Exhibitions as Models of Ecological Organization

May I share heartening evidence of the deepening partnership between art and ecology?

Recently I began to notice that galleries and museums were hosting exhibitions that resembled many eco-art works. I started collecting examples in a file named “Exhibitions: Ecological Models of Organization”. It is quickly filling up. These exhibitions share the following characteristics of ecosystems:

Structurally, they function like systems of energy flow patterns (art) within habitats (museums) for communities (arists and audiences).

Formally, they depend upon relationships between these elements.

Temporally, they instigate local perturbations that ripple beyond their borders and initiate evolutionary transformations.

Eight examples of exhibitions that manifest ecological models of organization follow:


1. ‘Celebration Park’, 2006
 Pierre Huyghe
ARC / Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Tate Modern, London,

'Celebration Park' is both an exhibition of exhibitions, and an exhibition about a future exhibition. Huyghe uses ecological terms to explain his project: “I'm looking for a permanent exhibition that grows as an organism, an arrangement between heterogeneity, a series of pavilions hosting an experience of a real situation, a system of representation that participates in the construction of an experience… Each cell being part of a wider ensemble. I'm interested in the set of relations, the set of procedures of an organic system, which brings about a principle of uncertainty rather than a resolution. The museum show is a collection of exhibitions that already took place elsewhere.”

In Paris 'Celebration Park' was an evolving multi-media program too complex to describe here. One essential component was Huyghe’s inclusive representation of time.
PRESENT: A “Prologue” gave the rules of the game of the upcoming exhibition
It took the form of a book Huyghe called a ‘day planner’ that functioned as a compass or guide for the exhibition.  After examining the day planner the viewer enters an exhibition space and confronts a set of oversized doors that move about the space, confusing instead of defining access. The doors were surrounded by large neon text pieces disavowing copyrights. They invite people to participate in the production of symbols and narratives of this work of art.

PAST: The day-planner also contained images of previous works by Huyghe. They are presented at different stages of their production.

FUTURE: Visitors encounter a puppet version of the artist. It operated a trailer announcing an upcoming exhibition.

Huyghe explains, “I'm trying to intensify the co-efficient of fiction that is contained within a reality of a given situation.” Since a co-efficient allows increase to occur, this exhibition not only stimulates ideas and free thought, it emulates life, vitality, and growth.

2. ‘2 – 3 Streets’ 2009-2010
Jochen Gerz
Essen, Dortmund, Duisburg, Mülheim, Oberhausen Germany,

‘2-3 Streets’ is an exhibition of streets without any noteworthy sites or history. They will be in the region of Ruhr because that is where the Ruhr 2010 European Capital of Culture will be located. The selected streets will be open to the public as an art exhibition from the middle of 2009 onwards.

Volunteers will be invited to live on these streets and thus participate in this exhibition. Free accommodation will be provided as a basic income for one year. They will be able to pursue their private and professional lives, while at the same time contributing to the exhibition by producing a text realized on-site by anonymous residents and visitors who describe events, feelings and thoughts. The one-year exhibition evolves in real time. It is a production of society.

All that happens on the streets during a period of three years (before, after and during the exhibition itself) will be presented as an artistic manifestation of aesthetics and society. Because daily life becomes art, it will be difficult for locals and art connoisseurs to identify the work.

The exhibition “tests the opportunities offered by a new form of production for the contemporary audience at large.”

3. ‘SOS 4.8’ May 2 and 3, 2008
Live Arts Festival, Murcia Spain

This exhibition relates the concept of sustainability, using local resources and immediate conditions, to visual culture. It consists of 48 hours of non-stop artistic creation. This means each art work’s inspiration, construction, installation, presentation, and termination all transpire within the 48 hour time limit. Works will be created within 24 hours by fifteen artists (six selected from an open call for submissions) in situ. Museum-goers participate in the process.  Then the works are exhibited for 24 hours. Compacting all phases of the art process obliges the artists to be responsive to the resources and the conditions within their immediate surroundings.

Paco Barragan notes that the project replaces the “inter-passive” relationships in which art communication is imposed on the compliant visitor, with “inter-active” relationships in which the public is welcomed into all phases of art production. In this instance the works take the form of installation, net art or visual jockeying, and performance.

The letters S, O, S in the title emphasizes the urgency that accompanies this time restraint.
The distinguished curatorial team consists of:
Christiane Paul, Adj. Curator New Media Whitney Museum (USA)
Rirkrit Tiravanija, artist and curator, (Argentina/Thailand)
Paco Barragán, independent curator and artistic director SOS 4.8 (Spain)

4. ‘Illusion is a Revolutionary Weapon’, 2006 - 2007
Loris Greaud

In an manner that resembles the sprawling diffusion of stimuli and responses that characterize ecosystems, Loris Gréaud sets in motion a complex system of unattainable experiences by mounting multi-track exhibitions. These exhibitions consist of vast networks of independent projects spanning continents.

‘Illusion is a Revolutionary Weapon’ manifests itself in the linkages between projects rather than discrete events occurring on city streets, building sites, playing fields, public parks, and gallery spaces in London, Los Angeles, Milan, New York, Tokyo and Vilnius. The works spread through phone lines, radio waves, television emissions and eventually through rumors and hearsay. They cross over, merge, and cancel each other. Greaud urges the viewer to “imagine the idea of a space where the scale has disappeared, where the immaterial joins the infinite -- a space where the ending doesn't exist anymore. A place motivated by irresolution”.

Greaud's projects and exhibitions are often the result of collaborations with scientists, geo-biologists, engineers, filmmakers, writers, sound and graphic designers. He enables this network as much as the viewers activate it. The significance of the exhibition lies in the impossibility of actually viewing all these projects. Greaud has created an unobtainable experience.

In Tokyo, Gréaud directed a building’s destruction as a performance. Cameras and recording devices were prohibited. The event only exists as experience, memory, or anecdote.
In New York Greaud will host the gallery’s answering service to diffuse information through multi-layer recordings that are recorded continuously and remotely, from undisclosed locations. These projects intentionally resist centers and defined spaces. Cut-up techniques and the playback of multi-layers of recorded information threaten the comfort of knowing. Instead, these messy communications engender mass confusion.

Greaud urges the audience to accept the discomfort of non-knowing, “Your challenge is clear – listen to the rumors, spread your own, make your theories, build a binding, but bear in mind that limits approach an infinity as values are pinned on position, time and speed. The more light you shed on a moving target, the quicker it escapes you.”

5. ‘Migrating is Reality. Reality is Migrating.’ 2008
Galerie der Künste, Berlin
In cooperation with “balsas.cc” (http://www.balsas.cc)

Every fourth month balsas.cc, a Lithuanian online zine, announces a new topic and welcomes interpretations from their readers. From March – June, 2008, readers are invited to submit texts, sounds, and migrating formats, interdisciplinary discussions, interviews, and the meetings of artists and theoreticians exploring two sides of migration: “realities of migration and migrating realities.” Because some of these migrations occurs independent of global political, economic, or cultural structures, they offer unique opportunities for creative exchange that resemble the unpredictable mutations occurring within biosystems. 

The exhibition in Berlin is part of this project. It will present examples of migrations that generate temporary autonomous zones where actions occur without the interference from formal political and economic control mechanisms.
Kristoffer Gansing, one of the exhibiting artists, explores the “decolonization of the mind”. He demonstrates the potential of thinking machines and humans thinking like machines to produce new opportunities for communication.
Gediminas Kepalas, another artist, produces a two-channel video documenting parallel situations as an example of a migrating reality. One video depicts the demolition of Republic’s Palace in Berlin. The other shows the (re)building of Lithuania’s Sovereigns Palace in Vilnius.
Zorka Lednarova presents an interactive installation in which, with the throw of dice, the viewer can move and mix the objects creating new statistics of education, an economic map, or a world corruption map.
Migrating Reality, http://www.migrating-reality.com

6. ‘OUR LITERAL SPEED’ February 29 – May 25. 2008
Der Performaive Diskurs
Midway Studios
Chicago, IL 60637

The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2010).

“Our” = a synthesis of collective activity.
“Literal” = a self-reflexive examination of art history and practice
“Speed” = the pace of our movement through institutions

To paraphrase the press release, OUR LITERAL SPEED is a kind of media pop opera or a pedagogical concept album, implying fluid and/or jagged transitions among scholarly presentations, panel discussions, artists’ talks, performances, and an art exhibition within an academic conference.

OUR LITERAL SPEED manifests that there every setting is loaded with aesthetic and topical references. There is no such thing as a neutral, abstract background.
Thus, the exhibition take the form of a temporary discursive laboratory for artists, curators, art historians, and media theorists to share their investigations.

With: Art & Language, Walter Benjamin, John Bock, Tania Bruguera & The Weather Underground, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Anthony Cokes, Darby English, Andrea Fraser, Rainer Ganahl, Boris Groys, Charles Harrison, Sharon Hayes, Christopher P. Heuer, Matthew Jesse Jackson, Jackson Pollock Bar, David Joselit, Juliet Koss, Miwon Kwon, Porter McCray, WJT Mitchell, Hila Peleg, Andrew Perchuk, The Project for the New American Century, Tino Sehgal, The Size Queens, Anton Vidokle, Anne M. Wagner, Peter Weibel

7. ‘Unrecorded’ 5 March – 16 April 2008
Akbank Sanat, Istanbul
Curated by Basak Senova
 ‘Unrecorded’ is an exhibition that examines space as a decisive factor in our perception of the realities that surround us. The artists interrogate the physicality of space and the content of mediated spaces. The curators deliberately minimize the interaction between the physical space and the viewer so that each viewer can navigate through the exhibition, allowing the experience to unfold according to their own inspections, observations, and approaches. In this manner, the experience offered by the exhibition is self-determined by multiple entities, not by an arching authority.

The press release announces, “It is a process, consisting of momentary fragments, which are impossible to record.” These temporary fragments are augmented and designed by the artists, but not determined, much like the variants within biological systems.

Artists: Kati London (US), Thomas Duc (France), Laila El-Haddad (Palestine), Dan Phiffer (US), Mushon Zer-Aviv (Israel), Daniel Garcia Andujar (Spain), Zhou Hongxiang (China), Banu Cennetoglu (Turkey), Negar Tahsili (Iran), Kate Armstrong (Canada), and Ali Taptik (Turkey)

8. ‘Protections. This is Not an Exhibition’,  2006
Gutshaus Kranz

‘Protections’ does not protect the viewer by providing him/her with the final product of conventional exhibition making. The exhibition is described as “a non-stable construction site where the security of certainty is withdrawn. It develops in time and space and is executed by the artists in a close encounter with the audience.
There are no fixed points, but rather a dynamic structure which bridges visual arts, performance, theatre and architecture. The museum becomes a meeting place, a site of discovery, and a playground for staging the public and private relationships that occur in everyday life.

Kranz says the exhibition is a “project-in-progress”. Its composition is like a storyboard that challenges the usual museum habits of perceiving by inviting the audience to explore the museum space in a participatory way. What visitors will observe is an “ongoing anti-spectacle” presented as an organic process of collected events. Viewer’s attentiveness is put at stake and the limitations of spectatorship are exposed.
Participating artists:
Cezary Bodzianowski, the Centre of Attention, Katrina Daschner, Elmgreen & Dragset, Tim Etchells, Vlatka Horvat, Christian Jankowski, Marysia Lewandowska & Neil Cummings, Katarina Löfström, Daria Martin, Kris Martin, Frédéric Moser & Philippe Schwinger, Warren Neidich, Roman Ondak, Elisabeth Penker, Philippe Rahm, Markus Schinwald, Dejan Spasovik, Apolonija Sustersic, Mark Wallinger, Markus Weisbeck, Herwig Weiser


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