Updates on M.Mandiberg and T.Strachan

Posted Thursday July 14, 2016 At 18:28PM . Artists, Blog

Michael Mandiberg is celebrating his receipt of a substantial Art + Technology Lab at LACMA to develop new work, with the support of the museum, private industry, and academia. The museum provides opportunities for the public to observe works in progress as they unfold.

Michael Mandiberg's project is called Mechanical Tramp because he will recreate the 1936 Charlie Chaplin film Modern Times. Instead of the showing the workplace as it existed in Chaplin's time, with massive gears, grinding machinery, and thick oiled joints churning relentlessly and frenetically, Mandiberg will show digital labor sourced from Amazon's Mechanical Turk marketplace. His version will both mirror the original, frame by frame, while simultaneously showing how the workplace has changed with the advent of the digital age. 

Mechanical Tramp


"Orthostatic Tolerance" by Tavares Strachan was new when my book, TO LIFE!, went to press. Strachan's more recent work maintains his signature "Wow!" factor, but it introduces an entirely new context, medium, and scale. The Pierogi Gallery is exhibiting a diptych. One side displays the modesty of a simple pain of glass from a neglected industrial building. It was broken. The double crack runs in meandering lines from the base to the edge. What is remarkable about his work? Strachan violated all probability by creating another glass and breaking it to generate the identical crack! In a flash, what was presumed to be random is transmuted into a refined act of intentional crafting. It shocks the system.Where, What, When (Dislocated remnants from simultaneous events, #s 8 and 9, Providence, RI)

Where, What, When + Passage Ways





To Discover Nature Through Art and Art Through Nature

Posted Thursday July 07, 2016 At 18:47PM . Blog, Eco Issues

Jan Van Boeckel

Jan Van Boeckel

10:37am Jul 7

Here is a wonderful Norwegian book entitled by Jan-Erik Sørenstuen e provides compelling insights into discovering nature through art, and art through nature. The PDF of the English translation, entitled 'Dancing Flowers, can be downloaded here:  Here is my review of this inspiring book:

'Dancing Flowers: To Discover Nature Through Art and Art Through Nature' by Jan-Erik Sorenstuen is a lavishly illustrated text, elaborately documented text that addresses the current, crucial, and urgent challenge of the contemporary era. Its fundamental thesis confirms the claim by the renowned eco-philosopher, Arne Næss, that through spiritual and psychological development humans can recoup the intimate identification with other humans, animals, plants and ecosystems that our ancestors once enjoyed. Sorenstuen goes further. He introduces a methodology to activate this process.

The Last Chapter of the Earth's Hypothetical Operating Manual

Posted Tuesday May 31, 2016 At 17:52PM . Blog, Eco Issues

In the hypothetical manual that details the principles of ecosystem dynamics, equal space is allocated to increases in organization and increases in disorganization. Ecosystems depend equally on progressive and regressive dynamics to sustain the cycles and trajectories of energy transfers. Thus ecosystems build and dismantle structures. They concentrate and disperse energies, They organize and dishevel forms.  Building, concentrating, and organizing are functions of life.  Dismantling, dispersing, and disheveling are processes related to death.

Matter and energy undergo an inexorable process of unraveling. All organized structures, living and dead, biotic and abiotic, eventually dissipate until they succumb to disorder. Evidence of entropy is apparent in aging bodies, corrupted computer files, rotting tree trunks, and rusting cars. Even organisms that enjoy optimal conditions carry death sentences. But time is not entropy’s only warden. Disease, as well as too much or too little of the very ingredients that spurred growth can cause degeneration.  Extreme moisture, warmth, and nutrients kill. 



Join Me In an Exotic Journey into the Ordinary

Posted Wednesday May 04, 2016 At 17:45PM . Blog, Eco Issues

If exotic journeys excite your imagination, the project I am conducting at CHRCH Project Space may be intended for you.

CHRCH flyer for web

Since it is likely that you have already mastered electronic data-gathering and manipulation, the workshops I am conducting might lead you as far from familiarity as Rembrandt sitting in front of a computer console.

The workshops venture into the domain of personal, sensual interactions with moss, seeds, twigs, bark, mushrooms, pollen, feathers, and innumerable other ingredients that account for the wondrous uniqueness of the planet you call home. Each of these materials unleashes dramatic narratives of relationship that can transform the bland landscape you observe out a kitchen window into a thrilling pageant, and reduce dazzling digital graphics into passing entertainments.

Such direct interactions strip the filters, buffers, and amplifiers that intervene when you rely on text and graphics. Direct multi-sensory engagement offers the surest route to membership in the emerging environmental era because it transforms  abstract data and virtualized experiences into personal realities as they ensue in real time.


Invitation to Visit Grandmother Earth

Posted Wednesday April 20, 2016 At 22:39PM . Blog, Eco Issues

studio 2  low res

Some Odd Thoughts of 'Home'

Posted Sunday April 10, 2016 At 02:40AM . Blog, Eco Issues

Environmentalists, including eco artists, work on behalf

of the their ecological ‘home’ - planet Earth. They conduct ‘home-making’ by optimizing diversity and biological vigor. This new form of ‘house-keeping’ beautifies and functionalizes this shared ‘household’. 

1. “The House I Live In” (1834) by William Alexander Alcott is not the title of a book about architecture.  It dealt with the anatomy of the human body.  By mapping the body in the manner that geographies are mapped, the book presented the general public with their very first glimpse of their bodily interiors. The use of the term “house” popularized the notion that an enclosing shell protects our interior organs and our spirits. This separatist, interior view is being challenged by ecology. Ecologically, phrases like “the house I live in” extend beyond the borders of bodies and beyond the wall of architectures. They apply the intimate associations with the word “house” to ecosystems and the globe. 

2. Real-estate metaphors apply to computers.  Peole “stake out territories” by establishing a “home” page.  Like a house on  street, a home page on a computer has different rooms and different styles that reveal the identity of the owner.  Like homes, computers also have "windows" through which occupants can look out, and passersby can see in.  However, computer windows see far beyond a neighborhood, linking to computers all over the world. Furthermore, they can link to multiple computers simultaneously. As a result, the home as a center ceases to exist and is replaced by the concept of home as a multiple system. In some cases home boundaries are erased. MUDs (multi-user domains), MOOs (multi-object-oriented networks), and video/computer games all emphasize this plasticity and permeability of cybernetic homes.


3. Wood devouring termites are unwelcome occupants in wood-framed houses. But their ability to wreak havoc on these structures depends on other organisms taking up residence inside them. For example, termites provide the home for microorganisms that live inside them. They help the termites digest the wood. Futhermore, bacteria live inside these microorganisms, so they too are 'homes'. They either secrete the enzyme to digest the wood or help push the microorganisms through the termite’s gut. 

 4. The biosphere is home to thirty million species distributed among its diverse ecosystems.  Whether the ecosystem is a forest or the human mouth, each has a limited carrying capacity. In the absence of human interference, populations are usually kept in check because increases in the density of occupants also increase competition, disease, and predation. Humans have devised ways to escape this formula.  It is estimated that hunters and gatherers required 10 square miles to sustain one person.  By the year 2,000 BC in Mesopotamia, this number increased to 28 people per square mile.  Today, millions of city dwellers occupy single square miles of space. They all call it 'home'.




"Solastalgia": An Environmental Malady of the Spirit

Posted Saturday April 02, 2016 At 15:43PM . Artists, Blog

The word 'solastalgia' has not yet appeared in any dictionary, but that omission is likely to be rectified when the next editions are produced. The word was invented by Glenn Albrecht, a Professor of Sustainability at Murdoch University in Perth. Specializing in the intersection of ecosystem and human health, he had no word to describe the unhappiness of people whose landscapes were being transformed by the damage wrought by contemporary technologies and human behaviors. Thus, he invented one. "Solstalgia" describes this new version of homesickness.

Robert Macfarlane, in an article in today's Guardian, provides a compelling explanation of the word's timeliness. He states, "Where the pain of nostalgia arises from moving away, the pain of solastalgia arises from staying put. Where the pain of nostalgia can be mitigated by return, the pain of solastalgia tends to be irreversible.....Solastalgia speaks of a modern uncanny, in which a familiar place is rendered unrecognisable by climate change or corporate action: the home become suddenly unhomely around its inhabitants." In other words, the new wor connectis ecosystem distress and human distress.


What Was First? What Will Be Next?

Posted Tuesday March 29, 2016 At 16:30PM . Blog, Eco Issues

What’s Next? Is the title of the book I am currently writing. The project has steeped me in a quest for the elements of ‘now’ that are likely to be projected as conditions of ‘later’.  I use the words ‘pioneer’, ‘venture’, ‘avant-garde’, and ‘new’ so often, I fear I may tumble into the future unknown. Thus, I am hoping to regain my balance by pursuing a comparable exploration backwards in time.

Please join m in imagining the wondrous time, long ago, when the impulse to create an image first arose in the minds and spirits of early humans. The French artist, Hubert Duprat, believes this breakthrough predates cave art, despite the fact that painted depictions of animals on the walls of caves comprise the introductory chapter of most art history surveys. Duprat surmises that prior to rendering with pigment, early humans created images by arranging their hands near a blazing fire to produce animal-shaped shadows on the opposite wall. This manner of artistic depiction required no tools, no mediums, and no technical knowledge. Yet the willful construction of a two-dimensional image to represent an entity that occupied three dimensions marks humanity’s auspicious entry into the world of art. Duprat revived this tradition by sculpting animal-shaped shadows in flint that he chipped in the manner of early humans.



'Shape' Shapes Meaning in Eco Art

Posted Tuesday March 29, 2016 At 00:40AM . Blog, Eco Issues

Form is constructed out of three components: shape, organization, and relationship.  Western artists have exploited  all three aspects of form to convey their moods, emotions, beliefs, and/or insights. Such artists conjure form in their imaginations, and then produce a visual record of it with the flick of a wrist and a sweep of the brush. Within this art context, form is so malleable, and its variability is so limitless, that the only laws it obeys are those erected by the artists autonomous impulses, ideals, anxieties, observations, etc.

In nature, form is not so simply constructed. Shape, organization, and relationship are all products of circumstances that lie outside of the human imagination. They even extend beyond the bounds of culture. Art that acknowledges the shaping forces of eco systems embraces such sculpting mechanisms as molecular cohesion, electrical connections, chemical interactions, genetic transfer of information, and gravitational forces. In each instance, shape, organization, ande relationships develop in accordance with life maintenance and enhancement.

In eco art, as in eco systems, shapes are not invented abstractions. They are visible evidence of functionality specific to bacteria, shells, sponges, human bodies, clouds, crystals, lakes, moss, and so forth.

Shape in eco art is always derived from function.Such aesthetic considerations relay nature’s wondrous resourcefulness.The shape that assures the growth of an organism differs from the shape that optimizes the transport of nourishment and waste. Likewise, a shape that serves as a membrane is not an appropriate shape for a skeleton. Size matters. Large entities are products of gravity, while microscopic entities are shaped by chemical and electrical forces. Shapes convey the ongoing drama of dynamic transformation that is inherent to ecosystems and the complex forces that impinge upon them. In sum, it is only within the imaginative realm of art that shape is formal. Within an ecological system, form always exhibits the irrepressible shape-changing forces in its midst .


How To Become Dirt

Posted Tuesday March 15, 2016 At 15:15PM . Artists, Blog

The innovation is not being presented as an example of eco art. It is not even associated with art, and its inventor probably never heard of Jae Rhim Lee's decompoculture burial suit, yet it carries all the hallmarks of today's ventures into creative thinking about death as an opportunity for environmental enhancements.

This innovation is a process called promession. It adds yet another alternative to methods that are available to every living human for disposing of itself when he or she becomes a corpse. This one is ideal for the ecologically minded supervillain.

Devised by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, who is trained as a biologist and has a personal passion for gardening. Her innovation is the culmination of a 20 years of R & D. Promession is an elaborate decomposition system that takes a body, freezes it, vibrates it to dust, and dehydrates it. It can then be used as a fertile and sanitary growing medium.


Resource-Producing Art

Posted Wednesday March 09, 2016 At 01:24AM . Blog, Eco Issues

An article today in the Huffington Post provides a stunning example of artworks that produce resources instead of consuming them. In this instance, the artist is Jason deCaires Taylor. The resources he is augmenting are located in the ocean depths. That is where he installs masses of human forms that he carves and then submerges for the purpose of providing an inviting habitat where aquatic life can find protection and reproduce. Thus, the active components of his artistic process occur in two complementary phases. One begins and ends whtin his studio where he fabricates the thirty or forty figures that comprise each work of art. The other begins, but never ends. It occurs when fish and algae and seaweed and crustaceans begin to occupy the surfaces of the sculptures. If the work is successful, the artist's contribution will be completely obliterated.

A few months ago, Jason asked me to write an essay about an art installation with a stridently political message. Here is an excerpt from it:


They are Speaking. Are We Listening?

Posted Sunday February 21, 2016 At 16:15PM . Blog, Eco Issues

Midway through my new book exploring ecological materialism I feel compelled to assert that the materialist perspective does not strip living matter of its ability to evoke wonder. This materialism is not related to Karl Marx. It is the opposite of consumerism. Despite its avowed pragmatic commitment to environmental reform, it is also fostering spiritual attunement with non-human realms of existence.

For example, current materialist explorations are disclosing the profound intelligence, sophisticated strategies of defense, and complex languages of communication where they might be least expected – within the botanical world. Armed with new technologies and a desire to reach across the species divide, new materialist researchers have begun to listen in to conversations among plants and to decipher their meanings.

Helen and Newton Harrison ARE a "Force Majeure"

Posted Saturday February 13, 2016 At 15:34PM . Artists, Blog

Sontemporary art critics and historians scurry to identify living artists' predecessors and influences. In an article published yesterday in KQED Arts, a reverse tactic was taken. It identifies two artists, currently active, as art "parents". Helen and Newton Harrison were awarded the distinguished honor of being the progenitors of today's thriving eco art movement.

It is not merely their early entry into art addressing environmental concerns that is being acknowledged. It is the ambitious breadth of the Harrison's initiatives that astonish. They explain, “These are million-square-kilometer problems,” says Newton of the issues that he and Helen address with their work. “What we have to be concerned about is what is happening to the entire planet.” Helen adds. “What we are concerned about is the survival of the people and all living things.” 

Currently, the Harrisons are collaborating with a team of UC Berkeley scientists and members of the Washoe Tribe on a 50-year-long project. The Tribe, that has occupied these lands for tens of thousands of years, are contributing ancestral knowledge of the local ecosystem.

The project involves physically moving groups of plant species to higher ground to allow seedlings to acclimate to the warming effects of climate change. This investigation is part of an even bigger project, Force Majeure, which seeks solutions to two global problems - which is why they are conducting these experiments in four different parts of the world: encroaching water levels and rising temperatures.


harrison future garden jpegFuture Garden

Monsanto Generosity

Posted Sunday February 07, 2016 At 23:39PM . Artists, Blog

After hearing my daughter's description of the aquaponics system she and her environmental studies students at Ithaca College will be installing in an elementary school, I asked how this ambitious and innovative educational project was being funded. Her answer: "Monsanto!"

Monsanto is an unlikely donor. The company has long been demonized because of the "short term gain/long term loss" equation that their controlling agricultural tactics generate.

An article entitled "Why Does Everyone Hate Monsanto" sums up the many reasons and the many results: "Over the past decade, Monsanto has become a pop cultural bogeyman, the face of corporate evil." The company's tactics and its genetically modified seeds have been the subject of searing documentary critiques (“Forks Over Knives” and “GMO OMG“), global protests, and “The Colbert Report.” Social media has hashtags such as #monsantoevil. Monsanto has been blamed for the decline of the monarch butterfly, bee colony collapse, and increased incedence of cancer in humans....Contemporary artists factor into this indictment. Besides Critical Art Ensemble, there is this sculpture by Steven Ledba entitled Monsanto (2010-2011), for example.

Another instance of Monsanto philanthropy was in the news today. It appears in a New York Times story about the resurgence of a pre-industrial method of enhancing soil fertility by adding carbon to the soil and helping the beneficial microbes, fungus, bacteria and worms to thrive.

The article lists the philanthropies that are supporting this strategy, which includes this statement, " Monsanto, together with the Walton Family Foundation, recently put up the money to support the Soil Health Partnership, a five-year project of the National Corn Growers Association to identify, test and measure the impact of cover cropping and other practices to improve soil health."

Is it shame or is it pandering? I don't know, but it seems Montano profits are beginning to support child enducation and environmental health.

From Artistic Vision to Industrial Production

Posted Wednesday February 03, 2016 At 03:37AM . Artists, Blog

"First test-tube MEATBALL revealed: Startup claims lab grown meat will be on shelves within three years and says raising animals to eat will soon be 'unthinkable'."

With these words, the victimless meat experiment that Catts and Zurr conducted as an art project is poised to become a common commodity in supermarkets.  The firm confirms the artists' predictions that this technique can drastically reduce the energy consumed and the wastes produced by conventional cattle growing and butchering.

When art featured self-expression, the popularization of an artist's innovation would have been condemned as a violation of an artist's rightful domain. But eco artists rarely lay claim to their creative efforts because they are designed to solve real world problems and serve real world interests. I suspect Catts and Zurr are rejoicing.

Memphis Meats CEO Uma Valeti declares, "We plan to do to the meat industry what the car did to the horse and buggy." He then explains, "We love meat. But like most Americans, we don't love the many negative side effects of conventional meat production: environmental degradation, a slew of health risks, and food products that contain antibiotics, fecal matter, pathogens, and other contaminants."

Its first line of products will include hot dogs, sausages, burgers and meatballs, which will all use recipes developed by award-winning chefs.

'Our concept is simple. Instead of farming animals to obtain their meat, why not farm the meat directly? To that end, we're combining decades of experience in both the culinary and scientific fields to farm real meat cells—without the animals—in a process that is healthier, safer, and more sustainable than conventional animal agriculture.'