Lise Cormier’s Mother Earth
Tag Archive: eco-art
Some of today’s most important eco-artists — people like Patricia Johanson, Betsy Damon, and others — work on a landscape scale with interdisciplinary groups of participants to render socio-ecological change into aesthetically tangible and artistically significant forms. Experimental dancer and choreographer Jennifer Monson’s work falls into this category as well, though, as dance, it tends to be more ephemeral and less product-oriented than even the most process-based of eco-art.
A beautiful piece by improvisational guitarist and deep-sea diver Henry Kaiser, shot somewhere off the coast of Antarctica. (He’s done similar scenes in a couple of Werner Herzog films, Encounters at the End of the World and the sci-fi docu-fantasy The Wild Blue Yonder.)
Somewhere around the 7-8 minute mark, I was so overcome with emotion I almost spilled out of my body, messing up the keyboard of my laptop and covering it with an organless goo as it tried to squeeze its way through the monitor to swim along with him. On a rainy day, I can imagine myself setting this on infinite-loop and bathing myself in it. The final violin lines glide into the skin of my brain like blades of gold. Where would we be without the Henry Kaisers of this world?
Thanks to Andrew Osborne at Total Assault on Culture for sharing this.
One of my (largely dormant) pet projects over the years has been to document and theorize anonymous, self-decomposing artworks made in collaboration with nature and time. These works are creative engagements with environments — often simple rearrangements of physical materials (rocks, wood, found pieces of scrap metal or discarded trash, and the like) — by individuals, designed or improvised with materials at hand, working with others less by design than by happenstance. They can be found in outdoor public spaces, wooded ravines and forests, wild patches of cities and countryside, abandoned industrial sites. Remaining little documented, they appear not to exist at all except when directly encountered, which is something that usually happens by chance.
Even calling them ‘artworks’ can be problematic, since they may not be created with the intent of being recognized as art, or made by ‘artists’, and certainly not as part of the ‘art system’ (as Bourdieu, Luhmann, or Stallabrass would define it). Insofar as they assert the (past) presence of those who have crafted them, they can be read as forms of graffiti, or a kind of resistant creativity akin to the guerrilla gardening movement of urban space activists. Marking out a space as different and significant, but leaving behind little direct evidence of the intent underlying them, they may convey an aura of mystery, playfulness, childlike wonder, or the more serious character of a sacred space or shrine, but until they are turned into a public topic (as has occurred with the fairy houses on Monhegan Island, where I just spent a few days, and about which more in a moment), they remain ambiguous and a little unplaceable within the systems of things that make up the recognized world. They are anomalous or ambiguous objects, which makes them relevant to the recent discussion here of objects versus relations.
The eco-arts blogosphere has kept simmering through the early summer. Greenmuseum.blog, connected to the excellent online environmental resource and exhibition space Green Museum, has taken on a new look. The blog had recently covered the Earth Matters on Stage EcoDrama Symposium, held at the University of Oregon. Mike Lawler’s EcoTheatre blog also provided coverage of EMOS. Ecoartspace has been blogging from the Seattle Public Arts Conference, the theme of which this year was Renewable Resources: Arts in Sustainable Communities.
Over at Sustainability and Contemporary Art, Maja and Ruben Fowkes have been blogging about the Hard Realities and New Materiality Symposium, which took place at Central European University recently. Antennae magazine has an interview with the Fowkes in which they discuss the sustainability of contemporary art, the ethics vs. the aesthetics of form, Felix Guattari’s ‘three ecologies,’ and other topics. Some of the Fowkes’ writings, including Unframed landscapes: Nature and Contemporary Art and Towards the Ecology of Freedom, can be found at Translocal.org. (Some of these overlap with issues I discussed in my piece Sustainable vision from the 2004 Natural Grace exhibition catalogue; you can find a brief overview of the environmental and eco-art movements there.)
Smudge has been blogging about the massive LAND/ART exhibition/project in New Mexico. In many ways, land art reflects an earlier moment in the evolution of ecological art, one premised on making statements in wild or open landscapes, but much of what’s presented in this exhibition goes well beyond that, for instance, to the documentation, questioning, and interrogation of land uses in their social, perceptual, and ecological contexts. Among the events is an Experimental Geography exhibition, featuring The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Trevor Paglen, and others. See the CLUI’s database of unusual and exemplary sites — which range from nuclear and industrial accident sites and weapons plants to tourist caves, ghost towns, and UFO sites across the U.S. — to get an idea of what this unusual ‘research organization’ does. Artist and “experimental geographer” Paglen‘s work on “black sites” — secret military landscapes and other “blank spots on the map” — has even gotten him onto the Colbert Report; see his media page for articles, reviews, and videos. Paglen writes about Experimental Geography over at Brooklyn Rail, while Rhizome provides a good list of reading materials on the topic. See also art:21′s interview with EG curator Nato Thompson.
Those links to some of the art pieces Andy Revkin has posted on Dot Earth could be easily missed on my previous post, so I’m posting them separately here.
Aaron Koblin’s “Flight Patterns” series animates airplane flight patterns over the United States:
Revkin has a brief interview with Koblin as well. I find that the upbeat electronica soundtrack (on the above YouTube video) trivializes the images, making them almost an advertisement for air flight and visualization technology; I would have used something more reflective (recall, for instance, Stars of the Lid’s Environmental Defense Fund NYC subway campaign “Polar Bears” piece). Compare it with the silent version here.
Revkin’s “Happy Birthday, Earthrise” post commemorates the original Earthrise photograph. Reading Denis Cosgrove’s “Contested Global Visions,” Sheila Jasanoff’s “Image and Imagination,” or even Heidegger’s “The Age of the World Picture” could set up a little productive tension with these images.
I know it’s just that they’ve touched my inner goth, but these graveyard photographs really do express something of what I find most appealing about the idea of immanence — that death is in the midst of life, the two entwined like the dying branches encircling the face of living stone in Onkel Wart’s photograph:
or Stuck in Customs’ tree overtaking a Chinese gravestone:
or E3000′s Sub Specie Aeternitatis:
or moss covering the angelic human spirit rising above its nature-laden grave in Roberto Catalano’s The City of Falling Angels:
Materiality, cyclicality, the rising and the passing away, the return of life to earth, earth covering earth covering stone covering flesh covering memory. The best of ecological art, it seems to me, reminds us of our embeddedness within cycles of emergence, submergence, and re-emergence in new forms, all causally intertwined in dependent origination converging to and from this moment in which we act, the consequences of our acts rippling outwards through eternity. (No, neither Nietzsche nor Buddha preached a closed universe of fated predetermination, as each moment opens possibilities of new connections to be made. But for both there is an ethic of responsibility to those connections, and a solidarity underpinning them.)
Individually these photos are nothing special – we probably have dozens of our own like them in our photo albums. Their impact is more cumulative, so go to the site itself to see all forty.
Thanks to Integral Options for sharing these (and Neil Gaiman for inspiring the collection).
Ambient electroacoustic artists Stars of the Lid do a beautiful job with thisEnvironmental Defense Fund NYC subway ad campaign video.
There are some great pictures to be found here, at The Big Picture: abandoned subdivisions and building sites, landscapes of unused freight containers (#34) and disused newspaper racks (#30), and “Free Weekly Tours of Quality Foreclosed Homes, Prices Won’t Last!!!” (#9, from Las Vegas). There’s something Ed Burtynskyesque about them…
On the topic of Ed Burtynsky: While the image quality is fairly poor when you blow it up to full-screen, Burtynsky’s TED Prize talk has him bearing his environmentalist heart on his sleeve (including his connection to the enviro-optimists at Worldchanging.com). Expect more on his photography and the work of other recent landscape-themed artists coming soon here…