Rivers

Natural Capital

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Does the (natural) world exist to provide ‘services’ for human beings?  Should we attempt to justify the importance of bees or trees or rivers or mountains or bacillus acidophilus in terms of an ecosystems services analysis, i.e. what services they provide to us?

Alternatively should we analyse what services we provide to ecosystems?  This question was raised by Shai Zakai recently during a discussion about ecosystem services.  It seems to focus precisely the problem with the ecosystems services approach, which is that it leaves us as the beneficiary of the services, limiting our responsibility to those we can comprehend.

For some useful background on this subject see the Arts and Environment network at CIWEM resource on Natural Capital, and in particular their introductory document From Microbes to Mountains.

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.
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World Water Day LA at Natural HIstory Museum



This Sunday at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles you will find a day long program of water and sustainability education. It is a non plastic event (however they are providing paper cups – which someone will need to talk with them about). I’m sure it will be a good turnout. It is always fun to go to events like these and educate the educators on how it could be even more GREEN.

Don’t miss the Water Justice Forum at 1:30pm where speakers will discuss water challenges for Los Angeles from the Southern California Watershed Alliance, Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy, Los Angeles & San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council, and Urban Semillas.

Go to EcoLOGIC LA

Eliasson on TED

This quote from Olafur Eliasson put me in mind of the New York Waterpod project I mentioned last week.  “Water,” says Olafur Eliasson in the excellent TED Talk he did last month, “has the ability to make the city negotiable.” In a talk calledPlaying with space and light, he was discussing his Green River project, in which he dyes the water of rivers flowing through a city a bright, startling,  green, cajoling citizens to notice the flows and eddies around which their cities grew up, and asking them to reconsider their relationship to water. (Just in case you’re alarmed, the green is  non-toxic).

Eliasson is that rare thing, an artist who is beautifully articulate not only in his work, but in what he says about his work. He talks about how his art is about changing people’s relationship with what they see, and about with how a piece of work allows the viewer to renegotiate his or her position in relation to what they see. This, he says, means that art has a role in democratising the space that art exists in:

What the potential is, obviously, is to move the border between who’s the author and who’s the receiver, who’s the consumer and who has the responsibility for what one sees. I think there is a socialising dimension in moving that border; who decides what reality is. […] What consequences does it have when I take a step? Does it matter if I am in the world or not? Does it matter whether the actions I take filters into a sense of responsibility? Is art about that? And i would say yes, it is obviously about that. It is obviously about not just decorating the world and making it even better or even worse, if you ask me…  it is obviously about taking responsibility.

Tucked away in the talk is the notion that this kind of art embodies not just a political position, but a unique one:

Art addresses great things about parliamentric ideas – democracy, public space, being together, being individual,… How do we create an idea which is both tolerant to individuality and also to collectivity without polarising the two into opposites?  Of course the political agenda in the world has been very obsessed with polarising the two against each other in different, very normative ideas, and I would claim that art and culture – and this is why art and culture are so incredibly interesting in the times we are living in now – has proven that one can create a kind of space which is both sensitive to individuality and to collectivity.

At the very least this seems to be a nice distillation of the intentions of much of the best contemporary art…

Photo: Green river by Olafur Elliason, Moss, Norway, 1998

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Jon Stewart and the Art of Responsibility

 

This will not be the first place you’ve heard of Jon Stewart’s interview with Jim Cramer, of Mad Money, on the Daily Show. This may be, in fact, one of the last places you’d expect to see it mentioned. This is a blog about environmental art. The Daily Show is a mainstream political comedy show. The interview was largely about finance, investment, and the economic crisis (which are not separate from natural resources, blah diddy you know the drill . . . )

But as comedian, Stewart provided an invaluable service. He called Cramer out. He urged Cramer and his network to use their visibility and connections for the public good, and not in service to investors, corporate interests, or mere ratings. He chided Cramer for misusing his powerful influence.

And that’s the essence of its relevance. At greenmuseum.org we’re constantly seeing artists who are using their craft as a tool for the public good, whether with education, aesthetic power, or literal utilitarianism. They’re doing it with the planet in mind, defending rivers, forests, communities, connections. Jon Stewart is defending the very nature of work, the transparency of media, and his parents’ retirement fund.

To all of those who voted to cut NEA funding: I defy you to look at the body of work on greenmuseum.org and not understand the public service that artists provide. Tell me that Jon Stewart lecturing Cramer like our nation’s Cultural Daddy isn’t achingly important. Come to grips with the incredible responsibility that comes with the work of culture. And I say: boo-yeah. Now let’s get some work done.

Go to the Green Museum