Art Action

ecoartspace archive

This post comes to you from EcoArtSpace
Over the past two years ecoartspace has focused on creating an archive of ephemera and video interviews of ecological artists’ work. We have also been invited to contribute several essays for publication with increasing interest.

Our most recent essay, Public Art Ecology: From Restoration to Intervention, co-written by Amy Lipton and Patricia Watts, is for a new book entitled The New Earthwork: Art, Action, Agency edited by Twylene Moyer and Glenn Harper and published by International Sculpture Center Press (distributed by University of Washington Press). In this essay we reviewed long-term projects by artists Mierle Ukeles, Patricia Johanson, Mark Brest van Kempen and Jackie Brooker; and also highlighted recent temporal works by Eve Mosher, EcoArtTech, Amy Franceschni+Future Farmer and Tattoo Tan.

Patricia Watts has published an essay which is a start to a book she would like to write on ecological performance art. Entitled Performative Public Art Ecology you can read it online in the Women Environmental Artists Directory magazine, Issue #4 entitled No Time For Complacency edited by Susan Leibovitz Steinman, co-founder of WEAD. In this essay Watts examines important performance based ecoart with early examples beginning in 1970 and follow its evolution up to 2008. The works featured illustrate an evolution from the gestural, poetic, or conceptual, towards more practical actions that provide tools for sustainable living.

Another recently uploaded piece online is an interview with Watts for the #5 Winter Issue of Mammut magazine entitled Some Kind of Nature, published out of Los Angeles and edited by Matthias Merkel Hess and Roman Jaster. In the interview Hess and Watts discuss The Ebb and Flow of Ecology and Art. The magazine is available as a high or low res download and can be viewed as an online flip book (very sustainable), each for FREE.

And, to start 2012 off on a good funding foot, ecoartspace was awarded a grant from the Arnow Family Fund in New York to do new interviews for our video archive and to edit footage from interviews we did in 2010-11. Interviews with Mierle Ukeles, Buster Simpson, Susan Liebovitz Steinman, Betsy Damon and Bonnie Sherk are now in the works. These are two hour interviews that will be available for research purposes and will also be edited into approximately 5 minute videos for exhibition purposes. Previous edited interviews with Patricia Johanson and Jackie Brookner can be viewed on the ecoartspace YouTube site HERE.

We are going to be using our blog as the main ecoartspace website for now until we build a new site this year, and are also looking to create a digital catalogue of our first 12 years (1999-2011), pending funding.

ecoartapace is one of the leading international organizations in a growing community of artists, scientists, curators, writers, nonprofits and businesses who are developing creative and innovative strategies to address our global environmental issues. We promote a diverse range of artworks that are participatory, collaborative, interdisciplinary and uniquely educational. Our philosophy embodies a broader concept of art in its relationship to the world and seeks to connect human beings aesthetically with the awareness of larger ecological systems.

Founded in 1997 by Tricia Watts as an art and nature center in development, ecoartspace was one of the first websites online dedicated to art and environmental issues. New York City curator Amy Lipton joined Watts in 1999, and together they have curated numerous exhibitions, participated on panels, given lectures at universities, developed programs and curricula, ad written essays for publications from both the East and West Coasts. They advocate for international artists whose projects range from scientifically based ecological restoration to product based functional artworks, from temporal works created outdoors with nature to eco-social interventions in the urban public sphere, as well as more traditional art objects.

ecoartspace has been a project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in
Los Angeles since 1999.
Go to EcoArtSpace

iLAND – Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature and Dance

River to Creek: A Roving Natural History is a participatory research project and art action that will draw attention to the geographic and ecological connections across the industrial landscape of North Brooklyn, from the wild empty lots at the end of Newtown Creek in Bushwick to the East River at the edge of Greenpoint. It is a collaboration between marine scientist/dancer Carolyn Hall, ecologist/visual artist Kathleen McCarthy and Clarinda Mac Low and Paul Benney, members of TRYST, a New York-based performance and art group.

In New York City we tend to look at each environment as separate in space-a park is separate from a river is separate from a built structure, a river stops at the riverbank, and each neighborhood is an isolated phenomenon, when all these environments are actually highly interdependent. The collaborative team will highlight the connections between the different environments and illuminate the geographic continuity lying under our built structures and transportation networks. We will study the natural history of the current environment over the course of 15 weeks, compare it to historical records, and present our findings. Our research will bring in the public as research partners, asking citizens to become scientists and artists and observe their environment using scientific, somatic and sensory methods-science research and movement research. We will have several public events during the research process:

  • July 17: Walk through the wilds of North Brooklyn, with an informal talk by a specialist in plants and botany.
  • Aug. 21: Paddle and boat ride up the Newtown Creek and around the East River and informal talk by a specialist in marine life.
  • Sept. 11: Bike ride through the environment with informal talk by a specialist TBA

For the presentation of our data, professional performers and scientists and general public will create events that will reflect what we’ve learned over the months of research-a dance on site, both performed and participatory; a kayak convoy that is both experiential (for the kayakers) and performative (for the invited audience on shore); a sound collage transmitted by radio along the route, a film of movement research in secret sites. Events will take place on the weekend of Oct 2 & 3.

Project Collaborators
We are a group of artist-scientists who are choosing to exercise both sides of our professional lives simultaneously. Carolyn Hall is a marine scientist who just received her MS in Marine Science from the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, New York in December 2009. Her thesis dealt with marine historical ecology. Hall is also an accomplished dancer who has been recognized internationally for her work with several cutting-edge choreographers. Kathleen McCarthy is an ecologist who recently received her MS in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University, with a focus on freshwater ecosystems and the urban environment. Her thesis looked at amphibian life in storm water basins. She is also an award-winning visual artist who created work in public spaces for many years. TRYST is a collaborative group of artists who specialize in creating public interactions to create an unexpected set of circumstances. The two main TRYST collaborators on this project are Clarinda Mac Low and Paul Benney. In addition to her art practice Mac Low has been a researcher and science writer, mostly in HIV and medicine, for many years.

Trash the Tate: Tax Yourself for the Cleanup.

I got invited to a facebook event the other day. It was a protest. It instructed attendees to wear black and march up San Francisco’s Market Street in a statement against the ongoing BP oil spill. And for the first time in my adult life, I found myself wondering “Why protest?” Nothing makes a statement quite like hundreds of thousands of crude oil flooding the gulf. No amount of marching equals the dramatic impact of the loss of marine life and fisheries. The spill is not suffering from a lack of media coverage: it’s a constant point of discussion on blogs, television news broadcasts, The Daily Show. In the same way that the Exxon corporation has become synonymous with the Exxon Valdez spill, so this spill will haunt the reputation of BP, and justifiably so. Why march? Why not, say, collect natural fibers for booms and send them to the gulf, to aid in the cleanup effort?

I had a similar reaction to Rising Tide’s recent “Liberate Tate” action. The organization sent a letter to Tate Modern Museum officials, stating:

By placing the words BP and Art together, the destructive and obsolete nature of the fossil fuel industry is masked, and crimes against the future are given a slick and stainless sheen.

It goes on to threaten:

Beginning during your 10th anniversary party and continuing until you drop the sponsorship deal, we will be commissioning a series of art interventions in Tate buildings across the country. Already commissioned are Art Action collective, with a birthday surprise at this weekend’s No Soul For Sale event, and The Invisible Committee, who will infiltrate every corner of Tate across the country in the coming months.

That No Soul for Sale surprise involved hanging balloons of oil in several Tate galleries and littering them with dead birds, forcing portions of the exhibition to close. The blogs Liberal Conspiracy, Art Threat and Indymedia UK touted the action as powerful and appropriate. In the meantime, museum workers were attempting a cleanup of their own artful oil spill.

PLATFORM London argues:

A decade ago tobacco companies were seen as respectable partners for public institutions to gain support from – the current BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery was previously sponsored by British American Tobacco. Now it is socially unacceptable for tobacco to play this public role, and it is our hope that oil & gas will soon be seen in the same light.

It’s undeniable that many companies see arts sponsorship as helpful rebranding following ecological or administrative catastrophes. My question is: if the Tate were to drop BP sponsorship, ending a 20-some-year relationship, what would prevent another, differently socially acceptable, differently bad, corporation from taking its place? The Tate has not disclosed the specific amount it receives from BP, and its account reports available for download do not specify BP’s contributions, but the museum does acknowledge that fully 60 percent of its funding comes from corporate sponsorships.

The Liberate Tate action is the brainchild of John Jordan, a former co-director of PLATFORM and the co-founder of the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination (Labofii). It’s his feeling that arts funding should come from “taxes not corporations,” despite the fact that the British government is reducing arts subsidies. While “Liberate Tate” has no alternative-funding actions planned, Jordan cites’ the Tate’s budgetary silence: “Even if we did find other funders who could take their place, we would never know how much were talking!” In the meantime, “Liberate Tate” will continue to pummel the museum with insurrectionary actions.

I live in California: my taxes don’t fund the Tate. I can similarly not regard the Tate as my neighbor. But I am an employee of a San Francisco museum, and as such I can’t help but feel a bit of sympathy for the Tate, a bit of shock. Seriously? We’re going to punish art institutions for the crimes of its funders? And simultaneously: seriously? BP is just now starting to use natural fiber booms? Why shouldn’t corporations fund initiatives that seek to reconcile their most grievous errors, like Tate’s Rising to the Climate Challenge? Or are the taxpayers to shoulder the burden of cultural advancement, as they will shoulder the burden of the oil spill’s ecological cleanup?

To be fair, Jordan took the issue up with Tate officials directly before beginning the “Liberate Tate” campaign, engaging with director Nicolas Serota via a forum led by the Guardian, and emailing director Penelope Curtis,

Does what takes place outside the citadel that is Tate not feature in the decision-making of the Ethics Committee? If not, is that Committee held back from doing what is right by legal restrictions forcing it to act only in the interests of Tate itself? If so, how can we help change that situation?

This in response to Curtis’ statement that

Without BP’s support Tate would be less able to show the collection in a changing and stimulating way. Given that the majority of Tate’ s funding is self generated, it is necessary for the gallery to work across a wide range of corporate organisations and the sponsorship policy is regularly reviewed by the Trustees. The points you raise are important ones.

Jordan is well versed in disobedience against art institutions: the Nikolaj Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center dropped a workshop led by the Labofii when it became clear the the resulting “tools of civil disobedience” were to be used in COP15 actions. The Art Center feared a clash with the City of Copenhagen, a funder of the museum. Similarly, participants in Labofii’s “Art and Activism” workshop at the Tate Museum learned largely about actions against Tate and its funders, specifically because the Tate stated, in workshop preparations, that it could not host any such actions. The resulting insurrection hung a large “Art Not Oil” sign under the Tate’s “Free Entry” welcome.

In an age where environmental artists are using their skills to solve problems both cultural and ecological, are protest and disobedience really the most useful tools in the box? Or are they just the most dramatic? If there are artists working in soil health, reforestation, and urban gardening, can we not also have administrative artists? Where are the massive bureaucratic art “actions”? And, finally: who would be willing to donate 10 pounds to the Tate for every 5 pounds of BP funding dropped from its budget?

Call for artists: ‘…Louder than Bombs’: Art, Action & Activism – 4 Dec

‘…Louder than Bombs’: Art, Action & Activism

Live Art Development Agency and Stanley Picker Gallery
call for artists: 4 December deadline
event: February – March 2010

Over the course of seven weeks in February – March 2010, the Stanley Picker Gallery at Kingston University, will host a series of week-long residencies entitled ‘…Louder than Bombs’: Art, Action & Activism.

Co-curated with Live Art Development Agency, ‘…Louder than Bombs’: Art, Action & Activism will focus on challenging social, political, global issues addressed by seven invited artist/activists, working in a series of weekly occupancies of the space.

The issues addressed by the programme of activities will include a range of political, ecological, social and personal causes, as to be defined by the seven participating individuals and groups.

The programme will provide each participating artist/group with the space, resources and supportive environment for their work to be developed over an intensive five-day period. During their week-long residency each participant will be required to deliver at least one participatory workshop and a public event.

One of the seven invited projects will be developed to engage directly with a local primary school, in order to pilot the introduction of performative practice into the classroom.

‘…Louder than Bombs’: Art, Action & Activism has been developed as part of the research project, ‘The Art of Intervention: The Intersections of Public and Private Memory’ between Kingston University, London and Kyoto Seika University, Japan.

For information on how to make a proposal, email: picker@kingston.ac.uk .

www.thisisliveart.co.uk