Noise is ‘too much’ when it exceeds annoying and becomes debilitating. Noise is ‘too little’ when it appears on lists of environmental concerns. Both terms apply to artists who address noise pollution. Art abounds that offers analysis, reports, and solutions regarding air pollution and water pollution. But noise is missing from their accountings. Air pollution is typically associated with emissions of harmful chemical gases like carbon monoxide and particulates like soot. Water pollution is typically associated with harmful changes in its physical, chemical and biological properties caused by the release of waste, oil spills, and atmospheric deposition. The racket bombarding the air and the water that is being generated by current technologies is missing from these equations.
Humans have been creating bothersome clamor for a very long time, at least since 1700 BCE when a Babylonian text was written on a clay tablet. The poem relays that the gods were angered because humans were making such a racket, it prevented them from sleeping. The poem, entitled ‘Atrahasis’, intones, “The country was as noisy as a bellowing bull. The God grew restless at their racket” These celestial beings were so outraged the rude noisemakers that they created an epic flood that they followed by famine and plague.
When a polar standing on a chunk of ice floats past an island of heaped e-waste, the scene is set for the conflict between the cost to animals of humanity’s fetishistic allure for techno-updates.
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Bernie Krause and Nicole Fournier both derive their aesthetic formulations from actual ecosystem diversity.
Fournier’s diversity encompasses a broad range of botanical species – edible, medicinal, exotic, ordinary, plain, cultivated, wild, woody, succulent, etc. She presents these species of plants as a glorious smorgasbord of temptations to sustain and delight multiple species of wildlife and humans.
Krause also revels in the abundance of natural systems, which he documents and measures through audio recordings of wild places that he has been collecting for several decades, in locations
around the globe. Krause is a soundscape ecologist who combines music and scientific research, attempting to ascertain the health of ecosystems through acoustics. He discovered, that the healthiest and most undisturbed environments have the most acoustic diversity. This is measured in terms of the range of biophany (sounds created by living creatures) and sounds of geophany (sounds created by the physical environment, such as water or wind). The Krause Natural Soundscape Collection consists of more than 4,500 hours of recordings of over 15,000 marine and terrestrial species. Krause’s recordings of pristine sound environments are commissioned as works of art and as science. He has produced fifty field recording albums from the world’s rare habitats. Sadly, over half of these habitats are now either diminished or silent.
Nervous giggles or stunned silence – these are the two typical responses to my descriptions of Jae Rhim Lee’s Decompiculture Burial Suit. She designed it to accelerate the decomposition of her corpse after she dies, and to decontaminate her remains if her body has accumulated toxins from pharmaceuticals, processed foods, cosmetics, or exposure to environmental contaminants while she was alive. But a recent article in the NY Times reports on a burial system that may be even more extreme in its commitment to replenishing the environment.
Katrina Spade, a 37-year-old Seattle architect is designing a human composting facility. There is no scientific reason why human beings cannot be composted. Farmers regularly compost the bodies of dead livestock, while some state transportation departments compost roadkill. Spade comments, “Composting makes people think of banana peels and coffee grounds,” Ms. Spade said. But “our bodies have nutrients. What if we could grow new life after we’ve died?”
Urban Death Project
The current perspective more than justifies the somber journey of grief and yearning that Steiner and Lenzlinger beckoned museum-goers to undertake in 2009. The message of alarm conveyed by “Pipe Dreams: The Water Hole” becomes more urgent with each passing year. The 2015 World Water Development Report issued by the UN warned that by 2030, the world would face a 40 percent water deficit if the “business as usual” climate prevails.
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Today I would like to reverse my usual tactic. Normally, I plead on behalf of eco artists, asserting their leadership position among environmental advocates, providing evidence of their imaginative solutions to environmental problems, and demonstrating their capacity to inspire environmental reforms.
Today, I am offering a plea for leniency regarding their critics.
I am taking the side of scientists, politicians, educators, and others who refuse to entertain the possibility that artists can make significant contributions to resolving current environmental disruptions and avert pending environmental disasters. They have every right to ask us (proponents and practitioners of eco art:
Why do you feel insulted and rejected when we co not include art in interdisciplinary environmental ventures?
Why should we include artists when we make lists of those who are eligible for funding, or those who merit comment in media reports?
There might be two artist-initiated forests in Manhattan, but they could not be more different in terms of their concepts and methods.
Alan Sonfist’s Time Landscape provides an opportunity for native plant and tree specimens to evolve without human interference in perpetuity. In contrast, if Marielle Anzelone fulfills her vision, the “PopUP Forest: Times Square” she has proposed will disappear three weeks after its sudden appearance, leaving behind the memory of a bizarre anomoly, effluents from the fuels combusted to realize it, the depleted forest that provided the temporary botanical specimens, and exorbitant bills (the cost is estimated at $1.7 million).
Anzelone promises that her project “will give visitors an immersive natural area experience in the most un-natural place on the planet. In the middle of the night, we’ll transform a public plaza in Times Square into a large-scale temporary nature installation. Towering trees, native wildflowers, and ferns underfoot will bring a piece of wilderness to the heart of Manhattan.
The hustle and bustle of Times Square will momentarily slip away with flowering shrubs, mosses, and understory vegetation providing beauty and important sustenance for migrating birds and pollinating insects. The cacophony of street noise will be quieted and replaced by a live stream of wildlife sounds from nearby woods. Visitors’ sensory experiences will be enhanced through guided woodland walks, interpretive signs, and hands-on educational activities for children. Then – after three weeks – it will all disappear. Reaching our goal of $25,000 will fund the critical first steps of this project. The Kickstarter funding will empower us with very basic design, marketing and outreach materials and a small-scale prototype to help us move toward securing the estimated $1.7 million cost of PopUP Forest.”
One gets the impression that Anzelone has cast the botanicals in the roles of aspiring starlets awaiting their debut on Broadway.
A few comments from me, a bewildered reader:
The Smithosonian’s Museum of Natural History is mounting a massive exhibition exploring the “Anthropocene” era. It will remain on view until 2019. During the intervening years, the debate that is currently being conducted by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), the international regarding its official inception may be settled.
Unlike the era, the origin of the debate can be traced back to the 1970s when Paul Crutzen, the atmospheric chemist, discovered a verifiable evidence that humanity had become so dominant on the globe, it was actually influencing planetary conditions. Crutzen linked the increase in human activities to the shrinking of the ozone layer.
As Richard Monastersky reports, as evidence has mounted, there is growing pressure to proclaim the Anthropocene as the official name for the current era, to follow the Holocene and the Pleistocene. But dates for its inception have not gained consensus. Indeed, they span 5,000 years!
In their ritualized performances, the artists Red Earth evoke the conditions that prevailed during the Neolithic period, the earliest of the proposed dates. However, it seems the geologists chose this date because it initiated many of the technologies and procedures that are currently associated with dangerous environmental disruptions. The artists, in contrast, chose this date because it was a time of attunement between humans and the geological, astronomical, and biological forces of the Earth.
Here are the dates that are currently being considered:
Contemporary humans may be indulging in the ultimate folly of our 40,000 plus years on Earth by promoting obsolescence in the midst of a global environmental crisis. Schizophrenia is the word that describes the compulsion to pursue short term ‘wants’ that can never be fulfilled, while we fret about long term ‘needs’ being met in the future. The latter will only be accomplished by restraining the former. Escaping this neurotic push-and-pull mentality requires adjusting our attitudes toward the digital culture we inhabit. Instead of associating it with speed and convience, we must focus on the endless heap of network wires, lines, routers, switches and other very material things that deplete resources and contaminate ecosystems when they are being manufactured, then produce a double jeopardy by re-contaminating ecosystems after they are discarded. The hazards persist whether the electronic devices are dumped into landfills, incinerated, or recycled.
Rushing to proclaim ‘obsolete’ regarding contemporary media technologies is providing future archeologists with a new kind of fossil because the components of digital media and their effects will linger far into the future.
Whereas electronic gadget manufacturers announce that ‘progress’ is inherent to quick turnovers, and teams of advertisers and marketers reinforce this message, environmentalists and concerned citizens are fretting about collapse. They know that laptops or mobile phones that promise to be better than previous versions, they will not hold this distinction for long because another update will soon be devised to replace them.
Thus, the temporalities of media objects anticipate the future of archaeology that is likely to disclose irrefutable evidence of today’s mistaken impression that electronics constitute clean technology.
Chu Yun‘s installation, “Constellation”, suggests a scenario of exorbitant energy use, carbon emissions, heavy metal discards, chemical soaked chips, .
Billy Talen has honed his skills and become a powerful disruptive force of social conscience, whether he is saving souls corrupted by consumerism, or pleading for mercy on behalf of bees, or condemning police sinners who use their arms against innocent victims. Recently, the system retaliated…..
Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir comprise a radical performance community of 50 performing members and a congregation in the thousands.
“We are wild anti-consumerist gospel shouters and Earth loving urban activists who have worked with communities all over the world defending community, life and imagination. We compel action in those who have never been activist, revive exhausted activists, and devise new methods for future activism. We also put on a great show.”
Sometimes, performance antics collide with real-life threats and punishment:
January, 2015. Reverend Billy Talen was delivering one of his bombastic sermons during a 24-hour #BlackLivesMatter vigil at Grand Central Station in Manhattan. He and his congregationists were protesting the deaths of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and other African American youths who had been killed by police. Strewn about the floor at the event was an array of placards bearing the names of victims of police brutality. Minutes into his sermon police began confiscating the placards. Talen was arrested.