Awe

a little girl and a big snake – can the arts connect us before its too late?

This post comes to you from An Arts and Ecology Notebook

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Was just reading the following quote from a book The Care of Creation (2000) and thinking about this ecopoem entry into last weeks British Talent show that has gone viral on youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyYizYZKFtU

”When the greatest beasts before whom our ancestors shrank in terror is in danger of extinction, when the very biodiversity of the planet seems to depend on the implementation of a political treaty, the only thing to be in awe of is the dizzying power of human culture…. our problem today… is that our awe has given way to an exploitative and managerial approach to nature.”

save the humansI loved Olivia’s courage to present her ‘passion, which she knows is out of fashion’ but I couldn’t help but feel though that many in audience while applauding this audacious poetic gesture fail to see the bigger crisis that extinction is pointing to, ie that extinction doesn’t only apply to snakes! (I saw the polar bear image above earlier this week and thought, yep, the polar bears have got it – a friend of mine has it as his avatar on Facebook)

Other contributors to Care of Creation printed back in 2000, from scientists to theologians state that ‘the ecocrisis is so serious that scientists and political solutions alone are unlikely to address it satisfactorily’… which some of us are beginning to realise. One of the contributors quotes an earlier writer, Hamilton in 1993, who argued, ‘it is not the ecologists, engineers, economists or earth scientists who will save spaceship earth, but the poets (even small ones), priests, artists and philosophers’.

Here’s another creative work which dovetails Olivia’s piece above, don’t you think.

Olivia gets where science often fails and where artistic performance excels…. ‘if I say their Latin names will you listen more?’

An Arts & Ecology Notebook, by Cathy Fitzgerald, whose work exists as ongoing research and is continually inspired to create short films, photographic documentation, and writings. While she interacts with foresters, scientists, and communities, she aims to create a sense of a personal possibility, responsibility and engagement in her local environment that also connects to global environmental concerns.

Go to An Arts and Ecology Notebook

Genetically Modified Music: Mixed Feelings.

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We’re at that point now. We can talk about growing music. Artist David Benqué’s piece Acoustic Botany is a series of models and diagrams for a genetically engineered music and sound garden. It envisions insects created to chew in rhythm, flower pods designed to explode at certain intervals, and Lily Pads that amplify the death throes of bugs in a vascular speaker structure.

I gotta say this makes me just the slightest bit nauseous, and not for the obvious old-lady-with-a-clipboard reasons (nature is nature! etc). It’s because of the roles and responsibilities of the artist inherent in the work. Here I was all excited about environmental art because it’s such a great example of the logistical application of the aesthetic, of an artist’s capacity to engage and care, a unity of practical and aesthetic reason. Now, again, sing the the memes of art trumping reason, or at least twisting it severely to achieve its goals.

A genetically modified art installation, with no comment to make on genetic modification itself, no analysis really of the human/nature relationship, really just an artistic exploration of the fun and pretty things we could do with plants if given the opportunity to play with their DNA. And I bet it would be stunning.Bugs designed to chew in rhythm! What kind of glorious aesthetic high would visitors to this installation get? Awe and wonder of science, with a little bit of nature, maybe.

Benqué’s vision is far from being realized, but it’s ready to start some serious conversations now.

Go to the Green Museum

Streetlight Storm by Katie Paterson


“At any one time there are around 6,000 lightening storms happening across the world amounting to some 16 million storms each year.”

… a delicious fact is culled from Pippa Irvine’s review of Paterson’s Street Light Storm installation on Deal Pier on FAD Fast Art News:

Inspired by such dizzying statistics Paterson set about translating this natural phenomena into a poetic and beautiful artwork on Deal Pier in Kent. Harnessing everyday technology, lightening signals from as far away as the North Pole or North Africa are received by an antenna on the pier and projected as short bursts of light. As the pattern of lightening strikes changes, so the pier lights oscillate correspondingly, with a subtlety that contrasts with the power and drama of the storms they reflect.

To watch the pier by night is a genuinely magical experience with each flash anticipated with mounting tension. Every sporadic burst is accompanied by an appreciative emotional thrill and a sense of awe at the fact that somewhere out there the ominous rumbles of thunder and lightening are mounting. The work connects spectators to the vastness of the world beyond, collapsing the distance between the individual and remote meteorological events.

It’s an interesting way of making art that represents scientific data in an open-ended way. Paterson turns Deal Pier a kind of lightning rod for the world; the romantic-era majesty of a lightening storm is reduced to data, but then remade as flickers of light.

The artwork was originally intended to run throughout January but has apparently gone down so well that it’ll remain there until February 28, weekdays 5-10pm, weekends 5pm-8am.

www.katiepaterson.org/streetlightstorm/

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology