UNCCD COP 13 “Save the Earth” Green Corps Exhibition

UNCCD COP 13 “Save the Earth”

Green Corps Exhibition


‘Planting for Hope, Land for Life’

Responding to environmental challenge, renowned artists bring a new civilisation where mankind and nature live in harmony.

The UNCCD COP 13 “Save the Earth” Green Corps Exhibition is held at Ordos International Convention and Exhibition Center, where the thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) takes place. This exhibition shows 82 works including paintings, photographs, cartoons and caricatures, as well as seven documentary videos that portray the anti-desertification activities of five environmental organisations. It is jointly hosted by Future Forest, a South Korean non-governmental organization devoted to planting trees in the Kubuqi desert of China over the past 10 years led by Ambassador Byong Hyon Kwon, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and All-China Youth Federation. China Youth Center for International Exchange organised this exhibition.

Ms. Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary congratulated Ambassador Kwon by saying ‘it has been a decade since UNCCD first joined hands with Future Forest for the “Save the Earth” initiative…I am very pleased to see the exhibition here in Inner Mongolia where the actions of the Save the Earth Green Corps actually take place.’

Curator Stephanie Seungmin Kim has brought together 56 contemporary artists from Algeria, Canada, China, France, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Palestine, Romania, Turkey, The USA, The UK, Ukraine and Vietnam. Stephanie Kim said “In this Anthropocene world, art still touches people and moves policy makers to act. I am honoured to be a part of this UNCCD COP13 with inspiring artists.”

The purpose of the exhibition, featuring artwork from top artists, is to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15.3, which states: “By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.” As a part of “Save the Earth” Green Corps, the objective of this exhibition is to raise awareness of the issue of DDLD and to encourage actions to prevent and counter desertification for achieving land degradation neutrality, to the decision makers and other participants attending COP13. It draws attention of the audience on the urgency of and asks their support for anti-desertification action, in response to the artists’ innovative and inspiring ideas.




The six exhibition themes that follow are devoted to environmental, social and human concerns, but also address both the minimal efforts of human actions and the sustainable eco-friendly cultures suggested by artists.

Worked with world-famous artists, this exhibition includes a set of pioneering works of environmental art. Tree Mountain-A Living Time Capsule by Agnes Denes was first commissioned by the Finnish government at the UNCED Earth Summit in 1992. Denes created the pyramid forest upon which 11,000 participants planted 11,000 trees over a four-year period. This tree mountain is legally protected for the next four hundreds years in Finland. Denes represents the coexistence of humans and nature by transforming pyramids into a living structure. The exhibition starts with Denes’s writings and various documentations of her work.

Agnes Denes, Tree Mountain-A Living Time Capsule-triptych,  11,000 Trees, 11,000 People, 400 Years, 91.4 x 91.4 cm, Ylöjärvi, Finland, 1992-2013

Agnes Denes, Tree Mountain-A Living Time Capsule-triptych,
11,000 Trees, 11,000 People, 400 Years, 91.4 x 91.4 cm, Ylöjärvi, Finland, 1992-2013

Many artists also created new works for the exhibition, incorporating a global dimension to the desertification and ecological issues in China. Damien MacDonald created a new animation, New Eyes for The Inner Desert, which adds a spiritual interpretation to the desertification theme.

Damien MacDonald, New Eyes for The Inner Desert, HD, Codec H.264, Black & White, 7min 25sec, 2017


< Desertification and Anthropocene >

This section connects the human impact on Earth, including disruption of natural processes, species extinctions and urban development, to desertification and the broader ecological crisis on the planet. It features photographs of the ruins of an ancient Roman town and a barren desert oasis by international documentary photographer George Steinmetz as well as Serkan Taycan’s photographic project Shell, which depict from ancient town to the modern desert in epic but realistic view points.

Palestine artist Yazan Khalili presents Blindness of Love, a project that includes photos exposed to excess light, which leaves a trace that witnesses the details of a disappeared love. Khalili’s work prompts the audience to question ‘how does one regard the pain of the self?’.

Serkan Taycan, Shell #07, Archival pigment print, Framed, 2 x 90 x 177cm, 2012


<Flee or Fight: the Silent Frontline>

The impacts of desertification and environmental stress now act as a threat to livelihoods, disrupting and conflicting social peace, security and international stability. In line with this challenge, Vietnamese artist Richard Streitmatter-Tran reflects on the real influence of animals on human life. In his work Mammals, he emphasizes extinct animals using the pigments from the earth. Streitmatter-Tran also created a new video work for the exhibition based on the idea that unfired terracotta sculpture mimics the cracks of the parched earth

Richard Streitmatter-Tran, Mammals, Charcoal and pastel on toned paper, 100 x 300cm, 2015

The film Transoxiana Dreams by Almagul Menlibayeva is a mythological narrative placed and staged in the vast landscape of her native Kazakhstan, a country ravaged by 60 years of Soviet occupation. Menlibayeva leads her audience to the brutally changed Aral Sea region—a place where indigenous people now live in the Aralkum Desert, a once thriving region now entirely devoid of water due to radical Soviet irrigation politics.

Korean artist Sea Hyun Lee presents a series of mountains of paintings, which are rendered in intense red. In Lee’s painting there are uncanny tensions between familiar sense of nostalgia and fragmentation of the past; memory and history from the political scenes.

Almagul Menlibayeva, Transoxiana Dreams, HD video, 11min video still, 2011

German-based artist Nahum, originally from Mexico created a hypnosis performance video. These remnants of a fictional voyage turn into reality through a space mission. According to Nahum, as the electric glow of Earth emerges on the horizon, maybe we all have visited the Moon, or at least our memories have. Conceptual photograph artist Myoung Ho Lee worked on ‘Art-Act Project’. This work awakens the essence of nature through the installation of a white canvas behind a tree. Lee’s Tree Series presents the complete figure of tree as a metaphor of ‘re-presence’.

Myoung Ho Lee, Tree…#2, Ink on paper, 104 x 152cm, 2012


<Call for Action>

This exhibition also includes the longstanding human efforts and supportive performances to control the impacts of the desertification process. Through the inclusion of on-going organizational and youth endeavours, this section will empower viewers to take action toward the prevention of desertification. The youth volunteers of Future Forest have planted around 8 million trees in the Kubuqi desert of China over the past 10 years—from what is known as the Great Green Wall to the launch of the ‘Planting 1 Billion Trees in the Desert’ project. Other organizations such as ECO-TV Korea, which has initiated the ‘Campaign to find desert breathing’, and All-China Youth Federation, one of the biggest youth organizations in China with more than 80 million members, have devoted themselves to the prevention of desertification and the establishment of a new ‘green civilization’.


<Man and Nature: Looking for Harmony>

This section will address a new civilisation whereby humans live in harmony with nature, as suggested through various interpretations by international artists. Korean visual artist Kyoung Kap Min presents a painting Coexistence with Nature 17-1 that expresses appreciation for natural world. Our tough life receives limitless vitality and warm consolation from green mountains, which bring new lives and renew the bright future of the earth. Korean Surrealist artist Nampyo Kim features fantastical and organic landscape paintings, which juxtapose nature with modern structures and reveal the uneasiness of human civilisation. Korean artist Leenam Lee creates new media art that integrates a high-tech environment with traditional painting. Lee produces Landscape of Wang Shichang to deliver the harmonisation of nature and humankind.

Leenam Lee, Landscape of Wang Shichang, LED TV, Color, Sound, 9min 4sec, 2013

Yejeong Ko, a Korean contemporary artist based in London, presents a newly commissioned works at this exhibition. In Forest and Gang Taegong, Ko, in collaboration with Youngbo Kim, suggests that nature provides humans with potential futures seeding wishes and efforts for life. As a part of her series on contemplation, Ko also presents Oneness, which asks us how humans can live as part of nature.

Yejeong Ko, Forest, White oil colour on photo print, 42 x 59cm, 2017


<Slow Down, Get Sustainable>

Within the context of green-civilisation, this exhibition emphasises that a fundamental solution to the environmental issue requires a change in the human heart to an eco-friendly sustainable capacity of life. John Sabraw, an environmentalist-artist, produces visual prints from iron pigments that were collected by restored toxic streams. Sabraw also presents a short documentary on Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), transforming pollutants into vibrant works of art.


John Sabraw, Chroma S4 Chimaera (Left) and Chroma S4 Nebula (Right), Acid mine extracted iron oxide and other pigments in mixed media on aluminum composite panel, 122 x 122cm, 2017

Korean artist Se Yoon Park was exposed to rural life and drastic industrialisation while growing up. These contrasting influences led him to develop the theme in light, darkness, time, and life. Park applies his experience to the form of a tree and captures the essence of divine order within nature. Architect Minkyu Kim from Korea extends the abstract concept of fermentation to an architectural space and landscape, which refers to human organic matter as embodied in the earth.

Se Yoon Park, Light, Darkness and The Tree, HD, 16:9, Color, Sound, 5min 14sec, 2017


<Human Life and Culture …The World>

The exhibition includes 17 paintings by Chinese artists chosen by Forest China to highlight the relationship between nature and humanity. In the artwork The Story in A Dream, artist Fu Li explores the relationship of the four walls of modern civilization and the walls of the countryside. Zhongjun Li’s Realms shows the visual perception of image archaeology, confused with the absurd ecological aesthetic context. With his work, Li suggests that viewers store their original heart properly and release uncertain emotions.

Fu Li, The Story in the Forest, Chinese ink and color on rice paper, 69 x 205cm, 2015

Ten cartoons by artists from a variety of countries including Algeria, Canada, France, Kenya, Romania and Ukraine will be presented at the exhibition. These cartoons were selected at the cartoon contest Désertif’Actions 2017 Summit in France organized on the theme ‘Land degradation and climate: Europe and the world facing the ultimate borders!’. Caricatures by Wonsoon Lee of key environmental figures from around the world will be shown in the exhibition as a group.

The youth forum will launch on the 9th September, featuring a presentation of anti-desertification activity by the All-China Youth Federation and Future Forest, building the Great Green Wall with Green Corps (youth volunteers) at the Kubuqi desert, China. Scientific analysis of the impact of the afforestation will be presented. The exhibition also includes a public talk and related events and an online campaign. These educational programmes are crucial to increase public awareness of desertification.

The UNCCD COP 13 “Save the Earth” launches on September 6, 2017, Ordos International Convention and Exhibition Center, Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China, with the theme ‘Planting for Hope, Land for Life’.