Work Of Art

Spirited discussions pt. 4 (by Ben Twist, Director of Creative Carbon Scotland)

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Dave Young, Carbon Catcher, and Sam Clark, artist and contributor to Spirited discussion 4, in the Meadows. Photo CO2 Edenburgh.

Dave Young, Carbon Catcher, and Sam Clark, artist and contributor to Spirited discussion 4, in the Meadows. Photo CO2 Edenburgh.

The last of our Spirited Discussions asking, ‘Can Art Change the Climate? was entitled:

Going Beyond the Material: Environment and Invisible Forces in the Literary, Performing and Visual Arts.

This, in some ways, reminded me of Wallace Heim’s reference in Spirited Discussion part 2 to Alan Badiou’s idea that the four critical kinds of event which change people are love, science, art and politics.

In the performing arts particularly there is arguably no ‘thing’ that is the work of art: there is the event that is found in the ether between the player and the audience; there is the growth of digital publishing which has emphasised that the same is true of the written work.  With the written word the format is sometimes less important than the content and the work of art is an event taking place in the reader’s head, brought about by the words in whatever form they are reproduced (consider audiobooks). This aesthetic view could of course be equally true of visual artworks; the event takes place when we view the work, but in an empty gallery or an unoccupied installation all that exists is some colour on a surface or a collection of items.

Lucy Miu, Business Manager of the Bedlam Theatre and driving force behind this year and next’s Dramatic Impacts, is also an Environmental Sciences student, effectively straddling the line between the arts and the sciences. She argued that for people to be informed by information they need to be engaged with it. This is backed up by plenty of behaviour change research which shows that plain information has almost no effect on the recipient’s behaviour.  Kate Foster concurred: her experience with biology students saw them overwhelmed by the sheer level of information they were being asked to take in. Her artistic practice allowed them to make sense of it, focus their new knowledge and understand it, rather than just know it. Lucy felt that the arts, which engage us emotionally, can help, and that perhaps they also help where the original experience is not available to all, (murdering the King of Scotland, experiencing the bombing of Guernica), and the artist can bring that experience to a wider audience.

For me, what is particularly important here is that an artist may, perhaps must if they are to be described as an artist rather than a mere reporter, have special insight into the experience that they transmit to the audience along with the basic information: information + insight is what gets the event lodged in the audience’s understanding. Information + insight creates the sort of event we are interested in.

Lucy also made the point that all performing arts events are group activities.  At the very least there is an audience as well as a performer, whilst engaging with visual arts is, or can be, a more solitary business. In her view this made the performing arts more engaging but Tim Collins argued that different forms do different things. (The similarities and differences between the visual and performing arts were questions that arose regularly and usefully during CO2 Edenburgh: Spirit in the Air.) The question of whether feeling is enough arose again, just as it had been raised by Chris Speed in Discussion 1, and it clearly isn’t enough: pornography, a well-made horror film or Love Story make us feel, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to change people or their behaviour as Badiou seems to be getting at.

Here Sam Clark made her first intervention noting that, to the writer Rebecca Solnit, the difference for the writer between discarding an article and having it published is minimal, but history starts when events happen. The event may happen almost accidentally, or is at least subject to chance, and is not solely in the artist’s gift. How does this square with Wallace Heim’s view that the artists’ practices create the conditions where [Badiou’s] change can happen (remember love, science, art and politics)? The answer is surely that art is a fairly slippery thing with fuzzy boundaries. Questions of intention, insight, engagement and emotion swirl around this subject, which is perhaps what makes the question of whether art can change the climate so difficult to disentangle, let alone answer.

Sam Clark chose to address the title Going Beyond the Material more directly in her short and very beautiful talk, speaking about scientists working on matter. Only 4.7% of reality is material, according to a physicist she knows; 75% is dark matter whose existence is only deduced from its interaction with matter and gravity. Even less concrete is dark energy, only imagined because the universe is expanding and accelerating, not shrinking or slowing down. These scientists are working on a relationship between the visible and the invisible, or in artistic terms the knowable and the ineffable (strikingly similar in my mind to Andrew Patrizio’s conjunction of the mercantile and the religious in fifteenth century Florence – see Discussion 3). The scientists at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern use non-detection as a means of detection; 95% of the universe is only knowable through the instrument of the mind. Here we surely get into the realm of philosophy and for me insight comes to the fore again. What we want from artists – why societies from the year dot have supported, encouraged and valued them – is access to the knowledge of the things that are unknowable just through experience, knowledge that requires use of the instrument of the mind. Sam made the same point – insight and experience of things we don’t understand or things we hate, creating a space of wonder, are the things we want from artists. And as Harry Giles made clear in the first of the Spirited Discussions, actually artists and scientists do many of the same things. But maybe Sam’s last suggestion is what artists do but scientists try to avoid: making the familiar strange.

The session came to a close with a short discussion about empathy, a subject that Reiko Goto Collins had touched upon in her introduction. Sympathy is when you simply feel for another; empathy is when you place yourself in their shoes, which takes more than just emotion. Lucy suggested that maybe if art can change the climate, it is because it can help connect the brain and the heart. If we have done that, just a bit, with CO2 Edenburgh: Spirit in the Air, it will have been well worth it.

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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OPEN CALL FOR ARTISTS featuring SOLAR ART

nightgarden_cropped

Michigan’s [USA] Great Lakes Bay Region located approximately 90 minutes north of Detroit including five main cities: Bay City, Frankenmuth, Midland, Mt. Pleasant and Saginaw will be hosting a month-long celebration of art, culture and science in October 2013 called Fall In… Art and Sol.

SOLAR ART is any work of art that incorporates solar technology to harness the power of the sun to affect its design. Solar Art combines Design + Technology + Environmental Education.

The celebration will feature the world’s first major solar art exhibition. The exhibition will be unique in combining the display of works of international and national designers, a competition open to everyone, and an educational initiative involving approximately 1,000 students from throughout the region. We are very excited to show the results of these three initiatives together during October.

You can download the Competition’s Trifold below with details on honorarium, selection criteria, exhibition details and competition dates.

Please contact us if you have any further questions. We take this opportunity to encourage you and your friends to participate.

PLEASE, SHARE THIS OPEN CALL ANNOUNCEMENT!!!

LINKS:
Festival’s website: http://fallin-glbr.com/
Exhibition: http://fallin-glbr.com/solar-art/solar-artist/
Educational Initiative: http://fallin-glbr.com/solar-art/educational-workshops/
Competition: http://fallin-glbr.com/open-call-for-proposals/

Call for Student Artists

Attention student artists!

The University Museum at SIUC is seeking applications for Sustain, a juried collegiate recycled art exhibition. Sustain has been organized to feature college artists working with recycled and waste materials in their work.

Three winners will be selected whose work and artist profile will be printed in a pamphlet about the exhibition and in the online catalog on the SIUC University Museum website.  The online catalog will also feature all of the exhibitions selected works.

Artwork will be selected for the exhibition on the basis that it consists of at least 70% waste material, and innovatively transforms this material into an intriguing work of art.  Jurors for the exhibition will be recycled glass artists, John Drury and Robbie Miller of C.U.D who have pioneered methods for creating art from recyclable materials.

The prospectus is available on our website,  http://www.museum.siu.edu/documents/Sustain%20PDF.pdf

Questions contact Nate Steinbrink Curator of Exhibits, nstein@siu.edu

What Matters Most? ecoartspace benefit art exhibition

ecoartspace invites you to our first New York City benefit exhibition titled What Matters Most? hosted by Exit Art from April 15 – 28th, 2010.

Over 225 participating artists have created an original 8 x 10″ artwork related to the NY Times Dot Earth blog question of What Matters Most? or they have donated an existing work. For more information and a complete list of artists please read our blog:

http://ecoartspacewhatmattersmost2010.blogspot.com/

What Matters Most? began with responses to this question posted Monday, February 15th on Andrew Revkin’s NY Times Dot Earth blog by leading environmental experts, writers and readers – and is still active on the archive:

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/15/what-matters-most/

Artworks will go on sale (first come first serve) beginning on noon at April 15th and ending on April 28th at 9pm at Exit Art Underground Space, 475 10th Ave at 36th St, NYC.

Music performances of Whale Music by David RothenbergNight Science by Ben Neill

Tickets are $135 in advance, $150 at the door for admission and includes a work of art. Admission Only tickets are $35 each.

If you can not attend but would like to support ecoartspace with a donation please go to this link for SEE, our fiscal sponsor:

https://p7.secure.hostingprod.com/@www.saveourplanet.org/ssl/Donate.html

Antony Gormley and snobbery

Ben Street at Art21 | Blog is among those who sneer at Antony Gormley’s One And Other, the sculpture which will be installed on the Fourth Plinth from July 4. The piece consists of 2400 members of the public standing on the fourth plinth, one at a time. Volunteers submit their names to the One And Other website and have their names chosen, apparently at random. Street sniffs:

Only a culture so profoundly in love, as the UK is, with the process of celebrification could endorse a proposal that equates mere self-expression with art. The project description is full of phrases that are begging for qualifying air quotes: “Participants will be picked at random, chosen from the thousands who enter, to represent the entire population of the UK” [emphasis mine]. Gormley has the temerity to suggest that he has been the victim of press “snobbery”; surely pomposity of that Meatlovian scale is crying out for some leavening criticism. The use of the political buzzword “participant” shows how neatly the rhetoric of contemporary art has, since 1997, dovetailed with the rerouting of political discourse towards an emphasis on “openness,” “transparency,” and “interactivity” while actually being none of those things. The suggestion of the term participant is that the person has an active role in the creation of the work of art, whereas the truth of much participatory contemporary art is that the participant simply becomes the medium for the artist to express whatever it is he or she is expressing (usually a toothless critique of the patron rubber-stamped by same).

For Gormley’s project, as for much contemporary political discourse, language is bent to purpose. That dreaded term empowerment is so beloved of official arts bodies when angling for funding is dragged in, but what does it mean here? And to what extent is this, in Gormley’s words, “about the democratization of art”? It means that after what will certainly be a protracted screening process, members of the public, who have conflated exposure with success, will be allowed to spend an hour of their time gesticulating slightly out of earshot above the tinkling fountains and rumbling buses. Some of them will moon Nelson. Gormley and the subsidizing bodies will feel good about “democratizing” art and “empowering the public.” That all this is happening in the shadow of the National Gallery, one of the world’s best collections of painting (and free to enter), has a ring of embarrassment about it. We get the public art we deserve, I suppose.

Leave aside, for a moment, the much gnawed over question of whether Gormley’s oeuvre is any cop or not, and consider whether it’s entirely reasonable for Gormley to claim he’s been the victim of snobbery, as ridiculed here by Ben Street.

The art world’s and the broadsheets’  invective against Gormley – where it exists – has grown in perfect parallel with his popularity. That would suggest either that his work has become worse as his popularity’s grown, or that there is a disagreeable horror of populism in the art world.

Q1. Which of those two propositions above is the more plausible?

Q2. Might the assumption that the British lumpenproletariat are too vulgar to be trusted to behave properly with art, and that when Gormley gives them the opportunity the best they will achieve is to “moon at Nelson”, not be a perfect example of the kind of snobbishness Gormley is complaining about?

Another Place by Antony Gormley photographed by Richard Dutton

PS. I’ve signed up to to be one of the 2,400. In the slim likelihood that I’m picked, I welcome suggestions about how I should spend that hour. No mooning, please.

PPS. Michaela Crimmin, who has been involved in the Fourth Plinth from its inception – it was, lest we forget, an RSA initiative, promises to blog further on the Plinth some time in the next couple of days.


 

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