complex whole rather than consisting of alienated individual parts (Hickel 2020 p.12). By approaching ecology through a ‘non-human’ lens, Devlin’s discourse appears to critique a divided and binary approach to humans and nature; which is particularly emphasised by her placing the discourse in London, a city where “Nature becomes a place we visit, not where we live” (Patel and Moore 2018). Es Devlin is quoted in an interview giving a limited explanation as to why there is a binary relationship with humans and nature saying, “Humans went through a period of separation from the biosphere in order to learn more about it, in order to specialise” (Chain 2022). But by ignoring the history of Western capitalism, and the particular ideologies which have explicitly given rise to that dualistic view, Devlin’s argument falls short of its optimistic aims to extend people’s worldviews ‘beyond their own body and mind’ (Chan, 2022). In removing from her discussion a critique of the naturalising modes of capitalism which have constructed human beings as being separate from, and more important than, animals and insects (Verges 2017 p.76), Devlin risks undermining her cause.

Although Devlin’s argument could, superficially, be seen to line up with those of Hickel and Moore, on closer inspection it actually distracts from the root cause of the matter at hand. What is not being said by journalists, Cartier and Devlin herself, is “When and where did humanity’s modern relation with the rest of nature begin?” (Moore 2017 p.599). If these questions are addressed, capitalogenic realities become explicit as the root drivers and reproducers of destructive human-animal relations (Stuart and Gunderson 2019) (Moore 2017 p.600). Dating back to the advent of contemporary capitalism in the 16th century, and the emergence of Cartesian, dualist philosophy in Western Europe (Hickel 2020), the Capitalocene can be understood “as a world-ecology, joining the accumulation of capital, the pursuit of power, and the co-production of nature in dialectical unity” (Verges 2017 p.76). To understand why the West’s modern exploitative relationship with nature began, Hickel picks out what makes capitalism different from most other economic systems in history, stating that its ethos is organised around “ever-increasing levels of industrial extraction, production and consumption” (Hickel 2020 p.15). Rather than having a dependency on nature, where only what is needed is used, capitalism works with an ethos of, accumulating capital ‘for the sake of accumulation’ and ‘for the sake of production’ (Stuart and Gunderson 2019). For an economy which demands ever-expanding growth to function, animals, insects and soils are turned into commodities and imagined and treated as expendable (Moore 2017). The exploitation of nature is a process of cheapening resources which reduces non-human life (an end in itself) into a means for an end, thus subjecting the lives and experiences of animals to the aims of capital (Stuart and Gunderson 2019). Within this system, humans are separate from and superior to ‘nature’; “humans are subjects with spirit and mind and agency, whereas nature is an inert, mechanistic object” (Hickel 2020 p.20). For Devlin to ‘call attention’ to the hierarchical dualism between human/nature without mentioning capitalism, obscures the view of power, production and profit in the web of life (Moore 2017 p.598).

Besides the shortcomings in her critical discourse, Devlin’s partnership with Cartier is perhaps the most damning indictment of her own argument. Cartier is owned by the large corporation ‘Richemont’, who position themself and the brands they own as innovating solutions for a ‘for a better, more human future.’ (Richemont 2023). “Global GDP needs to keep growing by at least 2% or 3% per year”, growth which requires “ever-increasing levels of industrial extraction, production and consumption” (Hickel 2020 pp.15-16). In order for this growth to be possible, the global economy churns through more energy, resources and waste each year (Ibid), contributing to the cheapening and exploitation of nature (Patel and Moore 2018). Large firms and corporations work within this growth model in order to maintain rising aggregate profits needed to compete within the contemporary western capitalism economy, Richemont and Cartier are no exception to this. Therefore, for brands to continue their exploitative relationships with nature, whilst funding and supporting ecological projects such as ‘Cartier for Nature’ and ‘Come Home Again’, brands promote an optimistic and apocalyptic view of climate change. Verges (2017 p.78) describes two views of climate change and environmental history dominating public discourses and policy: “apocalyptic (humans are responsible for ecological destruction) and [the] optimistic (scientists and engineers will find solutions)”. These approaches work as an ideological strategy for brands and corporations to blame out-of-control forces rather than structures of power, further naturalising the capitalist ethos (Ibid) (Stuart and Gunderson 2019). ‘Come Home Again’ conveys both the apocalyptic and the optimistic by accepting economic support and creative influence from Cartier, it promotes the idea that capitalism can play a part of undoing in the human/nature binary and, as a consequence naturalising the climate crisis being the fault of all humans rather than capitalists who created this hierarchical binary. This apocalyptic view is further emphasised by Delvin’s consistent call to action that it is ‘our’ responsibility, and that ‘WE’ need to reconnect, and come home again to our mutual planet’ (Chan 2022) as if this is possible on an individual level while corporations are enacting the cheapening of nature (Patel and Moore 2018). Furthermore, the funding from Cartier, who frame their ecological ‘solutions’ as being driven by “scientistic data” (Cartier for nature, 2022), restricts the projects ‘call to action’ within “the same reductive [optimistic] thinking that caused it in the first place (Hickel 2020 p.12). The partnership between Es Devlin and Cartier therefore leaves these ideological tactics disguised and makes it seem possible to repair ecosystems and our relationship to nature without a disruption to capitalist means of production.

Ergo, the dynamic quality of capitalism precludes the possibility for brands to become ecologically sustainable, meaning mass extinction of resources and the alienation of humans from nature will continue despite attempts by brands at promoting restoration of the ecosystem (Jones 2009 p.318). Until a degrowth strategy that directly challenges capitalism by “living with enough rather than more” (Stuart and Gunderson 2019) which allows for the web of life to have a chance to “knit itself back together” (Hickel 2020 p.19) uncritical and universalising solutions will allow for the continued capitalist ethos which “exceeds biophysical boundaries” (Stuart and Gunderson 2019). Therefore, Es Devlin’s ‘Non-Human eco philosophy’ is not only a politically and historically flattened message, but a hollow one, as long as it’s funded by a Cartier.

The main goal of locating ‘Come Home Again’ within texts which expose the alienated relations between humans and nature as being fundamental to the capitalist ethos (Stuart and Gunderson 2019), was to undermine its politically flattened message bred from a brand having creative and economic influence over the exhibition. For a fairer, more caring, post-capitalist economy to exist (Hickel 2020 p.19), artists and those involved in the arts and culture sector cannot continue to involve corporations in their calls to ecological mobilisation.



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