Yearly Archives: 2020

Finding the Positive at Double Negative

In the last couple of weeks, our world has turned on a dime. In what seemed like an instant, we were pulled from our day-to-day active lives into isolation. Our city has shut down, as has much of the country. All non-essential businesses have closed, and groups of people are restricted. 

In a quest to see something more than the inside of my house, I took a drive to see Michael Heizer’s iconic land art piece – Double Negative. Located about two hours from my home in Las Vegas, Nevada – I drove north to Overton, Nevada. From there, once I hit the dirt road, I was essentially alone with just an occasional vehicle visible in the distance.

Parking on the rim of Mormon Mesa, I was struck by the vastness of the view shed. There were a full 100 square miles in view, from snow-capped mountains in the distance, the flat desert plain of the mesa and the meandering Virgin River in the valley below. Double Negative blends into the view as if it had always been there and can be easily missed if you don’t know what you are looking for.

Heizer’s Double Negative is considered a “negative” sculpture. In 1969, using heavy equipment with the help of some dynamite, he removed almost a quarter of a million tons of rock on the Mesa edge. In his sculpture, he created two cuts, both 50 feet deep and 30 feet wide and several hundred feet long. Over the years, it has weathered and eroded, but the basic shape is still clearly visible and will be for years to come. Initially, Heizer did not want the piece restored in any way, instead, wanting the desert to reclaim the land over time. More recently, potential restoration is being discussed with support from the artist.

In the late 1960s, art dealer Virginia Dwan provided funding for the project and donated the land and the piece to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. The site is open for viewing 365 days of the year, and directions are accessible from Google Maps and a variety of online sources. 

Michael Heizer felt that the most accurate view of Double Negative was in person, being physically present at the site. As I look over the edge of Double Negative, I am struck by how relatively unchanged this sculpture is after a half-century. In this uncertain time where our lives have changed significantly, what lesson does this land art piece share about the mysteries of time and our role in it?

Paula Jacoby-Garrett is a freelance writer in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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Remembering the First Earth Day Fifty Years Later

By Susan Hoffman Fishman

The world’s first Earth Day was held fifty years ago on April 22, 1970 while I was a freshman in college. To commemorate the event, Hans-Dieter Froese, a prominent New York contemporary artist and my sculpture professor at the time, gave our class an assignment to design and implement a bio-degradable, site-specific, outdoor installation.

Although common today, the terms “site specific” and “installation” were brand new to the contemporary art world in 1970, as was the notion of “bio-degradable” materials. I didn’t know then that what we had been assigned to do could also be classified as public art and that so many years later I would be immersed in two, large-scale, site-specific, public art installations. If you would have told me that I would be remembering my first primitive attempt in that discipline in 2020, I would not have believed you. Nor could I have imagined that my paintings, public art projects and writing would be focusing almost exclusively on the environment and the climate crisis.

After surveying familiar materials that might be used to complete the class assignment, my classmate, Leslie, and I chose to collaborate on a red Jello installation. (Don’t laugh, we were serious about this.) Jello, we thought, was bio-degradable because it would melt back into a harmless liquid that could be absorbed into the ground when it was exposed to heat. We selected a specific site outside our dorm that had full sun exposure and was visible to a large number of students, and we correctly predicted that a sculpture comprised only of a red, transparent substance that could reflect the light of the sun would create a very dramatic statement. What we didn’t realize was that the red dye used in the Jello contained chemicals that were harmful to the environment. (Packaging labels that include ingredients were still a thing of the future.) We also didn’t realize that to make, refrigerate and transport the product of 150 boxes of Jello would require an enormous amount of time and effort.

Thankfully, April 22, 1970 was a warm, sunny day. As a consequence, when the sculpture was installed in the sun alongside the walkway outside our dorm, the Jello melted as required. I have no photograph of the actual sculpture to document the moment but picture this: multiple 12″ x 18″ slabs of red Jello piled on top of each other at various angles to a height of about three feet, shining brilliantly in the sun. Despite our initial misgivings about the project, we had created a dynamic, jiggling, ephemeral installation that challenged the college community to consider a work of art in a new discipline, comprised of an unusual material and marking the first Earth Day. The generic image below will give you a general idea of what the installation looked like.

I remember some of my fellow students mocking our efforts as they passed by the installation that day. Is this “modern art?” they sneered. “You get credit for this?” Very few students outside of Froese’s class understood that the installation was a visual statement promoting a green environment and conservation of the Earth’s resources. For those who actually stopped to interact with us, though, the installation was successful in stimulating conversations on why we needed to talk about the natural environment and our responsibilities to it.

Earth Day 1970 was the first time that millions of Americans united to respond to contemporary environmental issues, which then consisted of damaging oil spills, choking smog, species extinction and highly polluted rivers. The passage of critical environmental laws came about as a direct result of the positive energy generated in 1970 and included The Clean Air (1970), Clean Water (1972) and Endangered Species (1973) Acts as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (1970). Earth Day 1970 marked the beginning of the environmental movement in this country.

All these years later, as I watch the growing effects of climate disruption occurring across the world, I can’t help but think back to the 1970’s and 1980’s when scientists were already aware of the dangers that would severely impact the health of the planet if we did not cut back on the use of chlorofluorocarbons, fossil fuels and other manmade compounds. As early as 1962, Rachel Carson in her groundbreaking book, Silent Spring, had warned of the damages happening to wildlife, bees, agricultural animals, pets and humans caused by the use of pesticides and other chemicals. We did not heed these early warnings and are now faced with global warming at an unprecedented level, rising tides that threaten shoreline cities and island nations, melting glaciers and other severe consequences of our inaction.

Fast forward to Earth Day 2020.

There is something happening in 2020, however, that reminds me of 1970 and gives me hope for our planet – the level of energy being generated by young people who see their futures at risk. They are led by 16-year old Greta Thunberg, the moral voice for climate action, who on her own, conducted weekly climate strikes in Sweden that have become commonplace all over the world; fifteen-year-old Autumn Peltier, who is fighting for water conservation and indigenous water rights in her native Canada; nineteen-year-old Bruno Rodriguez of Buenos Aires, who organized student walkouts against corporate greed and governmental complacency about climate change; twenty-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the youth director of Earth Guardians, who with others, sued the Federal government over water rights and for failing to protect the younger generation’s rights to life, liberty and property; and numerous others.

These young people have started a new movement, supported in part by a global Earth Day Network of millions of participants and thousands of partners. While the major thrust of Earth Day 1970 was environmental awareness, the theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. As I write this, the novel coronavirus Covid-19 is spreading rapidly throughout the global population and will no doubt prevent the implementation of plans that have been developed for engaging hundreds of millions of people in Earth Day clean-up projects, education, advocacy and other meaningful activities to combat climate disruption. A difference for me personally between 2020 and 1970 is the existence of an army of artists addressing our climate crisis – thousands of painters, sculptors, installation artists, poets, spoken word artists, dancers, playwrights, photographers, novelists, filmmakers, videographers, etc. – which did not exist in 1970. They are using the power of the arts to engage the hearts and senses in ways that data and facts cannot. I am proud to be among them and to derive support and inspiration from them. On Earth Day 2020, let’s acknowledge those who have worked on behalf of the environment over the last fifty years, including my college sculpture professor who encouraged us to pay attention on that historic day. 

This article is part of Imagining Water, a series on artists of all genres who are making the topic of water and climate disruption a focus of their work and on the growing number of exhibitions, performances, projects and publications that are appearing in museums, galleries and public spaces around the world with water as a theme.

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Susan Hoffman Fishman is a painter, public artist and writer. Her work has been exhibited in numerous museums and galleries throughout the US and she has received numerous grants and commissions. Since 2011, all of her paintings, installations and drawings have focused on water and climate change. She co-created a national, interactive public art project, The Wave, which addresses our mutual need for and interdependence on water and has inspired thousands of adults and children of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to protect this vital resource. Her most recent body of work calls attention to the growing number of rampikes along our shores – dead trees that have been exposed to salt water as a result of rising tides.

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Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘The song of a blackbird emerges’

By Gina RobinsonJonar IsipRuth StringerTamara Hendrick

Reader-submitted stories of the COVID-19 pandemic, in no more than 100 words. Read past stories hereSubmit your own here.

WHAT WE TAKE IN

I made it to another Friday. Outside, there is a man teaching his son the difference between “goose” and “geese.” His lessons echo through the packed houses of our shared driveway and into our rooms. Inside, my landlord’s toddler has a conversation with his grandfather. He speaks – well, yells – his baby jargon while everyone else listens. He has command of the room.

I am quiet, thinking about the people with masks exchanging unknown air for droplets of worry. I wonder what I can do with what I’ve witnessed, and what words should come out with the breaths I have left.

— Jonar Isip (San Ramon, California)

(Top photo: Packed houses.)

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SIX MILES APART

On the spacious Jeffrey Trail, walkers, runners, bikers, and dogs merge in and out trying to stay six-feet apart, when I hear my four-year-old grandson exclaim, “Grammy! You’re not staying six miles away from them!” I hear the fear in his voice and I smile. I correct his miles to feet and show him what six feet look like, and I reassure him that everything is okay. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, if it will be okay, but today it is, on the Jeffrey Trail, with my two grandchildren, and I am grateful.

— Tamara Hendrick (Irvine, California)

Grandkids on the Jeffrey Trail.

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SPRINGTIME: A CALL FOR CHANGE

Spring has sprung. I wake to birdsong, sit in the sunshine on my patch of concrete. I breathe chilled air as the earth breathes a sigh of relief. My phone buzzes with news from afar: France, Canada, Brazil, Australia; family and friends in self-isolation reaching out and checking in, swapping coping strategies, jokes, cabin-fever catastrophes, appeals to loved ones for resilience and strength. Força. Courage. As we draw inwards, we look outwards, see that we are made stronger by what unites, not what divides us. May this be a lesson to us all, and one that we never forget.

— Gina Robinson (Bristol, United Kingdom)

Spring in Bristol.

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TIME MOVES DIFFERENTLY HERE

It’s Thursday. Is it Thursday? It is Thursday. I have lived an entire day in an hour.

I stop to make a cup of tea. I fill the mug with hot water, watch the teabag drift aimlessly, imagine being cwtched on all sides, warm and safe as I float dreamlessly onwards.

When I look up, an entire afternoon has flung itself past my window.

Time is contracted and concertinaed and stretched beyond recognition, all at once.

From between the folds; the song of a blackbird emerges, unfurls. On and on it goes, until it fills the infinite void.

— Ruth Stringer (Cardiff, Wales)

Tea.

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This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.

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Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

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Opportunity: Sustainability First art and essay prizes

Sustainability First has launched two new competitions – an art prize and an essay prize in response to the question ‘How do we build from the current corona crisis towards a more sustainable future?’

Sustainability First, a think tank and charity seeking to promote practical ways to deliver environmental, social and economic wellbeing, is inviting us to think about building from the corona crisis towards a sustainable future.

The organisation has launched two creative competitions – Art Prize and Essay Prize – and is asking for original, radical ideas and visions in response to the challenge of ensuring a sustainable recovery that balances economic, social and environmental wellbeing.

Sustainability First Art Prize

Open to all living British and international artists based in the UK, established and emerging, over the age of 18. Images of up to three works per person in any media can be submitted online.

  • First prize: £1000
  • Second prize: £300
  • Third prize: £200

Deadline: 1 June 2020 at 5pm

Sustainability First Essay Prize

The essay prize is open to people over the age of 18 years.

  • First prize: £1000
  • Second prize: £300
  • Third prize: £200

Deadline: 1 June 2020 at 5pm

For more information, to review the rules for entry and to complete the online application form, please visit the Sustainability First competition page.

The post Opportunity: Sustainability First art and essay prizes appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

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Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

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IRL, an Artists and Technologists Residency by UKAI Projects

Apply Now!

IRL

A paid artistic residency prompting arts+tech collaborations that respond to the social conditions created by COVID-19 http://newnotnormal.ukai.ca/projects

#newnotnormal

IRL brings together art + tech to develop novel methods of facilitating community connection and momentum building that prioritize those experiencing the greatest risk of exclusion when technology becomes the only source of connection.

All levels of experience welcome.

Deadline May 8th, 2020

Questions? Residency@ukai.ca Apply Now! Newnotnormal.ukai.ca/irl