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!






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.

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'.




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 .


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.


Posted Thursday January 28, 2016 At 03:33AM . Blog, Eco Issues

The triadic rotations of the earth, the sun, and the moon command the temporal dimension on our planetary system.  No material object on earth can escape them. These rhythms include the daily gravitational dance of the sun on the earth, the monthly gravitational pattern of the earth to the moon, the daily light pattern of the earth to the sun, the monthly light pattern of the earth to the moon, and the annual light pattern of the earth to the sun. Thus, units of time are composites of these five rhythms as they occur at any point on the surface of the earth.


Punishing the Crime of ECOCIDE

Posted Tuesday December 22, 2015 At 14:56PM . Blog, Eco Issues

What are ‘the most serious crimes listed by the International Criminal Court under Article 5 of the Rome Statute - which has authority over and above all other laws?

To date, there are four and they all are designed to protect humans:
      1. The Crime of Genocide
      2. Crimes Against Humanity
      3. War Crimes
      4. The Crime of Aggression

A fifth is currently under consideration. The crime of ECOCIDE! Under this provision, non-human life forms and non-biological conditions are elevated in value and are deemed worthy of protection by the highest court among nations.

Ecocide within international law "prohibits mass damage and destruction of the Earth and creates a legal duty of care for all inhabitants that have been or are at risk of being significantly harmed due to Ecocide." What is 'the duty of care'? It involves preventing, prohibiting and pre-empting human and natural environmental catastrophes.

If a crime of Ecocide is committed, punishment will be imposed through national courts and the International Criminal Court (ICC) or a similar body.