APInews: New in Places To Study: Art and Environment, WVU

New in CAN’s Places To Study database is “Art and Environment,” a course taught by Erika Osborne at West Virginia University in Fall 2009. The multidisciplinary graduate and upper-division undergraduate studio/seminar course is designed to increase awareness for the interactivity of studio artists and the environment, including studio work and extensive field activity. Students will address topics such as micro-ecology with soil scientist Jeffrey Skousen; astronomy with physicist Boyd Edwards; organic agriculture with Steve and Sunshine Vortigern of Round Right Farm; permaculture with landscape architect Ashley Kyber; Kayford Mountain (a mountaintop removal site) with Larry Gibson of Keepers of the Mountains; acid mine drainage with Amanda Lachoski of Friends of Decker’s Creek; and art in Antarctica with artist Chris Kannen.

via APInews: New in Places To Study: Art and Environment, WVU .

Clay and the Collective Body

{IHME Project 2009: Antony Gormley, Clay and the Collective Body. Ninth day of the clay work. Photo: Kai Widell.}

Antony Gormley has turned an indoor sports arena in Finland into a giant collective artwork. Starting with a massive cube of raw clay, the exhibition is now on display after 10 days of sculpture making by the general public.

This has been done before (i.e., Damián Ortega’s Clay Mountain), but the scale and level of interactivity makes this really interesting. Plus, is it still winter in Finland? Anyway, probably pretty nice to be inside a sports arena, turning clay into a whimsical fantasy land of public art.

Be sure to check out the day-by-day photo diary at Here’s how it all started:

Here’s a bit more info about the project, if you are curious:

Clay and the Collective Body will feature a huge clay cube that will be both a challenge and a shared bodily experience. Designed specifically for Helsinki and realised for the first time here, Gormley’s work brings together Mass, Space and Energy in a response to the aims of the Pro Arte Foundation Finland: to ask questions about who make art, how art can be made and who it can be for.

The Clay and the Collective Body project will start with a clay cube the size of a small house (4 x 4 x 4 m) and weighing 100,000 kilograms, housed in a well-lit, humidified pneumatic building. In the first phase of the project (from 22 to 24 March), the public will be able to view the constructed cube. In the second phase (from 25 March to 3 April), the public will have an opportunity to work on and with the clay and to use it to make objects of any kind, big or small, alone or with others.

Go to Eco Art Blog

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.


Go to RSA Arts & Ecology