GREAT DIALOGUE: Ecocentric Beauty / Anthropocentric Beauty
The dialogue that follows was generated by colleagues who accepted my invitation to comment on a statement I had drafted. This text attempted to differentiate ecocentric beauty from anthropocentric beauty. Their questions, comments, and challenges were so insightful, I am sharing them in the hope that they will spark new discussions regarding a fascinating topic that has not earned consensus.
Aesthetics, in my opinion, evolves in tandem with cultural developments. That means the definition of ‘beauty’ can take many forms and refer to many formulations. What is consistent from era to era is that ‘beauty’ embodies a culture's most esteemed values.
Currently, environmentalism is spurring a radical reconsideration of the relationship between humans and ecosystems. It is revising the anthropocentric definition of beauty that has prevailed for hundreds of years, replacing it with an ecocentric characterization of beauty.
May I propose the following comparisons:
- serves the needs and desires of humans
- refers to strategies that assert control over non-human entities, materials, and conditions
- privileges appearance
- approaches nature as an obstacle to overcome, a territory to acquire, a resource to consume, or a condition to control
A formal expression of these values: rigid geometries based on mental constructs
- promotes responsibility for the welfare of all forms of life, not just humans
- protects and enhances ecosystem functions
- privileges function over appearance
- involves responsive interactions that protect and enhance ecosystems
A formal expression of these values: evolving forms based on interactions between materials, conditions, and forces.
To Life! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet documents the burgeoning eco art movement from A to Z, presenting a panorama of artistic responses to environmental concerns, from Ant Farm’s anti-consumer antics in the 1970s to Marina Zurkow’s 2007 animation that anticipates the havoc wreaked upon the planet by global warming. This text is the first international survey of twentieth and twenty-first-century artists who are transforming the global challenges facing humanity and the Earth’s diverse living systems. Their pioneering explorations are situated at today’s cultural, scientific, economic, spiritual, and ethical frontiers. The text guides students of art, design, environmental studies, and interdisciplinary studies to integrate environmental awareness, responsibility, and activism into their professional and personal lives.
To Life! website »