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Artists' Tools and The Cultural Messages They Convey

Posted Wednesday June 25, 2014 At 01:28AM . Blog, Eco Issues

In ancient times, finger nails, teeth, fingers, and tongues comprised the anatomical tool chest that performed every life-sustaining function. Humanity might have remained dependent upon this set of tools were not for the existence of  human cognition which soon invented ways to expand the tool kit with sticks, stones, plant fibers, hides, sinew, and bones. The work performed by tools received a massive boost when the mind’s analytic powers discovered mechanics, levers, screws, gears, wheels, and pulleys.  Even greater tooling potentials were unleashed when the mind’s inventive powers harnessed non-human sources of power. That is when cattle, water wheels, wind mills, steam engines, internal combustion engines, electricity, jet engines, rocket technologies, and nuclear power were successively enlisted to serve the human demand for tools. By augmenting both precision and power, these energy upgrades extended the range of human manipulation both microscopically and macroscopically. Today, robots assist micro-surgery, rigs drill two miles into the earth, cranes lift massive weights into the air. The stirring narrative of humanity’s tooling history can be summarized by comparing the carving potential of finger nails, stone flakes, metal blades, power saws, dynamite, sand blasting, pneumatic chisels, hydraulic excavators, and laser beams.

A Few Words About a Big Subject: Art and Material Ethics

Posted Friday June 13, 2014 At 19:10PM . Blog, Eco Issues

STRATEGIES FOR ACQUIRING

STUDIO ART SUPPLIES


       -    RECIPE – several ingredients are combined in precise proportions and manipulated, either ground, distilled, heated, evaporated, stirred, etc.


       -    FORMULA – laboratory concoction with ingredients that have been removed from their original context and are no longer distinguishable


      -    PRESCRIPTION – use of art medium generating strategies that simultaneously cure an environmental malady

 

        ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF ART MEDIUMS

      -     BAD = purchasing most commercial art products. 


      -    LESS BAD = purchasing products manufactured to minimize waste, reduce toxic by-products, and avoid depleting resources.


     -    GOOD = crafting one’s own mediums from non-polluting and non-depleting ingredients.


     -    BETTER = growing, harvesting, mining, and processing one’s own mediums to ensure environmental vigilance.


    -    BEST = establishing Art Studios that also function as Environmental Health Clinics.

Eco Art Criticism. Eco Art History

Posted Friday May 23, 2014 At 19:39PM . Eco Issues

The arts are making increasingly important contributions to envisioning sustainability and implementing the means to attain it.  In order to fulfill this challenging environmental mandate, these artists are boldly revamping art’s traditional themes, mediums, aesthetics, processes, roles, and skills. In the process, aspects of art that have been cherished for hundreds of years are being discarded as irrelevant and replaced with unprecedented alternatives.
 
Eco artists may, for example, disrupt conventions in art by rejecting rarity, craftsmanship, authenticity, stylistic consistency, and aesthetic appeal in order to defer to natural forces. They may adopt nature’s manner of recycling materials by selecting mediums that are materially unstable, or they may disregard or reject the intention to produce an enduring art work in order to harmonize with such dynamic conditions as growth and decay, weather, and geological cycles. Furthermore, eco artists may replace static arrangements of discrete objects in space to envision the vibrant interconnectedness of all living beings.  Ultimately, eco artists’ concern for the welfare of Earth systems and their diverse populations subsumed the age-old association of the artist with self expression.

Myopia Among the Ranks

Posted Monday May 05, 2014 At 02:16AM . Blog, Eco Issues

While contemporary art is being invigorated and reinvented by throngs of eco artists worldwide, distinguished art professionals like the chief curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston remain oblivious of their contributions.  Helen Molesworth revealed her myopic assessment of contemporary art in an analysis of this year’s Whitney Biennial that appears in the current issue of ARTFORUM. She wrote “…in today’s hypermediated art scene, no one actually expects to be bowled over by anything “new.” This makes a kind of sour sense, since the new as a value was pretty thoroughly debunked in the twentieth century and, well, here we are in the twenty-first.”

It is only fair to note that Molesworth has earned her esteem within contemporary art circles by looking backward to the 1960s and the 1980s, not forward. She is acclaimed for curating "Dance/Draw," which traced the origins of today's performance art in the intersection between dancing and drawing since the '60s,  and "This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s." Molesworth confirmed her historic orientation in a talk at the ICA where she announced, "I'm not known in the field for being the discoverer of new talent."

Nonetheless, Molesworth is misrepresenting and belittling contemporary art accomplishments. Because her opinions are supported by impeccable credentials, they carry the weight of authority. Readers are likely to agree with her assessment of contemporary art as a paltry version of reruns, and not challenge her blatant disregard for the bold explorations of contemporary eco artists that are authentically ‘new’.
While contemporary art is being invigorated and reinvented by throngs of eco artists worldwide, distinguished art professionals like the chief curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston remain oblivious of their contributions.  Helen Molesworth revealed her myopic assessment of contemporary art in an analysis of this year’s Whitney Biennial that appears in the current issue of ARTFORUM. She wrote “…in today’s hypermediated art scene, no one actually expects to be bowled over by anything “new.” This makes a kind of sour sense, since the new as a value was pretty thoroughly debunked in the twentieth century and, well, here we are in the twenty-first.” 

 
It is only fair to note that Molesworth has earned her esteem within contemporary art circles by looking backward to the 1960s and the 1980s, not forward.
She even admitted, when speaking at the ICA, "I'm not known in the field for being the discoverer of new talent."

The FALL and RISE of COMMUNITY

Posted Tuesday April 29, 2014 At 14:51PM . Blog, Eco Issues

INTRODUCTION:  Recorded history is typically charted through the deeds of great individuals. Complex narratives of conquests, revolutions, discoveries, and accomplishments are encapsulated in the biographies of prominent personages: Atilla the Hun, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Dante, Leonardo, Goethe, Ben Franklin, Pablo Picasso, Florence Nightingale, Genghis Kahn, and so forth.

While exceptional individuals dominate humanity’s historic annals, ‘individualism’ is a modern concept that is largely absent from ancient and medieval civilizations.  It is not until the early nineteenth century that asserting one’s independence and uniqueness, as opposed to contributing to the common good or the collective interests, was introduced. 

Alexis De Tocqueville (1805-1859), the French political historian, described the emergence of ‘individualism’ by stating, “Our fathers did not have the word ‘individualism’, which we have coined for our own use, because in their time there was indeed no individual who did not belong to a group and who could be considered as absolutely alone.”  

"A DEFENSE of FUNCTIONALITY and DIDACTICISM in CONTEMPORARY ECO ART"

Posted Wednesday April 23, 2014 At 02:51AM . Blog, Eco Issues

Today I posted a new essay entitled "A DEFENSE of FUNCTIONALITY and DIDACTICISM in CONTEMPORARY ECO ART". This defense was necessitated because contemporary eco artists, unlike those celebrated by the star-studded 'artworld', are inventing new definitions of progress, health, success, and productivity. Such values necessitate including factors that have long been alien to fine art values - functionality and didacticis.This essay is offered to loosen grips upon the cultural ideals that comprise the status quo.
       

INTRODUCTION
If society was envisioned as a living organism, artists would serve as its sensory receptors (gathering inputs issuing from their  surroundings) and its brain (bringing key concerns into consciousness and filtering out extraneous data). That is how the history of art came to be a rich repository of cultures as they evolved through the history of civilization. This ongoing account reveals if people, at a particular time and place, were captivated by the afterlife, or a new technology, or social inequity, etc.

Warning: Humans in the Natural Environment

Posted Wednesday March 26, 2014 At 02:09AM . Blog, Eco Issues

The following is an amusing news story that predicts this un-amusing fate for humans: “At the London Zoo, visitors can talk to the animals – and now some of them talk back.

Caged and barely clothed in a rocky enclosure, eight British men and women were on display beginning Friday behind a sign reading “Warning: Humans in the Natural Environment”. The inhabitants of the Human Zoo exhibition sunned themselves on a rock ledge, wearing fig leaves – pinned to bathing suits. Some played with hula hoops, some waved. A signed informed visitors about the species’ diet, habitat, worldwide distribution and the threats to its survival.” 7

In fact, on May 21, 2012 The Automatic Earth Community delivered a Petition for Listing of the Homo sapiens species as an Endangered Species Pursuant to Federal Regulation of the Endangered Species Act [50 CFR 424.14(b)] stating that, “Upwards of 50% of this species' range has come under the threat of near-term (within the next 50 years) extinction due to economic growth (and it's natural collapse), untempered development, severe resource mis-allocation, air/water pollution, ecosystem degradation, energy scarcity, climate change, potential nuclear war and a variety of inter-related factors.”8

The Function of Functional Eco Art

Posted Thursday March 20, 2014 At 22:46PM . Blog, Eco Issues

The task of addressing today’s environmental challenges is daunting.

      - Functional schemes for cycling wastes, renewing resources, conserving energy, and maintaining productivity have not yet been devised;

     - Existing means of productivity may not suffice to support escalating populations of humans;

     - Non-polluting and non-depleting technologies compete for resources that restore ecosystems beset with the accumulated ravages of past indiscretions.

The works of art that address these challenges are functional. They remediate soils, create habitat, remove litter, cultivate food, produce energy, and conduct a myriad additional environmentally responsible acts.

What special attributes do the artists' versions of these utilitarian tasks distinguish them as works of art?

Why Eco Art???? Because the Brain is Like Culture is Like Art

Posted Saturday March 08, 2014 At 16:59PM . Blog, Eco Issues

The brain typically pays attention to one thing at a time. While this may appear to be a limitation, being able to focus attention is an extraordinary achievement of brain function.  Neither houseflies, nor humans, nor any other organism is equipped to process all the data that their sensory receptors collect.  Organisms focus on only those bits of data that are essential to their sustenance; otherwise their brains would be

For this reason, survival depends upon eliminating items from consciousness as much as absorbing them. For example, early humans focused on indicators of firewood over the hill, a bear in the forest, a storm in the clouds. Current humans are adept at noting traffic conditions, cell phone beeps, and ATM locations because these are the elements that sustain modern lives.

Like individuals, cultures are exposed to innumerable possible centers of interest, but only a few represent the era’s key centers of attention. Artists are particularly adept at discerning the precise focus that distinguishes the era they occupy. They serve as society’s sensory receptors and discriminators.

For this reason the works of art they produce encapsulate the uniqueness of a historic time and place. That is why the history of art is a rich repository of cultures as they evolved through history. This ongoing account reveals if humanity’s attention, at a particular time and place, was captivated by the afterlife, or royalty, or the sun, or animals, or peasant life, or a new technology, or social inequity, etc.

Artists vizualize these cultural particulars. They serve as society’s sensory receptors by gathering inputs issuing from their surroundings, and they are its brain, by filtering out extraneous data. In this manner they bring the era’s key concern into consciousness. For this reason the works of art they produce encapsulate the uniqueness of a particular historic time and place.

That is why the history of art offers a rich repository of cultures as they evolved through history. This ongoing account reveals if humanity’ at a particular time and place was captivated by the afterlife, or royalty, or the sun, or peasant life, or a new technology, or social inequity, etc.
Today, it is being dominated by concern regarding the health of the planet and the survivability of its inhabitants. That is why I believe that eco art constitutes the current era's enduring contribution to the evolution of culture.

Greatness In Contemporary Art

Posted Wednesday January 08, 2014 At 16:42PM . Blog, Eco Issues

What issue will ultimately define the current era?

Health care, privacy, gay marriage, gun control, missile threats from Korea, nuclear weapons from Iran,  unrest in the Middle East , a dysfunctional congress may be contenders, but they seem trivial compared to super storms, water shortages,  pandemics, depleted aquatic populations, bee colony collapse, climate change, and the numerous other environmental predicaments that have arisen in recent times.

Greatness in contemporary art has always been earned by artists who visiualize their era's distinguishing characteristics and primary concerns.

Ecologists Are Not Reactionary Sentimentalists.

Posted Thursday January 02, 2014 At 21:18PM . Blog, Eco Issues

Humans have tried many techniques to figure out why some stories work to explain the weather, or illness, or the health of crops. Planetary alignments, incantations, and prophesies are examples.  Most recently, people have relied upon on the scientific method. The development of the scientific method is often proclaimed as a ‘break-through’ event in human history. As a tool of logic, the scientific method has constructed many reliable stories about manifold phenomena. However, it also initiated the ‘break-down’ of unified perceptions that prevail in pre-modern cultures. This is because the scientific method stipulates that phenomena must be reduced to manageable units, the relevant components must be isolated, and the affecting variables limited in order to control the processes and outcomes being studied. Sanitized and climate-controlled settings of laboratories are a far remove from normal conditions of variability and complexity. 

 

Applied to animals, this approach to research became zoology. Applied to the earth’s surface, it became geology. ‘Ologies’ proliferated, splitting the natural sciences into ever more specialized scientific disciplines. A web site entitled ‘List of Ologies’ contains 197 entries in alphabetical order.  It concludes with Xyology, the study of wood and Zymology, the study of fermentation.

The discipline of ecology is reversing this ‘divide to conquer’ scientific approach.

Raze the Barricades

Posted Sunday December 15, 2013 At 23:31PM . Blog, Eco Issues

The first principle of ecology is that all things are connected.
Life on Earth depends upon transfers of energy and exchanges of matter. All material entities are united. None can, for example, escape the power of the sun that governs all living and non-living entities. Thus, the fate of each human life is determined by the conditions it shares with its neighbors, both human and non human. We are all tightly coupled. 'Our health is dependent upon 'their' health.  Every life exists because it is embedded in relationships - the webs, systems, networks, and chains that comprise the Biosphere. Without these interactions, whether they are collaborations and cooperations or competitions, living systems would collapse.

What is true for individuals, is also true for populations. Porous borders are essential for maintaining life. The physiology of trees, amphibians, algae, zebras, humans, and dandelions all include numerous small pores and/or a few large portals. Pores and portals function as entry ways for life-sustaining elements and exits for life-endangering wastes. 

Nonetheless, humans tend to ignore the intermingling principle that accounts for 700 million years of life on Earth in favor of barricades.

Consumerist Materialism vs Ecological Materialism

Posted Monday December 09, 2013 At 22:46PM . Blog, Eco Issues

Consumerist Materialism vs Ecological Materialism

Artists model humanity’s highest standards of environmental responsibility by reversing the environmentally disastrous effects of ‘consumerist materialism’. Such materialism assumes that material goods will always be cheap, abundant, and replaceable, and therefore undeserving of moderation, stewardship, and accountability.  This neglectful attitude currently prevails in advanced industrial nations, including artists’ choices of mediums and tools.

A responsible form of material interaction is known as ‘ecological materialism’.  It honors the imperative, imposed by the planet-wide disruption of ecosystem functions, that all material interactions and all material choices consider current and long term effects on water, air, soil, and weather, and all forms of life.

Glaciers. Sewers. Gardens.

Posted Friday December 06, 2013 At 01:35AM . Blog, Eco Issues

Geology (e.g. glaciers), engineering (e.g. sewers), living systems (e.g. gardens), three towering planetary systems, have recently shed their former association with glory and have adopted new identities fraught with danger, contamination, and alienation.

Glaciers once evoked images of majestic and enduring mountains of ice.

Now glaciers are melting, signalling changes in climate that are ominous, imminent, and global.

Once sewers were honored as evidence of humanity's problem-solving capacity and engineering ingenuity.

De Maria's Dirt: Visual Abstraction. Gardener's Dirt: Functional Substance

Posted Monday November 18, 2013 At 02:14AM . Artists, Blog, Eco Issues

WALTER DE MARIA died on on July 26. He was 77. Despite his penchant for constructiing monumental outdoor installations out of shiny geometric shapes and mathematical configurations."The Lightning Field" epitomizes the grandeur of his reputation. DeMaria was known to be reclusive and uncomfortable with media attention. He seldom gave interviews, disliked being photographed, and often avoided participating in museum shows. Yet he became celebrated as "one of the greatest artists of our time" according to LA County Museum of Art director Michael Govan and many other influential contributors to contemporary art discourse. Govan described the singular quality of deMaria's work as "sublime and direct."

cde-maria---earth-room

Meanwhile, Jerry Saltz summons a slew of ecstatic adjectives that seem more likely to appear in the work of a romanticist, not a minimalist like de Maria. He is particularly enraptured by The New York Earth Room. This permanent DIA installation fills the entire second floor of a large loft space in SoHo, NYC. This interior earth work consists of 250 cubic yards of black soil filling 3,600 square feet at a depth of 22 inches. Entry is barred by a sheet of glass only a few inches higher than the dirt. It weighs 280,000 pounds and has been exhibited in this location since 1980. Saltz declares the work fills him "with ecstatic quiet, and quivers of the surreal sublime, implacable force of nature, nobility of architecture, and acuteness of the human senses."