In a new series of monumental light projections, art icon Jenny Holzer prompts urgent environmental action. Words from more than 40 global climate activists appear across the UK to coincide with COP26.

The United Nations Climate Summit has continued through the night, with an agreement set to arrive in the coming hours. In its aftermath we’re faced with an enduring question — can art make a difference?

American conceptual artist Jenny Holzer has tackled this provocation head on for the past five decades. In the 1970s her Truisms saw pithy political slogans pasted in public spaces across New York City; in the 2010s her Redaction Paintings denounced prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay; and in 2020 VOTE FOR YOUR FUTURE saw lorries across America encourage civic participation for the US presidential election. These are but a few examples of Jenny’s valorous blend of art and activism. Her latest work is no exception.

HURT EARTH projects the words of over 40 climate activists, from Sir David Attenborough to Greta Thunberg, onto landmark buildings across the UK. For the opening of the summit at the end of October, the artwork adorned Tate Modern’s iconic chimney overlooking the broody — and polluted — waters of the River Thames in London. It then traveled to Edinburgh Castle and Glasgow’s SEC Armadillo and Met Tower. Spontaneous pop-up performances continue in Edinburgh until tomorrow, 14th November.

For the duration of the project we’ve worked alongside Jenny and her studio to platform the voices within HURT EARTH. With the final performance looming, we’re shining a light on five inspirational activists who featured in the artwork, hand-picked by Jenny.

Tara Houska

Tara Houska is a Couchiching First Nation attorney advocating indigenous rights and founder of Giniw Collective. She is Ojibwe from Couchiching First Nation and has acted as an advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders.

Tara Houska pictured outside delivering an impassioned speech
Quote by Tara Houska projected onto the Tate Modern, "Every bit of life comes from Earth, and everything is returned to the Earth."
Every bit of life comes from Earth and everything is returned to Earth.Tara Houska
Eric Rignot

Eric Rignot is a French environmental scientist and professor. He uses infrared technologies to study glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, contributing important research on rising sea levels.

man wearing a checked shirt, gesticulating, mid-speech. A screen showing blue sky and clouds is visible in the background
quote by Eric Rignot projected onto the Tate Modern, "The challenge for the human mind is to accept that what we do at this moment will have enormous consequences for decades to come."
The challenge for the human mind is to accept that what we do at this moment will have enormous consequences for decades to come.Eric Rignot
Robin Wall Kimmerer

Robin Wall Kimmerer, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, is a biologist challenging human-centric viewpoints by advocating plant rights. Kimmerer promotes radical kinship with nature, urging her readers to treat organic life as a family member — with compassion and respect for its own inert right to flourish.

portrait of woman with long grey hair, wearing a red knitted cardigan and blue beaded earrings
quote by Robin Wall Kimmerer projected onto the SEC Armadillo in Glasgow, "I choose joy over despair."
Restoration is a powerful antidote to despair. It’s not enough to grieve.Robin Wall Kimmerer
Hilda Flavia Nakabuye

Hilda Flavia Nakabuye is a 24-year-old climate activist from Uganda who has campaigned for environmental justice since her teens.

portrait of woman with hair in braids and a patterned white shirt, looking sternly into the camera
quote by Hilda Flavia Nakabuye projected onto the Tate Modern, "I made a decision to protect the only place I call home, Earth."
I made a decision to protect the only place I call home, Earth.Hilda Flavia Nakabuye
Elizabeth Kolbert

Elizabeth Kolbert is an American journalist and writer fighting for environmental action, with particular attention to species decline and extinction. The Sixth Extinction won the non-fiction Pulitzer Prize in 2014, and her most recent book Under a White Sky asks a potent, difficult, but also optimistic question – ​​can we save nature in time?

portrait of woman with curly brown hair, wearing a round-necked black t-shirt against a black background
quote by Elizabeth Kolbert projected onto the cliff face below Edinburgh Castle, "To a discomfiting extent the future has already been written."
Really waking up has become urgent. The world is in danger and we need to act immediately to survive.Elizabeth Kolbert
"If not now then when" projected onto the cliff face below Edinburgh Castle in block capitals

HURT EARTH © 2021 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / DACS, UK.

Artwork photography and videography by Lee Pretious, Ryan Buchanan and Adam Kenrick. Animation by Seth Brau. Audio and video editing by Oresti Tsonopoulos.

In collaboration with Artwise Curators, Tate, Virginia Shore and Hauser & Wirth.

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