Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World

Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World

Explorer, collector, activist and conjuror of theatrical environments American artist Mark Dion (b.1961) has travelled through rainforests and rubbish dumps to reveal the wonder and fragility of life on earth.

Dion uses specimens – natural and manmade – to make uncanny representations of these environments.

His drawings, sculptures and installations draw on the techniques of scientific enquiry and museum display; and on the telling of natural histories.

We embark on a journey through a sequence of installations created between 2000 and the present.

The exhibition begins with The Library for the Birds of London (2018), a new commission continuing a series of aviaries Dion has created since 1993.

The roomy sanctuary is a temporary home to 22 zebra finches, which are well-known for being social creatures.

Visitors are invited into the aviary, which has an apple tree at its centre, referencing the tree of life. Over 600 books devoted to ornithology, environmentalism, literature and the natural sciences surround the birds.

A scholar’s study invites us to unravel intricate drawings and models; while the Bureau for the Centre of the Study for Surrealism and its Legacy displays the strange magic of obsolete things.

The muddy banks of the Thames have also yielded their treasures for poetic display in a gigantic cabinet; while The Wonder Workshop displays the ghosts of animals and instruments, many of them extinct and obsolescent.

Each immersive environment is also a habitat, evoking the characters that observe, conserve or exploit the natural world.


Whitechapel Art Gallery until 13 May 2018