Parallels

Spirited Discussions Pt. 3

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Wednesday afternoon 14th August, third discussion around the issues of art, science, environment, monitoring, CO2.

Andrew Patrizio started us off by taking us back to Renaissance Florence. His summer reading had been Michael Baxandall’s Painting and Experience in 15th Century Italy. In that he found a description of the particular characteristics of the mercantile mind, the ability to gauge quantity, weight, volume and space accurately. According to Andrew, Baxandall argues that the circumstances in which Florence was a nexus for trade meant that a significant proportion of the population were involved in activities requiring gauging. By gauging I imagine we mean forming accurate judgements about things which can be weight and measured, but where some of the technologies for doing that which we take for granted didn’t exist or were relatively unsophisticated. We can perhaps imagine parallels with the emergence of monitoring in the 21st Century. Can we imagine the flows of energy through the grid when we are told about the impact of everyone turning on their kettle in the break for advertisements during a major sporting event? Or that animation of aircraft moving across the Atlantic and then moving back? As we have previously discussed, the calibration of our experience of CO2 through art is a particular challenge.

Renaissance Italy was at a critical point of social, economic and cultural development and the arts were deeply enmeshed in that. Trade was central, but the ramifications are much wider. The emergence of the new painting characterised by the use of perspective, but equally importantly including specific identifiable individuals such as patrons in real space with divine figures also treated as if they were human, is well known. We can imagine the pleasure that a painting which expressed space through perspective, and depicted fabric realistically, would bring to a person who could fully appreciate the space, volumes and sumptuousness – the play between the aesthetic and the mercantile mind. The late 20th and early part of the 21st Centuries has as Andrew drew our attention to, been characterised by conceptual, performative and participatory practices, sculpture in the expanded field, systems theory, data visualisation and new media.

In Renaissance Italy we know the practices of art and science were not separated out in the way that they are now. The enquiry into what can be understood about the world, whether through philosophy, science or art, was a process that individuals participated in as what we might now call public intellectuals, rather than as distinct disciplines. The methodologies were broadly similar and compatible if the manifestations were different. We know of Leonardo’s sketchbooks but we are less familiar with Piero della Francesca several treatise on mathematics of which the most well-known are those on perspective. The emergence of the artist researcher who plays across these two fields is a relatively recent not always welcomed development. It is criticised on the one hand as institutionally driven, and on the other perhaps because it seems to ‘explain’ the work, which by rights should stand on its own. The 20th Century in particular has been dominated by a resistance to the instrumentalisation of art, a resistance to a ‘unified reading’ of the work of art. The artist researcher, write of papers as well as maker of art seeks to understand the world and share that understanding. The artist researcher might seek to intentionally change the world (though probably not through simplistic cause and effect processes).

Setting aside the question of who writes papers and who makes artworks, Andrew was asking us to think about the comparison between then and now, the extent to which we are living through a period of more than just social, cultural and economic change. The shift taking place in Renaissance Italy might be characterised as the emergence of the idea of the human as being at the centre of everything, able to shape the world according to our desires and for our convenience. The word ‘environment’ means the circumstances or conditions that surround one, or that surround and organism or a group of organisms. It is predicated on an assumption of a ‘thing’ which has ‘an environment’. Without a ‘thing’ there is no ‘environment’ because the word is describing that relationship. Perhaps the Renaissance is the point in modern history where the human moves to be the de facto ‘thing’ – where the human environment division is crystallised. If we look at the paintings we see the human at the centre of the environment, the focal point.

We feel that we are living through another key paradigm shift, or rather that we need to be living through a paradigm shift, because the current paradigm, that we can use the planet and everything on it for our own convenience and comfort and it will just carry on, isn’t working anymore. If 500 years ago it seemed that we needed to learn how the world worked so that we could control it to make it safer (and make no mistake life was short and painful 500 years ago), at that point it seemed that nothing we could do would impact on ‘nature’. Science and technology offered ways to protect ourselves, live longer, avoid illness, be warm and comfortable.

If we accept that our world view is changing again, that the Anthroposcene is the result of a trajectory that has social, economic and cultural roots in the deep past, it is interesting to imagine the arts’ involvement in the process 500 years ago. Did artists sit around and worry about being instrumentalised? How would they have felt about Samuel Beckett’s statement, “Art has nothing to do with clarity, does not dabble in the clear and does not make clear.” Of course that resistance of Beckett’s is precisely because art has been implicated in the paradigm that created the problem. And Beckett has contributed to our understanding of the world. But Ian Garrett, one of the founders of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, led us into another possible construction of the avoidance of ‘making clear’ in a simplistic sense (where frankly Design Communication has the task of ‘making clear’). He talked about the project Fallen Fruit which used maps in a way which is reminiscent of the work of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, where the layering of information creates a density that requires thought and interpretation. CO2 Edenburgh layers information on carbon dioxide monitored in the City over greenspace and urban fabric, it performs the movement through the landscape of CO2, and overlays the social cultural activity associated with the Edinburgh Festivals. It could add economic layers or regular traffic movement layers, or any number of other factors. The point is to create questions in the mind of the person engaged with the work of art.

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

Powered by WPeMatico

Conference: Probing the Skin

This post comes to you from Cultura21

From April the 24th to April the 26th 2013 the conference “Probing the Skin: Cultural representations of Our Contact Zone” takes place at the Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena.

The organizers Prof. Caroline Rosenthal and Prof. Dirk Vanderbeke aks for submission of papers including artistic reflections of skin related themes in literature, art, media studies, and anthropology.

The conference aims to bring academics from various disciplines together in order to discuss the role of skin, which has been neglected in the discourse of literature and culture about body and senses in the recent years.

The skin deserves a closer look, as it is the largest organ reacting to sensual stimuli and embodies the border between our inside and outside world. It is able to protect us and at the same time it identifies us. Furthermore it is an indicator for health, age and even for feelings and experiences. The skin can also be inscribed with individual and collective memories and traumata.

Possible themes for submissions are:

Skin as…

  • a medium and surface. Parallels between the skin and a canvas or piece of paper
  • lieux de memoire. Skin as bearing the traces of deliberate or forceful marks
  • a mask and performative space. Skin hides as much as it reveals
  • a contact zone, as the permeable border between inside and outside
  • a third space, as something in-between nature-culture, inside-outside, body-mind
  • a means of inclusion and exclusion
  • a marker for identity and individuality
  • a medium for the senses, for hurt, lust, pain
  • a trophy, an object of value or even currency

Deadline for submissions in English is March 31st, 2012.

Please submit your abstract to one of the organizers:

Prof. Dr. Caroline Rosenthal and Prof. Dr. Dirk Vanderbeke
Institut für Anglistik/Amerikanistik
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Ernst-Abbe-Platz 8
07743 Jena
caroline [dot] rosenthal [at] uni-jena [dot] de / vanderbeke [at] t-online [dot] de

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

oil and tree cycles: art and activism – join global cycle day 24 Sept

This post comes to you from An Arts and Ecology Notebook

Post image for oil and tree cycles: art and activism – join global cycle day 24 Sept

Image left: Bidon arme (Loaded Drum), 2004 Romuald Hazoume Right: Treebike – image from the International freecard alliance for World Environment day, 5 June 2009

An exhibition that I stumbled upon accidentally a few months ago has stayed with me. On a visit to the Irish Museum of Modern in April 2011 I came across African artist Romuald Hazoume’s very thought provoking and surprisingly enjoyable installations of ‘masks’, sculptures, documentary film and photography work.

Mon Général, 1992

"Mon Général", 1992 by Hazoume

Romuald Hazoumè, one of Africa’s most important visual artists, creates playful sculptures and masks made from discarded plastic canisters commonly found in his native Benin (a small country neighbouring Nigeria)  for transporting black-market petrol (known as kpayo) from Nigeria. As can be seen in his image (above left) these jerry cans are expanded over flames to increase their fuel-carry capacity, sometimes to excess resulting in fatal explosions. Hazoume’s work richly references mask making culture from his African heritage to commenting on his country’s predicament of being caught up in the day-to-day and often unacknowledged misery of the global fossil fuel industry.  His work is engaging on very many levels and to a wide audience; from children who love the use of his found objects to adults that can see the political concerns in his work, to others who see a continuation of identity expressed in local materials made into masks.  ‘Hazoumé has used the cans as a potent metaphor for all forms of slavery, past and present, drawing parallels with the vessels’ role as crucial but faceless units within commercial systems, dangerously worked to breaking point before being discarded (Tate Modern, 2007)

From across this side of the planet my own work attempts to touch some of these concerns too. My long term project the hollywood diaries to transform our conifer plantation to a permanent forest has real long term energy returns as we are very shortly to discontinue use of oil for our home heating (a common and increasingly expensive form of domestic heating in Ireland) and use our never-ending supply of forest thinnings. In fact, I was startled to learn recently from my forestry contacts, that our ongoing selective harvesting to keep the forest vibrant and encourage the native tree seedlings to flourish, will mean that we’ll have 70 tonnes of wood every three to four years from our small two acres!! Crikey!

The image on the above right, Treebike, is a pointer to this month’s global day of cycling, Moving Planet lead by Bill McKibben and his global 350.org organisation to invite us all to get on our bikes this Sept 24th, 2011. I’ve always been amazed at the huge response to these events and how often the arts help mobilise such activities.

Here’s the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ztEgLXSiek – as in the past you can goto 350.org and join in the fun but its also a serious campaign too

‘Circle September 24 on your calendar–that’s the day for what we’re calling Moving Planet: a day to move beyond fossil fuels…

On 24 September we’ll be figuring out the most meaningful ways to make the climate message move, literally. We’ll show that we can use our hands, our feet, and our hearts to spur real change. In many places, people will ride bicycles, one of the few tools used by both affluent and poor people around the world. Other places people will be marching, dancing, running, or kayaking, or skateboarding. Imagine the spectacle: thousands of people encircling national capitals, state houses, city halls.

But we won’t just be cycling or marching–we’ll also be delivering a strong set of demands that can have real political impact.”

_______________

Note: some of you might be aware that I have returned to art college to undertake in-depth research on experimental film and ecology in the last year – if you want to follow along, my research site is www.ecoartfilm.com

I’ve recently created a small film sketch on how our small conifer plantation  is being transformed, comments welcome!!

http://vimeo.com/27704065

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

ashdenizen: not bothered by parallels

The big new Christmas movie, James Cameron’s Avatar, which opened yesterday, has some striking green themes.

There’s deforestation: a truly massive tree gets destroyed. There's a threatened indigenous people: the home of the Na’vi tribe gets obliterated. And there’s a new-agey idea that that there’s a mutual thing going on between the people living in forest and the forest itself and there may even be scientific evidence (Sigourney Weaver tells us) of electro-magnetic impulses that allows the forest to act like a brain, communicating between its many constituent elements.

The baddies of the piece, of course, don't have such a sophisticated brain. What the US military has is muscle – a massive arsenal of weaponry which it aims to use ( ‘shock and awe’) to get the ‘savages’ moving out of an area where there they have discovered a very precious mineral called – yes! – ‘unobtanium’;.

This raises an interesting question. I assume you can't have a successful blockbuster movie that’s anti-American. So there must be plenty of people watching this movie who aren’t remotely bothered by the parallels suggested by the storyline.

Update: in this interview Cameron refers to the themes of imperialism and biodiversity and attacks the way America has ‘had eight years of the oil lobbyists running the country’. But he points out that anti-imperialism is American too. ‘You can take it back to the origins of America in a fight of rebels against an imperial dominating force.’ Except the rebels in question were hardly fighting on behalf of indigenous people.

via ashdenizen: not bothered by parallels.

Stuff gets Real.

Fox News

The now-classic video Story of Stuff, a basic breakdown of our modern industrial-consumer system, recently came under fire on the now-classic Fox News Channel. Both Mike Maniates, who is on the Story of Stuff advisory board, and Christopher Horner, author of  The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming, took questions from reporter Jane Skinner for a segment called “Happening Now.”

Horner defined the video as “terrorizing children,” (not surprising, since he’s drawn thin parallels between the German head of the Green Party and Hilter) while Maniates defended it as a valid examination of our culture. Some 7,000 schools and churches have ordered copies of Story of Stuff, and though you can barely catch them through all the Fox-newsy shouting, Skinner attempts to make some valid points about conversation and context. Not spouting dogma, as it were.

Dang straight, skulls and crossbones are scary. So are most flame retardants. So is much of modern resource management. So, to many, is Fox News. Whether Story of Stuff is an effective cultural impetus to move us toward a more gorgeous green utopia or not, it’s definitely bringing the conversation into the public sphere. That’s nothing short of awesome.

Go to the Green Museum