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.
The beauty of Andy Goldsworthy‘s outdoor constructions, as they appear in photographs, may not be debateable. As much as anyone, I delight in the formal arrangements of petals, twigs, icicles, and stones he creates. But there is far more than meets-the-eye in these images. Their unintended message conveys a compelling realization. I believe their appeal epitomizes the alienation of contemporary (sub)urbanites from the materials and conditions he adopts as his medium and studio.
Goldsworthy’s constructions and photographs are devoid of evidence that we humans belong to nature as much as nematodes and antelopes.
Extolling Goldsworthy’s site-specific work reveals a delight in beauty based upon abstracted mental principles, not intimate experienced actualities. Their formal elegance mirrors the sensibilities of people who satisfy their survival needs through elaborate technological, mediated, global interventions. Their relationship to the habitats they occupy is so remote; they behave like tourists in their own homeland, not residents.
Goldsworthy’s version of artistic beauty confirms the ‘unnatural’ status of the life he and his many admirers live. Today I discovered photographs of artistry by the Omo people of Ethiopia. They offer a penetrating and in-dwelling version of beauty.
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.
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he exhibition NATIONALPARK was orchestrated by Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger as a grand and final tribute to the Sulserbau that served as “Naturhistorisches und Nationlparkmuseum” from 1960 to 1989, and then as the Bündner Kunstmuseum. This popular building is going to be torn down to make room for a large extension. Their installation paid homage to the original function of the building by reintroducing growth, decay, and the glorious displays of forms and colors that intervene between these states of matter.Their “park” constantly changed as its plant and crystal components evolved from the longest to the shortest days of the year.
The artist duo transformed the Sulserbau from the basement up to the gables. They tore out the fixtures and used them to build a mountain landscape; diverted the roof water to form streams; opened the museum windows to welcome the sun, wind and rain into the interior. They also planted an array of crops that the artists hoped would attracts many insects and animals.
$5 billion dollars is the staggering sum that Tue Greenfort, working with long-time artist activist Peter Fend, are allocating for their project that promises more than mitigating the devastating effects of climate change in Jamaica Bay, Manhattan that was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. They also promise to reverse it. The proposal is directed at the source of the area’s warming waters – far, far fropm Manhattan in Greenland!
The Labrador Current, the artists discovered, is extremely fertile; but it now sinks into a cold, deepwater current moving to Antarctica. Jamaica Bay is a way station for the largest concentration of biological wealth in the East. It is a wildlife mecca. The artists propose undertaking a continuous harvesting/dredging program taking advantage of the colossal natural abundance of incoming Arctic waters.
Where will they get this massive investment?
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.
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.
“I would not be found dead in this suit!”
“Speed up decomponsition??!! Is not my dead body decomposing fast enough for you??”
John Colbert extracted every ounce of the comedy from Jae Rhim Lee‘s Infinity Burial Suit, and never compromised the integrity of her pursuit. All this happened on Comedy Central on November 6.
The audience chuckled as they were introduced to a pragmatic and ethical alternative to conventional burial and cremation.
Joseph Beuys and David Hockney occupy the opposing responses to the massive scale of squandering and abuse by humans who have stripped water of its powers to heal and nourish. They provide vivid accountings of the contrasting ways artists can approach humanity’s relationship with the fluid that makes all life possible on Earth.
Once honored as the sacred source of creation among the ancient Babylonians, Pima Indians, Hebrews, Greeks, Aztecs, Egyptians, East Indians, Chinese, etc., the waters that course through contemporary lives has either been demoted to a formless, colorless, tasteless, and odorless liquid that flows predictably from a tap, or it looms into consciousness as a fearsome toxic menace. An arsenal of purifying treatments has been developed to decontaminate this former symbol of purity. They include filters, ultraviolet zappers, ionization, chlorination, etc.
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.”
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.”