Ginsberg is also focused on plants, though in a very different way. Her contribution is “Pollinator Pathmaker,” an 820-foot-long flower bed that was planted not to please humans, but to benefit pollinators — bees and insects, many of them in danger of extinction. “A lot of my work is about shifting perspective,” she said. Her garden — near the formal, 19th-century Italian Gardens, and a 10-minute walk from the rest of the exhibition in the North Gallery — involves looking at plants from a pollinator’s perspective.
“Pollinators see differently,” she explained. “They sense differently. Bees, for example, can’t see the color red, but they can see ultraviolet. Butterflies can see red, green, blue and ultraviolet. Bees can memorize the locations of the plants they visit and optimize the fastest route around all the flowers — and they may visit 10,000 flowers in a day. So I started to think, what would a garden look like if we weren’t making it in a tasteful way?”
Kind of crazy is the answer — “super dense, intensively blooming across the year, very colorful and full of strange combinations of plants.” But designing such a garden is complicated — so complicated that Ginsberg partnered with a string-theory physicist in Poland, Przemek Witaszczyk, to create an algorithm that would help her figure out what to plant. At the website pollinator.art, you too can use this algorithm to get instructions that are specific to your garden.
If “Pollinator Pathmaker” is, as Ginsberg put it, “a genteel way to think about” extinction issues, Carolina Caycedo’s “This Land is a Poem of Ten Rivers Healing” is more confrontational. Born in London, raised in Colombia, living now in Los Angeles, Caycedo has spent years documenting the scars left by dams. At the Serpentine, she uses aerial and satellite photography to chronicle the fates of 10 rivers in North and South America in immersive, floor-to-ceiling wall covering. One section documents the 2019 Brumadinho dam collapse, when waste from a Brazilian iron-ore mine buried more than 250 people alive in an avalanche of toxic sludge. Another comes in response to the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam that flooded part of the Magdalena River — the economic, social and cultural heart of Colombia. “I always say the river called me back,” said Caycedo, who grew up on a farm near its banks.