Ecological Artists

Sue Spaid reviews Expo 1: New York, Dark Optimism at PS1. Intro by Amy Lipton

This post comes to you from EcoArtSpace

244820899c73d0d08db6fa098f16eab2Expo 1: New York, focuses on some of the most pressing environmental and sociopolitical issues of the day. It takes the urgent and pragmatic sensibility of “Dark Optimism” as its position. Dark Optimism addresses ecological challenges set against the backdrop of economic turmoil and sociopolitical upheaval that has made a dramatic impact on daily life. In response to these global challenges, the magazine and editorial collective Triple Canopy calls for “dark optimism,” an attitude that encompasses both the seeming end of the world and its beginning, one that is positioned on the brink of apocalypse and the onset of unprecedented technological transformation. Climate change has generated storms, droughts, and floods that occur with greater frequency and severity. Economic volatility around the world has precipitated political action, giving rise to manifestations and uprisings in regions such as Northern Africa, the Middle East, Western Europe, and New York’s Wall Street. Meanwhile technological innovations and novel architectural initiatives offer the tantalizing promise of a brighter future. Recent advancements have facilitated communication – which at times has helped organize political protests-as well as access to information with such ease and volume that it threatens to become overwhelming in scale. The works exhibited in Dark Optimism make note of these paradoxical conditions and the instabilities of both natural and artificial systems. – wall text at PS1 MoMA

I’ve made three visits to PS1 MoMA’s exhibition Expo 1: New York, Dark Optimism, and have tried unsuccessfully to find anything in the exhibition that reflects the museum wall statement quoted above. As a curator who has focused on working with ecological artists for over a decade, I went to PS1 with excitement to see this challenge (finally) being taken on by a major New York institution for contemporary art. The show was organized with good intentions in direct response to the effects of last year’s Hurricane Sandy and its far-reaching impact on our local environment and economy, on coastal communities and in New York City. Unfortunately I have to express my disappointment. The works in the exhibition refer to the title Dark Optimism, presenting the dark, apocalyptic and catastrophic in current art trends.  My co-curator of the landmark 2002 exhibition Ecovention, Sue Spaid, aptly calls it “catastrophe art” in her review below. Sadly missing are examples of the many important artists working today whose efforts do offer some cautious optimism. Our environmental situation is dire to say the least. Myriad issues conspire towards our demise – climate change; land, sea and air pollution from the relentless extraction of fossil fuels; oil spills and nuclear leaks; habitat destruction; species extinctions; the list goes on and on.

In the New York area alone there are numerous artists, established and emerging, making profound and inspiring works that tackle these issues, but they are not represented in this exhibition. Brandon Ballengee, Lillian Ball, Joan Bankemper, Jackie Brookner, Betsy Damon, Michele Brody, Wendy Brawer, Mel Chin, Elizabeth Demaray, Peter Fend, Katie Holten, Natalie Jeremijenko, Kristin Jones, Eve Andree Laramee, Ellen Levy, Lenore Malen, Mary Miss, Maria Michaels, Mary Mattingly, Aimee Morgana, Eve Mosher, Leila Christine Nadir, Cary Peppermint, Aviva Rahmani, Andrea Reynosa, Christy Rupp, Jenna Spevack, Alan Sonfist, Katrin Spiess, Tattfoo Tan, Mierle Ukeles, – to name a few. And that list doesn’t include the many artists outside of New York, internationally, or the hundreds of painters and photographers who make work representing and bringing awareness to environmental issues. No exhibition can be completely inclusive – but a show on ecological challenges in New York City has been long awaited and this is a real missed opportunity to give the topic the seriousness and depth it deserves.

Thanks to the daily programming of lectures, debates and discussion by Triple Canopy at PS1 in conjunction with the exhibition – Speculations (“The Future is____________”). A few of the artists I mentioned above, Natalie Jeremijenko, Mary Mattingly and Mierle Ukeles (and Agnes Denes, the one historical ecological artist included in the show) were invited to come discuss their visions for the future and give a presentation on their works that go beyond addressing environmental challenges to offering creative, imaginative and pragmatic approaches to the dire problems we face. That is what I call optimism.

Expo 1: New York “Dark Optimism” remains on view through September 2, at MoMA PS1

Amy Lipton
Curator ecoartspace NY

Expo 1: New York
Dark Optimism May 12-September 2, MoMA PS1
Rain Room May 12-July 28, MoMA, West Lot
School May 13-July 28, MoMA PS1

According to its press release, Expo 1 is a “festival-as-institution,” enabling people to explore “ecological challenges in the context of 21st century economic and socio-political instability.” This statement indicates MoMA PS1’s neoliberal delusion, since instabilities rather mitigate “ecological challenges.” Consider Europe’s diminished car sales since 2008. Greater stability typically invites capital investments and development, which deplete natural resources and animal habitat, while intensifying climate change, flooding, desertification, and groundwater contamination. Consider the BRICS nations, whose swelling ecological challenges reflect their expanding ecological footprints.

Dark Optimism, which assembles 35 solo exhibitions, is the satellite around which Expo 1 revolves. The curatorial team (more than twenty collaborators) has also organized a school (50+ Triple Canopy events), kitchen garden (for M. Wells dishes), colony inhabiting cultural agents, cinema, ProBio (mini-expo), community center (VW geodesic dome sited in Rockaway to showcase relief shelters and 25 proposed climate-change survival plans), and Rain Room. As compared to Olafur Eliasson’s magical Your strange certainty still kept (1996), the high-tech Rain Room adjacent MoMA eradicates wonder. The metaphorical approach of the smaller exhibition ProBio fails to uncover anything remarkable as compared to works by dozens of artists who explore technology’s actual impact on human bodies.

The curators claim that the presence of so many simultaneous activities enables PS1 to experiment with “social practice,” yet none of the invited artists are especially known for sparking conversations or engaging unsuspecting spectators. Absent merry makers, “social practice” is reduced to ever more festival spectacles and educational programs. Of the fifty artists, filmmakers, and novelists invited to lecture and/or lead discussions in response to Triple Canopy’s suggestion, “The future is___”, only Ruth DeFries, Natalie Jeremijenko, Agnes Denes, Mary Mattingly, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles confront ecological issues. This dearth of eco-personnel further devalues this festival’s stated goals.

Opposing Dark Optimism is The Politics of Contemplation, fifty dramatic Ansel Adams photographs from 1932 to 1968. Shot mostly in Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and the San Mateo County Coast, they record nature’s fragility and majesty. One might say that Dark Optimism “surveys a landscape of wilderness and ruins, darkened by uncertain catastrophe. Humankind is being eclipsed and new ecological systems struggle to find a precocious balance.” However, I am quoting the New Museum’s 2008 press release for Against Nature. As a trilogy, Against NatureSeptember 11 (2011), and Dark Optimism launch a new genre, “catastrophe art.”

Exemplary of stability’s role in augmenting ecological challenges, Olafur Eliasson’s Your waste of time (2006/2013) presents twelve glacier chunks transported from Vatnajökoll (Iceland’s largest glacier) and displayed in a solar-powered refrigerated gallery. Equally cynical is Cinthia Marcelle’s video depicting a bulldozer performing crazy eights atop an already flattened field. Equally over-the-top is Adrián Villar Rojas’ La inocencia de los animales (2013), an indoor amphitheater whose colossal scale evokes Berlin’s Pergamon Museum. With its simultaneous references to antiquity and post-apocalyptic Earth, La inocencia seems straight out of Planet of the Apes. Absent bathers, Meg Webster’s reconstructed Pool (1998/2013) makes promises but negates possibilities, which is this exhibition’s leitmotif.

By presenting artworks focused on natural or manmade catastrophes, Dark Optimism overlooks artists’ endeavors to prophesy or alleviate preventable disasters. Rather than exhibit any of the novel ecological solutions that dozens of ingenious artists working on every continent have implemented —over the past forty years—the curators present artworks that merely react to our planet’s terrible situation, leaving Earth’s ill-health as yet another arena for appropriation. Colonization offers a better description. In this context, Agnes Denes’ Wheatfield:A Confrontation, which presaged Wall Street’s ascendancy and global food shortages, is less a testament to human potential and more a nostalgic monument to pre-9/11 innocence. Once a clever solution, Gordon Matta-Clark’s Fresh Air Cart (1972) is now a sign portending doom. One leaves thinking, “What’s bad for Earth is good for art,” as if disaster photographs now provide artistic inspiration. Peter Buggenhout’s three fascinating sculptures evoke mud-encrusted metal structures, while Anna Bettbeze fabulous wall hangings hint at acid-stained or flood-ravished carpets.


Pierre Huyghe
Zoodram 5 (after Sleeping Muse by Constantin Brancusi) 2011
Live Marine ecosystem, sculptured shell, basalt rock and filtration system


John MIller, A Refusal to Accept Limits (detail), 2012
The curators claim that Dark Optimism reflects the future that is, “if you want it to be there,” yet few artists here glance forward and most treat catastrophes too lightly. Given wolves’ moose diets, Mircea Cantor’s short video Deeparture (2005) proved to be incredibly scary, as I envisioned the wolf devouring its lone cohabitant. Belittling lynchings, Mark Dion’s Killers Killed (2004-2007) features nine tarred and lynched predators. As remarks on consumer excess, Klara Lidén’s nine trashy trashcans and John Miller’s gold-plated recyclables feel trite.

No “catastrophe art” exhibition would feel complete without Chris Burden’s model Titanic ships balanced on the Eifel Tower, Latifa Echakhch’s shattered tea-glass installation, Mitch Epstein’s menacing power-plant photographs, Paweł Althamer’s outerspace zombies, or Pierre Huyghe’s staged battle between elegant arrow crabs and a hermit crab inhabiting Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse.

Premised on utopia’s twin promises of harmonious nature and technological liberation, “catastrophe art” actually distracts us from Earth’s generosity, leaving us unwilling to face our destructiveness fully and practically. Only Ugo Rondinone’s sensorial soundscape and Dan Attoe’s intriguing paintings rise above this exhibition’s passivity towards disaster, precisely because they invite possibility. Attoe’s hidden messages warn people to pay attention to past mistakes, and remind us, “This world has everything that you could ever want.”


Meg Webster. Pool. 1998/2013. Installation view of EXPO 1: New York at MoMA PS1.
Photo: Matthew Septimus.
Sue Spaid, 2013

This review first appeared in Issue 113 of H art, a Flemish art journal


Natalie Jeremijnko top and Mierle Ukeles bottom (photos: Amy Lipton) from Triple Canopy’s School at PS1 Speculations (“The Future is____________”) 

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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Collins & Goto at the Edinburgh Art Festival

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Eden3, Collins & Goto, 2006 ongoing

Eden3, Collins & Goto, 2006 ongoing

ecoartscotland is pleased to partner with Creative Carbon Scotland and Edinburgh College of Art to present Collins & Goto’s Spirit in the Air at the Edinburgh Art Festival 2013.

Collins & Goto, the eminent US ecological artists now based in Scotland, will present new work, using the Tent Gallery as a base of operations and performance to explore the actual rate and flow of CO2 in the environment in Edinburgh.  This project asks the question If humans produce gas in cities and there are no trees around to breathe it, does anyone care?

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
Go to EcoArtScotland

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WEAD Magazine

This post comes to you from Cultura21

The 5th issue of WEAD Magazine is out, and it’s about enviromental/ecological artists responses to “the atomic legacy” – this issue is edited by Susan Leibovitz Steinman. It brings perspectives from Japan, Chernobyl, New Mexico, and US areas threatened by aging nuclear plants in Florida, California and Washington. (WEAD stands for: Women Environmental Artists Directory.)

The online magazine is accessible for free at: http://weadartists.org/atomic-art

Cultura21 is a transversal, translocal network, constituted of an international level grounded in several Cultura21 organizations around the world.

Cultura21′s international network, launched in April 2007, offers the online and offline platform for exchanges and mutual learning among its members.

The activities of Cultura21 at the international level are coordinated by a team representing the different Cultura21 organizations worldwide, and currently constituted of:

– Sacha Kagan (based in Lüneburg, Germany) and Rana Öztürk (based in Berlin, Germany)
– Oleg Koefoed and Kajsa Paludan (both based in Copenhagen, Denmark)
– Hans Dieleman (based in Mexico-City, Mexico)
– Francesca Cozzolino and David Knaute (both based in Paris, France)

Cultura21 is not only an informal network. Its strength and vitality relies upon the activities of several organizations around the world which are sharing the vision and mission of Cultura21

Go to Cultura21

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WATER WATER EVERYWHERE

This post comes to you from EcoArtSpace

Water water everywhere and nor any drop to drink. This seems to be this years climate change theme as we are now experiencing first hand how an increase in the evapotranspiration cycle is leaving us with both flooding and arid landscapes. ecoartspace is currently working on three water programs this year, building on an online exhibition entitled WaterWorks, which we curated in 2006. And, ironically, this winter has been one of the driest on record in the USA according to the National Weather Service.

On February 11th, Saturday from 1-3pm, Amy Lipton will moderate a water panel at  Cathedral Church Saint John the Divine, Donegan Hall, Diocesan House in New York City. The panel discussion entitled Visions for Water: Ecological Artists Modeling Solutions for our Challenged Water Systems includes Lillian Ball, Jackie Brookner, Betsy Damon, Fredericka Foster and Aviva Rahmani. It is presented in conjunction with The Value of Water: Sustaining a Green Planet, an exhibition at the Cathedral running through March 25, 2012. RSVP to amy@ecoartspace.org

Opening March 1st at the San Joaquin Delta College LH Horton Jr. Gallery, ecoartspace has curated eight site works for the exhibition Delta Waters. Jan Marlese, the Gallery Director in Stockton, California invited Patricia Watts last spring to identify mostly California artists who already had, or who would create, art works specifically addressing water related issue unique to the Delta Region. The San Joaquin Valley is a complex terrain of highly regulated water rights in one of the most historically fertile and productive food regions in the world. Artists include Linda Gass, Cynthia Hooper, Basia Irland, Kimberlee Koym-Mureira, OPENrestaurant, Esmeralda Ruiz, Tao Urban and Jane Wolff. Five of the eight installations are being created specifically for this exhibition.

 

On March 8th, there will also be a panel discussion at Delta College Tillie Lewis Theatre with Barbara Barriagan-Parrilla, Director of Restore the Delta; Lloyd Carter with Save Our Streams Council; Cynthia Hooper a video artist in Delta Waters; and Paul Ustach a SJDC science professor. Watts will moderate the discussion.

And, that’s not all, coming up this fall Patricia Watts has also been invited to curate a residency and exhibition entitled Shifting Baselines for the Santa Fe Art Institute addressing water scarcity in the Southwest including Cynthia Hooper and Hugh Pocock. Additional artists from the region will be selected for the exhibition that will open early 2013.

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

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

Dark Skies Biosphere Residency

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Background

The Dark Skies/ Biosphere Project aims to explore the role of artists practice in a meaningful promotion of this beautiful area of Galloway, which has attracted both Dark Skies Park Status and is aiming to secure Biosphere status by Spring 2012. Dark Skies Park means it is one of the best places in the world to look at the stars due to low levels of light pollution. Biosphere refers to areas of landscape that have a good ecological balance and sustainability. There has already been much work done working closely with Mathew Dalziel and Louise Scullion (lead artists) to propose a programme of events and commission opportunities.

Residency

This residency is linked to the ongoing programme of artists’ proposals and events in Dark Skies Park/Biosphere. We anticipate that the selected candidate will work closely with Mathew and Louise to develop a promotional art/design edition for this fascinating place.

The residency gives an artist with an interest in science and arts a wonderful opportunity to work with this diverse and fascinating landscape and to be mentored by Scotland’s most distinctive ecological artists.

Who

We seek an artist or designer who is inspired and interested in the scientific aspects and opportunities in Dark Skies and Biosphere and their links to new discoveries in science. The Dark Skies Park has already links with the national astronomical society and other well-informed and exciting scientists and organisations. The selected artist’s interest or curiosity in science will ensure their practice engages with the exciting ecology and links between sky and land.

Artistic Outcome

We would anticipate that the residency would culminate with a workshop to launch the art edition and to discuss the role of artists as integral part of placemaking and their ability to recognize through research and practice the potential of place. Conversely to explore how the place has influenced the artist practice.

Budget: £8000 + European visit, mentoring and a materials budget.

Deadline for Applications: 28th November 2011

To Apply: Please submit a C.V. letter of interest and 5 images of previous work to:

jan@wide-open.net

Dr Jan Hogarth
Creative Director
Calside House,
Craigs Rd, Dumfries, DG1 4QJ

Mobile: 07801 232229

Other Wide Open projects:
www.stridingarches.com
www.gretnalandmark.com

 

 

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
Go to EcoArtScotland