The Living Library Lives On

Posted Monday May 22, 2017 At 19:47PM . Artists, Blog

Evolution of Life Frames:  past, present, future has been Bonnie Sherk's ongoing project on Roosevelt Island since 1981. It just expanded its geographical range and cultural significance by being included in the prestigious "La Biennale de Venezia", curated by Christine Macel, Chief Curator of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. 

Crossroads Community (the farm),1974-80, which is featured in my book, TO LIFE!, shared this honor. It was included in Sherk's biennial installation.

This presentation confirms that A Living Library is being adopted by, and adapted to, diverse communities. Its malleability in accommodating local resources and cultural conditions is formalized in the title of each new park is established. They are known as 'Branch' Living Library & Think Parks. But Sherk is equally committed to crafting the project as a global initiative. This, she manifests, by the linking the parks. This networks is known as Green-Powered Digital Gateways. Shrek explains that this local/global complementarity was cultivated" we can learn from, and share, our cultures and ecologies - near and far."  




Becoming Pizza: Teaser from my forthcoming book: WHAT's NEXT? Eco Materialism and Contemporary Art

Posted Wednesday May 03, 2017 At 21:39PM . Blog, Eco Issues

In this book, the reader is challenged to suspend the cultural habit of thinking ABOUT the material components of the world. Instead, we experiment with thinking AS a material component.

Imagine yourself comprised of substances and energies continuously circulating among other collections of substances and energies. This mental image represents a radical revision of the historic conception of humans as discreet entities existing in an environment occupied by entities (living and nonliving) that are stable, knowable, and controllable.

A perplexing conundrum accompanies this simple narrative. It involves the baffling question of determining how to distinguish ‘you’ from your surrounding ‘environment’.

The following narrative exemplifies this complexity.   

Imagine a slice of pizza, just the way you like it.

You salivate in anticipation of biting into a slice. Is this the moment the pizza stops belonging to the ‘environment’ and becomes part of ‘you’? 

You lift a slice, savor its smell, feel its warmth, and absorb its oils in your fingers. Is this the moment the pizza stops belonging to the ‘environment’ and becomes part of ‘you’? 

You take a bite. A morsel enters your body through the port of entry known as your mouth. Is this the moment the pizza stops belonging to the ‘environment’ and becomes part of ‘you’? 

You chew, altering the pizza’s chemistry and transforming its molecular identity so that it can be absorbed by your cells. Is this the moment the pizza stops belonging to the ‘environment’ and becomes part of ‘you’? 

You swallow. The ingredients of pizza begin their journey through the dark interior of your digestive tract. Some components are absorbed by your cells. Is this the moment the pizza stops belonging to the ‘environment’ and becomes part of ‘you’? 

You expel unused solid components of the pizza through your body’s exit portal. Is this the moment ‘you’ become part of the ‘environment’?  

These perplexing questions suggest that no precise border exists between ‘you’ and the ‘environment’.

Behind-the-Scenes: Teaser From My Forthcoming Book

Posted Monday April 03, 2017 At 15:06PM . Blog, Eco Issues

How did I choose the artists and the artworks that readers will encounter on the pages of my book?

In response to this frequent query, I explain....

This ‘curatorial’ process is laborious, perhaps even more demanding than writing the text. This is because I am familiar with, and have high regard for, hundreds of eco artists. Each was subjected to a rigorous vetting process that reduced the potential candidates down to thirty-five actual entries.  I’d like to share this process with you.  


1st vet: Because the theme of this book is ‘eco materialism’, only those eco artists who feature original material choices are considered.

2nd vet: Of these materially-oriented artists, only those whose work addresses the chapter headings, such as ‘tool’ or ‘beauty’ are considered.

3rd vet: Of those who suit the chapter themes, only those whose work involves the particular material that is featured in that chapter are considered, such as water for ‘creativity’.

4th vet: Of those who explore a chapter theme and utilize that chapter’s featured material, only those whose work is sufficiently different from other artists in this section are considered.

5th vet: From these finalists, only those artworks that generate a discussion that will engage and instruct the reader are included.


Teaser from my forthcoming book: WHAT's NEXT? Eco Materialism and Contemporary Art:

Posted Thursday March 09, 2017 At 22:46PM . Blog, Eco Issues

                    HUMANITY as 'POWER TOOL'

To build, plow, pave, dam, mine, dig, pump, smooth, separate, lift, sort, rotate, slice, adhere, mix, reach, crumble, measure, align, stack, stir, and probe are just some of humanity's tooling capacities that have been treated to perpetual upgrades of precision and power. In the 12,000 years since ‘tool’ referred to a stick used for prying roots, humanity’s brawn and brain powers have extended the reach of its operations far into the lithosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere. Today, few Earth contours, textures, colors, sounds, smells, or tempos escape the virtuoso skills and extraordinary acumen of the human species.

The ingenious devices we devised for performing feats of manipulation have earned renown for their inventors, fortunes for their distributors, and gratitude from their beneficiaries. Nonetheless, evidence is emerging that all three groups may ultimately be found 'guility' because so many of our proud achievements are accompanied by disruptions, depletions, squandering, and polluting. 

The debris of our lavish lifestyles, for example, does not merely clutter the litterer's back yard. Migrating on air and ocean currents, it settles far from its place of origin. Even remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are not immune to such intrusions. Divers from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently collected 114,000 pounds of trash on these islands in just one month.[1][1] This is a staggering figure because these islands are uninhabited!






Climate Change: The Fatalism of Force Majeure?

Posted Tuesday February 28, 2017 At 23:25PM . Artists, Blog

A 'force majeure' refers to occurrences beyond the reasonable control of any human, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, hurricane, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc. It is the name of an ambitious body of work by Helen and Newton Harrison, and the title of a book that was just published.THE TIME of the FORCE MAJEURE: After 45 Years Counterforce is on the Horizon.

The Harrisons have added to the conventional examples of  'force majeures' one that is unique to the current era - the pressure of human-generated climate warming on the Earth's systems that are affected by rising temperatures, shrinking icepacks and changing in weather patterns - all of which are potentially catastrophic.

Newton explains why this force is major, "....the changes in the environment are both inevitable and happening. We have experienced at least 5 past mass extinctions related to environmental shock. Unless wefind effective ways to mitigate the impact of greenhouse gases and industrialization, the 6th mass extinction now in evidence will resist mediation."

Artists Offer Three Views of 'Science': Fact, Speculation, Religion

Posted Thursday February 23, 2017 At 01:31AM . Artists, Blog

Science as truth:

Hans Haacke’s demonstrated the scientific success of his art and ecology intervention in Rhinewater Purification Plant. The success of his experiment was evident in the clean basin filled with healthy goldfish. His innovative experiment relegated viewers to mere observers of a system that excluded their participation, their understanding, and their support. His mode of address manifested the factual and pedagogical authority that characterized one view of science. 

Science as speculation:

Natalie Jeremijenko disagrees.She objected to the authoritative stance of science and its inaccessibility to the public. Although Jeremijenko earned several advanced degrees in science, she switched careers in order to pursue her experiments within the category of art. She comments: ‘The artist’s view is invaluable precisely because artists are not experts and do not have the authority granted by science. They are only as persuasive as their images. As nonexperts—though interested and knowledgeable—they stand in for the view of Everyman. They transcend boundaries; they transcend disciplines, issues, and expertise. With art, the viewer knows that she has a license to interpret and critically evaluate the work and that her opinion matters. The same can’t be said of science. Scientific arguments are presented in the public imagination as faits accomplis. When definitive terms such as “discovered” and “understood” are the norm, science is often a one-way conversation.”[1]

Science as Religion:

Critical Art Ensemble not only concurs regarding the power of science; they identify this power with the power of a religion. "Science is the institution of authority regarding the production of knowledge, and tends to replace this particular social function of conventional Christianity in the west. In keeping with this position, science has slowly but surely become a key myth maker within society, thus defining for the general population the structure and dynamics of the cosmos and the origins and makings of life, or, in other words, defining nature itself. Much as religion once

[1] Viewer Discretion Advised. Review by Natalie Jeremijenko


[1] Viewer Discretion Advised. Review by Natalie Jeremijenko


Cosmological Grandeur of Tomas Saraceno's Vision

Posted Wednesday February 01, 2017 At 15:44PM . Artists, Blog

By merging his art practice with physics, biology, cosmology, and engineering, Tomas Saraceno's visions may seem too grand to be contained within the confines of any museum. Furthermore, his dedication to constructing the principles upon which a utopian future can be orchestrated seems anachronistic to the time scales of museum exhibitions. In addition, museums seem ill-equipped to provide a suitable setting where the particular future he is constructing because it locates humans and all other forms of life beyond our planet; it situates us in the vast expanses of the cosmos. Nonetheless, an exhibition evoking the enormity of this vision is currently on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where it will remain through May, 2017.


Installation view, Tomás Saraceno: Stillness in Motion—Cloud Cities, 2017

From Landscape to Xeriscape to Mindscape

Posted Wednesday January 18, 2017 At 15:38PM . Artists, Blog

Mel Chin is back in eco action, this time to address the severe water shortages in California. Acting as a kind of 'Johnny Appleseed', he is installing living paintings throughout the city, each takes the form of a 15 square foot xeriscape (drought tolerant) planting.

To realize this goal, he created eight demonstration gardens, which he sited along the LA River at the Clockshop Bowtie Project. Then he pitched the gardens to art collectors to select one design to create for themselves in their own backyard or community space. Participants received a blueprint and an installation manual to execute the gardens.

Chin also created duplicates he calls “mirror gardens” in the yards of private homes in neighborhoods throughout the city, and public spaces at Occidental College and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In this manner he is engaging the public in a collective action that addresses their own water issues. As Patricia Lea Watts states, "This call to action, combining aesthetics and nature in a way that mimics our interdependence, is a “watershed” strategy for ecological art."

Down with the Anthropocene. Long live the Aerocene!

Posted Friday January 06, 2017 At 18:30PM . Artists, Blog

Never at a loss to discover new ways to disrupt social norms, Tomas Saraceno has announced an AEROCENE EXPLORER: BETA VERSION project. He describes the goal of the project, which is nothing less than challenging the Anthropocene and build a new epoch, the Aerocene.

The project proves that human exploration can proceed without fossil fuels, helium, rare gases, or batteries. It is:

Inflated by air,

Lifted by sunlight,

Carried by the wind.

Saraceno describes the project as "an open-source, Do-It-Together flying sculpture for solar-powered atmospheric exploration." He has announced an "Open Call" in which he invites members of the public to "be in the first Aerocene Explorer MOVIE - Share a 1-minute video of your Aerocene experience"

The Aerocene Exploer movie is a collection of 1-minute videos documenting the xperiences of people around the world. Along with the instructions provided at    , participants are encouraged to ‘hack’ the device's pack, and create their own sensors.

How Many Ways Are There to Define Eco Art? At Least 110,000!

Posted Monday December 12, 2016 At 23:33PM . Blog, Eco Issues

Wikipedia definitions of Ecological art and Environmental art succeed in representing the vastness and diversity of these areas of artistic exploration. This success, however, is accompanied by a failure to make eco art activity manageable to readers seeking clarity. These definitions packed with references. The breadth and diversity they intentionally incorporate overwhelm rather than clarify.

Wikipedia definition of ecological art includes:

....preserve, remediate and/or vitalize forms, resources and ecology of Earth,

....lithosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere

....wilderness, rural, suburban and urban

....restoration, socially engaged, activist, community-based.

               ....politics, culture, economics, ethics and aesthetics

....artists, scientists, philosophers and activists


Wikipedia definition of environmental art includes:

....historical and more recent

                ....ecological and politically motivated

       and philosophy

               ....traditional media, new media and critical social forms of production

               ....rural to the suburban and urban as well as    urban/rural industrial.

In consideration of the reader's preference for doling out these options at a pace that matches learning capacities rather than onslaughts,  the introduction to my eco art textblook, TO LIFE! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet begins by identifying one issue: the differences between ‘ecology’ and ‘environmentalism’. It proceeds, chapter by chapter, to represent the multiplicity of creative options that the Wikipedia definitions include. My hope is that these definitions will become understandable by the time readers arrive at the last chapter.

Turning Corpses Into Compost

Posted Sunday November 27, 2016 At 23:23PM . Artists, Blog

Described as “a startling next step in the natural burial movement”, the Urban Death Project proposes to recycle human corpses into compost. What is startling? I submit that it is the fact that people are startled that is startling, not the concept itself. Unfamiliarity with the truism that the human body consists of organic molecules that continually recycle throughout ecosystems is evidence of how drastically we humans have become divorced from the ecological systems in which we are imbedded.

Of course, humanity’s physical organisms are candidates for composting, just like dairy cattle and road kill. Bodies are nitrogen-rich. Combined with carbon-rich materials like wood chips, they constitute the ideal recipe for a fertile medium. Microbes do all the work. Temperatures rise to around 140 degrees when the decompose materials are decomposed. In the process, most pathogens are killed whle no odor is produced.

This project received a ‘finalist’ commendation by the prestigious Buckminster Fuller Challenge in November 2016. It is in its infancy. No bodies have yet been successfully composted. Jae Rhim Lee’s approach to human burial is more highly developed. Perhaps it is also more acceptable to contemporary norms and attitudes since the corpse is still laid in the ground where the mycelia do their decomposing out of sight.

Maya Lin Returns to Washington Triumphant

Posted Tuesday November 22, 2016 At 15:42PM . Artists, Blog

The behind-the-scenes story of Maya Lin's renowned Vietnam Memorial on the great Mall in Washington DC may surprise those who consider this work a moving testimonial to those who died in this pursuit. The response, at the time in 1982, was mixed. Those who celebrated the honor bestowed upon this young Asian artist were pitted against those who maligned the choice and its outcome. Maya Lin was caught in the fray, discredited because of her race, gender, and age.

Now, the dust has settled in favor of her supporters. This week she received The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the ultimate honor bestowed upon artists in this country. 


Haapoja Wins a Prestigious Award for Putting Humanity on Trial

Posted Friday October 28, 2016 At 16:27PM . Artists, Blog

Terike Haapoja wins the ANTI Festival International Prize for Live Art

Terike won the ANTI Festival International Prize for Live Art on 29th October. The Prize underlines the importance of live art and her significant contributions to this vanguard arena of contemporary artistic expression.

The chair of jury, Eva Neklyaeva, described Haapoja's work: "At its heart her work is fascinated with how we perceive and apprehend and  - perhaps more importantly - how we are perceived; how does the non-human feel our human presence – the animal, the mineral, the light and the life of the world, what is the real nature and impact of our footprint, our mark, our own signs of life. We know this one of the fundamental questions, one of the fundamental problems, of our age."

Terike Haapoja dares to challenge an entrenched social construction by stripping privileged humans of the power to parcel out the protections they demand for themselves. This lop-sided concentration of power has produced a civilization that supports brutal slaughter houses for animals, and mistreatment and genocide for un-empowered humans. Terika Haapoja is their self-declared spokewoman. Her latest art projets counter the anthropological institutions and attitudes that function like machines of targeted and willful abuse by declaring these'voiceless' beings to attain the status of political entities. Besides cattle, she has reached out to humans who are categorized as “others”: convicts, asylum seekers, children, foreigners or the mentally challenged.


 Haapoja-The Trial

Her drive for structural changes to common decision-making procedures and institutions aspires to incorporates these mute members of the planet's living populations a role in social decision-making processes.

To counter the violent logic of such political divisions, Haapoja created Party of Others in 2011. The "Statement of Principles” articulates the party’s platform. Significantly, it was formulated from a collection of interviews: “The Party of Others speaks for all those who don’t have a voice in social decision-making but who are nevertheless affected by the decisions: production animals, pets, wild animals, natural diversity as well as ecosystems such as rivers, swamps, mountains or forests.”

Haapoja launched the Party during Helsinki’s 2011 parliamentary elections, demanding inclusive representation and the values of social equality, diversity, and inter-species understanding. While the initiative raised much interest and garnered appreciable media coverage, it didn’t receive enough support to register the party officially, which required 5000 signatures. Perhaps she will try again in the future.



Fernando Garcia Dory Campaigns of Agro Reform in Korea

Posted Tuesday October 25, 2016 At 00:40AM . Artists, Blog

"Lament of the Newt" transferred FErnando Garcia Dory's campaign for agrarian preservation from Spain to Korea. His contribution to the Gwangju Biennale from August to September 2016 consisted of collective performances staged on the last surviving rice field in Gwangju. Once a common site, rice fields are being steadily usurped to create space for towering apartment blocks. Thus, instead of being the mainstay of Korean sights, the rice field has become a quaint anachronism  threatened with extinction.

Throughout the biennale, this field served as a stage for a collective performances examining the tenuous relationship between the city and the ecosystem in which it is located. Dory's title announces which of these competing forces has earned his loyalty. The work is a 'lament', meaning a loss has occured and it is being mourned.

Vanguard performance of contemporary sync pop choreographies and lip-dub were scheduled along side traditional village mask rituals honoring the seasonal cultivation of rice, as well as farmers unions' demonstrations. Combined, these events placed real estate development and economic growth within the context of their victim - a functioning ecosystem. In this manner the field itself contributed to this narrative by presenting irrefutable evidence of what was being lost: streams, plants, and other non-human organisms coalescing into a community of cooperating residents.

Rights of Nature: A Post-Anthropocentric Inevitability?

Posted Tuesday October 18, 2016 At 13:54PM . Artists, Blog

TREExOFFICE transforms the 'Rights of Nature' movement from a utopian desire to a functioning prototype. The artist, Natalie Jeremijenko, created this 'co-working' space in which the 'co' refers to two kinds of co-workers: human and trees. She equipped the space with all the requirements of a contemporary office (high speed internet) as well as the requirements of environmental conservations (locally generated renewable energy). The work elicits a parallel consideration regarding the tree. What inputs do trees need to function? How will these needs be converted into rights that are protected by law?

Tjeremijenko---tree-officehere are legal precedents for her action. In recent years,  rights granted to nonhuman entities have taken two forms. Corporations recently became the beneficiaries of a Supreme Court ruling that provides organizations the identical privileges as humans, and these rights are guaranteed by law. 'Nature' is gradually emerging as the other recipient of inherent 'rights'. New Zealand, for example, granted an 821 square mile forest the legal rights and status of a person. Other legal precedents include the Bolivian Rights of Mother Earth document. and the larger contemporary Rights of Nature Movement.