Herbert Bayer - updated

Posted Thursday July 31, 2014 At 16:59PM . Artists, Blog

Evidence that T. Allen Comp utilizes the knowledge he acquired to earn a Ph.D. in the History of Technology and American Economic History is evident in the following quote that pays tribute to Herbert Bayer:"When I first started talking about this idea that eventually became AMD&ART and won a national EPA Phoenix award among others, I’d show slides of the standard Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) treatment system, basically a series of rectangular ponds, and suggest we might be able to do more. Then I’d show Buster Simpson’s River Roll-Aids, Mel Chin’s Revival Fields and the Richards/Oppenheimer/Hargraves Bixby Park – but it was the images I had from Herbert Bayer’s Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks that finally got through to the audience. Here was a real problem with a real and art-full solution – it worked to solve the environmental problem and it worked to address something in the human soul as well. I showed Earthworks empty and I showed it full of people and, finally, my audiences started to understand how we might start with rectangular ponds to solve an environmental problem and grow that idea into a 35-acre park that treated acid mine drainage, created new wetlands and a new active recreation area while also addressing a need for deeper historical understanding and a more humane connection between past, present and even future. It was Herbert Bayer’s pioneering Earthworks that opened the door for AMD&ART."


AMD&ART was created by T. Allan Comp for the purpose of "artfully transforming environmental liabilities into community assets." Emphasis is on the word "comnmunity". Comp explains, "A lasting solution to the complex problems of environmental reclamation must be cultural and environmental. A scientific solution may clean the water, but a multidisciplinary solution has the power to both clean the water and to revive community spirit."

3Rs: Nicole Fournier Activates the Second 'R'

Posted Wednesday July 30, 2014 At 15:43PM . Artists, Blog

“3RV” is a visible reminder to reduce ‘residual’ waste that appears throughout the world.  The three ‘R’s are lined up in a meaningful sequence, beginning with the most desirable environmental outcome and ending with the least. The first ‘R’ stands for reduction at the source; the second for reuse; the third for recycling.  While recycling waste is the least beneficial, it monopolizes the attention of environmentally-conscious municipalities and good Samaritan consumers everywhere; neither seems inclined to reduce consumption or seek new uses for unwanted objects.

As an example, it is common for consumers to assume that once a book’s reading appeal has been exhausted, it is automatically reclassified as trash. To them, if a book is not going to be read, it no longer has value. Even channeling unwanted books into recycling programs is not a solution, since recycling procedures are often costly and wasteful. Landfills are heaped with the products of such narrow-mindedness.
In contrast, re-users are creative thinkers who approach a book that is not going to the read as a material object with potential for alternative forms of service. They disregard its intended function. Instead, they highlight its physical attributes: books are sheets of paper bound between covers. Their pages are modular and pliable. Stacked, these pages are as solid as a brick. In addition, books are flammable; absorb water; open and close; and fit in the hand. By concentrating on these material traits, re-users can discover multiple new employment opportunities for discarded books:
Use them as door stops; dig them into a compost pile; stack them to create a table; burn them to generate warmth and light; use the pages to wrap sandwiches or as toilet paper; grind the pages to make new paper; crumble the pages to insulate a wall; gold the pages into envelopes; tear the pages for mulch, etc.

Nicole Fournier, a resident of Quebec, designs her creative art practice around the second ‘R’.

Bees Lost in Flight

Posted Saturday July 19, 2014 At 17:21PM . Artists, Blog

The Beehive Collective would probably heartily agree with the Reverend Billy Talen, "Our Devil is Monsanto and our Hero is the Honey Bee." Talen is staging his protesting antics against 

neuropathic pesticides called “neonicotinoids” that short-circuit the bees’ navigation.  This disorienting drug means they can’t find their way home to their hive. Talen imagines them flying round and round carrying heavy sacke of flower pollen, lost! He is waging a counter attack on their behalf. It is a new video entitled, "Monsanto is the Devil."

Talen is planning to 'swarm' at Monsanto headquarters in St. Louis!

He has announced, "The Honey Bee is our teacher.  We learn to swarm and sting.  We travel long distances to our sweet destination. We cover ourselves with bees.  We brush wild honey on ourselves and stick to Monsanto’s walls." He reminds us that self-interest is another reason to protest the bees' plight. If they can't return to their hives, we can't survive well either!


Mandiberg -Communal Values and Gender Balance

Posted Thursday July 17, 2014 At 15:37PM . Artists, Blog

 Two of the projects that have kept Michael Mandiberg fully occupied last year might be categorized as 'social ecology' since they both address cultural conditions that reflect crucial environmental issues.The first involves replaced individualisms with communal values. The second involves asserting the influence of female perspectives that are typically overshadowed by male approaches and accomplishments

One  - The Social Life of Artistic Property

Michael participated in an experiment in which he and eleven other artists gathered to discuss the relationship between art and property. They held twenty meetings over two and a half years with the goal of producing a volume that merged their observations and reflections. The group produced three pieces of writing about experiments in group living and three proposals for the future of artistic property, including initiatives that reimagine studio space, living space, and artwork. Together, they prodced a record of the group’s research and an invitation to consider ways to pursue artistic property as a social construct. Each example explore relationships (real and imagined) between artists and estate markets, art markets, and community living experiments. Mandiberg's contribution consisted of an oral history of 135 Rivington Street, a collectively-owned building purchased in 1981 by a group of art school alumni. Such a scheme would be financially inconceivable in today’s real estate market.

On Kawara Died

Posted Monday July 14, 2014 At 16:02PM . Artists, Blog

On Kawara died yesterday. Based on my single, singular encounter with him, I can attest that he lived as he worked - with uncanny precision and determination and individuality. Months of appeals to his gallery preceded the interview I required. My qualifications and intentions were interrogated by his gallery with CIA-like scrutiny before I was granted permission to conduct my interview.

I was instructed to arrive at his favorite dusky bar in SoHo and immediately announced that he does not permit note-taking. I never posed a single question. Instead, he launched into a monologue – an onslaught of fascinating observations and uncanny theories. After three hours, I begged him to stop, since my mental storage capacity was crammed to capacity and I feared total collapse.

Embalming: Pre and Post

Posted Wednesday July 09, 2014 At 21:05PM . Artists, Blog

Technologies devised by humans to retard or halt the decomposing of organic material have been serving a double purpose since ancient times. On the one hand, by preventing foods from spoiling, they prolonged life. These technologies also ‘prolonged death’ by preventing bodies from decaying. Thus, the evolution of techniques utilized in burial parallels the history of food preservation. The kitchen technologies that were duplicated for the graveyard include salting, pickling, freezing, drying, honey curing, flaying, bleedings, and eviscerating. They  were all practiced by the earliest Mediterranean civilizations to preserve  both meats and the dead.

From Sun Dials to Robots

Posted Tuesday July 01, 2014 At 19:55PM . Artists, Blog

Amy Franceschini applies her knowledge of sophisticated technologies to undermine contrasting relationships between humans and the technologies we have devised. On the one hand she nullifies the possibility that as humans become increasingly dependent upon them, these technologies will become our masters instead of our servants, entities to be feared instead of exploited. franceschini---photo-robot

"Photosynthesis Robot", for example, is a real, functioning robot. However, instead of asserting its independence, Franceschini focuses on the robot's reliance on human tending for its survival. Despite the fact that the robot even generates its own energy by conducting photosynthesis, it is totally dependent upon humans to provide its requirements for 'survival': water, light, and space. The duty this robot is designed to perform fulfills the most utopian vision of robotic service. This one conducts a chore that is described as oppressive and dangerous, but benefits both society and the environment. It chases after SUV's capturing CO2 emissions! Thus, this robot's capabilities will not threaten human supremacy and control. 

Jackie Brookner Now. Herbert Bayer Then.

Posted Thursday June 26, 2014 At 22:49PM . Artists, Blog

The legacy of Herbert Bayer is being maintained and expanded by Jackie Brookner. Like Bayer's Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks, Brookner's Fargo Project will be sited in a stormwater detention basin that prevents flooding from rainstorms. Brookner, Fargobruckner-fargoIn both instances, this basin is transformed into a multifunctional neighborhood commons. However, Brookner's inclusive manner of accomplishing this goal diverges from the singularity of the modernist master's approach. Her method reflects current art practices in which artists invite community involvement in the creative process.  Brookner's work is ultimately collaboratory. She has invited representatives of the city of Fargo, its residents, and local artists to help devise a program and design for the site.

As a result, the project is certain to reflect Fargo’s cultural diversity. Its population includes Native Americans from many different nations and immigrants from over 20 countries. Members of all these groups are joining together and pooling their ideas about how to feature stormwater as a shared community resource. Brookner describes this ambitious project by stating, "Over several months our ecological artist team and other volunteers engaged over 400 people of all ages and backgrounds in the initial visioning outreach.

Beautifying Cities with Unwanted Weeds and Discarded Textiles.

Posted Tuesday June 03, 2014 At 02:58AM . Artists, Blog

When Nicole Fournier established InTerreArt, I wonder if she consciously chose a title that is resonant with layered meanings.

"Inter-Art" (integrated arts) is a term that refers to the merging of formerly distinctive art forms. Fournier combines installation, performance, and social practice. However, she expanded the typical application of the term 'inter' in a work entitled "Companions and Transformations". Instead of combining diverse forms of artistic expression, she combined two kinds of human disdain: weeds and discarded textiles.

Fournier assigns value to each. The plants are actively 'rewilded'. The process involves creating protective containers so that plants can thrive on the cement surfaces that prevail in urban settings. She accomplishes this by gathering discarded coats, covers, sheets and other used textiles, using them to create protective containers so that the perennial root systems of wild edible plants can prosper.

"InTerreArt" (terre = terra= earth) provides an opportunity to add two additional meanings to her enterprise. On the one hand, terre indicates that earth (soil) is key to Fournier's installations, performances, and social practices. She emplys earth as a medium of transformation and productivity.

Eco Art: Interdiscipline. Interaudience.

Posted Monday May 19, 2014 At 16:26PM . Artists, Blog

"Interdisciplinary" is an acknowledged component of eco art. It factors significantly in eco art discourse where the term is applied equally to the thematic, procedural, and material components of eco art. In each of these instances, eco art is leaping across conventional art borders and landing on turf that had formerly been claimed by fields as diverse as waste management, agriculture, biology, and energy production.

Less attention has been paid to an equally significant 'inter' component of eco art. That is "interaudience," the diversity of recipients for this genre of art. Eco art's remarkable inclusiveness is decisevly transforming the nature of contemporary art practice and contemporary art criticism.

Brandon Ballengee provides a case-in-point. Since January, nine media outlets have requested interviews with him. They include:

Marina Zurkow Offers a Taste of Hydrocarbons

Posted Wednesday May 14, 2014 At 17:33PM . Artists, Blog

"Outside the Work: A Tasting of Hydrocarbons and Geologic Time" dinner. This recent headline in the Houston Chronicle announced that Marina Zurkow served approximately 50 guests a seven-course dinner hosted by the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences at Rice University.hydrocarbon dinner


The Gulf Coast location provided most of the ingredients. It included jellyfish and Japanese knotweed, both invasive nuisances that are known to contain health properties.

Zurkow commented,"It's a trope in foodie culture: Eat your enemies, the invasive species, to get rid of them."

Each of the seven courses (prepared for the event by Lucullan Foods) was served on a different reusable placemat. Dishes from previous courses were piled onto a centerpiece sculpture of Styrofoam packing materials. With each course, diners peeled off layers of reusable place mats that doubled as a geology lesson.

Zurkow explains, "I'm not blaming anybody but looking at the role of petroleum usage in anthropogenic changes." 

Averters of a Water Crisis: Regulators, Designers, Users. Artists.

Posted Friday May 09, 2014 At 02:56AM . Artists, Blog

“I tied water in plastic bags to create the impression of rain drops. From afar you begin to see it as rain falling, but you sense this scary image, because I added some substance. Initially I used aluminum chloride, the dry cell batteries." Bright Ugochukwu Eke filled over 6000 bags with water fouled by battery acid, bound them with string, and hung them at different lengths to create a major installation entitled "Acid Rain".

The cluster of polluted water packets, each resembling an (acid)raindrop, assumed the shape of a single, large water droplet. The bags were visually alluring and thematically terrifying. Their color varied from clear, to grey,to black, indicating the ominous reality it was revealing - the water in the installation, like the water falling as rain in the delta region of Nigeria, and all other locations where massive oil exploration is taking place, contained the carbon dust that is choking the inhabitants.  

Saraceno is Air-Borne

Posted Friday April 18, 2014 At 03:13AM . Artists, Blog

Tomas Saraceno creates inflatable airborne biospheres. These futuristic models for human survival may become essential if current environmental jeopardies continue to mount. The alternative ways of living he invents are adaptations of the morphology of soap bubbles, spider webs, neural networks, and cloud formations.

The complex geometries and interconnectivity that these habitations display seem neither to be art, architecture, technology, nor science. Perhaps even the nature of his art practice is futuristic. On December 9th of 2014, his "Museo Aero Solar" landed in Toulouse as part of a symposium on the new “Anthropocene” era.

Saraceno proposed it as an Anthropocene Monument. The solar sculpture flies by capturing the short waves of the sun during the day, and infrared waves from the Earth at night. This lighter-than-air monument is capable of riding thermals, vortices and convection currents. As it responds to these atmospheric forces, the structure actually takes the “shape” of the atmosphere.

SUPER Dream Fulfilled?

Posted Wednesday April 16, 2014 At 16:11PM . Artists, Blog

It was always the intention of SUPERFLEX to maximize the distribution of their artworks, rather than conform to the old fine art adage that values is a product of 'uniqueness' and 'rarity'. Their project "SUPERGAS" seems to be heading in precisely this direction. Malmo Sweden recently announced that its organic waste will now be turned into biogas. It anticipates that 66% of the fuel for the city bus system (and lots of fertilizer) will be produced in this manner. The goal is to achieve 100% which became possible when separating waste became mandatory this year. Signage on buses announce that personal waste = civic fuel. Malmo is also converting waste to energy for the district heating that serves most of the city.

Meanwhile, if you can be in Brooklyn on the weekend of April 26th-27th,you could take a biogas workshop with David House, the author of The Complete Biogas Handbook

Eradicating Humanity's Guilt for Taking Animal Lives

Posted Tuesday April 15, 2014 At 02:39AM . Artists, Blog

While bio-techno-wizardry supplies the reason Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr typically receive acclaim in the contemporary art arena, they might also be celebrated for assuaging humanity's psychological dilemmas. Sources of guilt and insecurity are the ostensible reasons for culturing leather and meat. They also explain a 2006 work entitled "DIY DVK": "Do It Yourself De-victimizer Kit." In each of these instances the artists seek to provide their fellow humans with an easy escape from feelings of shame.

DIY DVK m1 was undertaken to allay the guilt many people feel when they consume parts of dead animals, either by eating them, or using them for clothing, or applying them to some functional purpose. This guilt may also arise when someone causes the accidental death of an animal. This may be the result of a car accident or a lawnmower running over an animal.


Tissue Culture & Art's kit reduces the resulting guilt by maintaining the life of parts of the deceased animals' bodies. These body parts can remain 'alive' until the grieving period is complete and the guilt recedes.

Anyone can participate. Tissue Culture & Art's DIY DVK utilizes off-the-shelf items to construct a basic tissue culture facility. The only other component that is needed is nutrients to keep the cells alive. The artists admit that the inclusion of other animal-derived materials in the nutrients is difficult to avoid, which may, ironically, exacerbate the guilt for sacrificing the life of an animal for human benefit.