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The Living Library Lives On

Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future has been Bonnie Sherk‘s ongoing project on Roosevelt Island since 1981. It just expanded its geographical range and cultural significance by being included in the prestigious “La Biennale de Venezia”, curated by Christine Macel, Chief Curator of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

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Becoming Pizza: Teaser from my forthcoming book: WHAT’s NEXT? Eco Materialism and Contemporary Art

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

How did I choose the artists and the artworks that readers will encounter on the pages of my book?

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Teaser from my forthcoming book: WHAT’s NEXT? Eco Materialism and Contemporary Art:

                    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!

 

 


[1]http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/11/57-tons-garbage-removed-northwestern-hawaiian-islands/

 

 

Climate Change: The Fatalism of Force Majeure?

A ‘force majeure’ refers to occurrences beyond the reasonable control of any human, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, hurricane, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc. It is the name of an ambitious body of work by Helen and Newton Harrison, and the title of a book that was just published.THE TIME of the FORCE MAJEURE: After 45 Years Counterforce is on the Horizon.

The Harrisons have added to the conventional examples of  ‘force majeures’ one that is unique to the current era – the pressure of human-generated climate warming on the Earth’s systems that are affected by rising temperatures, shrinking icepacks and changing in weather patterns – all of which are potentially catastrophic.

Newton explains why this force is major, “….the changes in the environment are both inevitable and happening. We have experienced at least 5 past mass extinctions related to environmental shock. Unless wefind effective ways to mitigate the impact of greenhouse gases and industrialization, the 6th mass extinction now in evidence will resist mediation.”

Artists Offer Three Views of ‘Science’: Fact, Speculation, Religion

Science as truth:

Hans Haacke’s demonstrated the scientific success of his art and ecology intervention in Rhinewater Purification Plant. The success of his experiment was evident in the clean basin filled with healthy goldfish. His innovative experiment relegated viewers to mere observers of a system that excluded their participation, their understanding, and their support. His mode of address manifested the factual and pedagogical authority that characterized one view of science. 

Science as speculation:

Natalie Jeremijenko disagrees.She objected to the authoritative stance of science and its inaccessibility to the public. Although Jeremijenko earned several advanced degrees in science, she switched careers in order to pursue her experiments within the category of art. She comments: ‘The artist’s view is invaluable precisely because artists are not experts and do not have the authority granted by science. They are only as persuasive as their images. As nonexperts—though interested and knowledgeable—they stand in for the view of Everyman. They transcend boundaries; they transcend disciplines, issues, and expertise. With art, the viewer knows that she has a license to interpret and critically evaluate the work and that her opinion matters. The same can’t be said of science. Scientific arguments are presented in the public imagination as faits accomplis. When definitive terms such as “discovered” and “understood” are the norm, science is often a one-way conversation.”[1]

Science as Religion:

Critical Art Ensemble not only concurs regarding the power of science; they identify this power with the power of a religion. “Science is the institution of authority regarding the production of knowledge, and tends to replace this particular social function of conventional Christianity in the west. In keeping with this position, science has slowly but surely become a key myth maker within society, thus defining for the general population the structure and dynamics of the cosmos and the origins and makings of life, or, in other words, defining nature itself. Much as religion once



[1] Viewer Discretion Advised. Review by Natalie Jeremijenko http://www.conservationmagazine.org/2010/05/viewer-discretion-advised/

 



[1] Viewer Discretion Advised. Review by Natalie Jeremijenko http://www.conservationmagazine.org/2010/05/viewer-discretion-advised/

 

Cosmological Grandeur of Tomas Saraceno’s Vision

By merging his art practice with physics, biology, cosmology, and engineering, Tomas Saraceno‘s visions may seem too grand to be contained within the confines of any museum. Furthermore, his dedication to constructing the principles upon which a utopian future can be orchestrated seems anachronistic to the time scales of museum exhibitions. In addition, museums seem ill-equipped to provide a suitable setting where the particular future he is constructing because it locates humans and all other forms of life beyond our planet; it situates us in the vast expanses of the cosmos. Nonetheless, an exhibition evoking the enormity of this vision is currently on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where it will remain through May, 2017.

 

Installation view, Tomás Saraceno: Stillness in Motion—Cloud Cities, 2017

Down with the Anthropocene. Long live the Aerocene!

Never at a loss to discover new ways to disrupt social norms, Tomas Saraceno has announced an AEROCENE EXPLORER: BETA VERSION project. He describes the goal of the project, which is nothing less than challenging the Anthropocene and build a new epoch, the Aerocene.

The project proves that human exploration can proceed without fossil fuels, helium, rare gases, or batteries. It is:

Inflated by air,

Lifted by sunlight,

Carried by the wind.

Saraceno describes the project as “an open-source, Do-It-Together flying sculpture for solar-powered atmospheric exploration.” He has announced an “Open Call” in which he invites members of the public to “be in the first Aerocene Explorer MOVIE – Share a 1-minute video of your Aerocene experience”

The Aerocene Exploer movie is a collection of 1-minute videos documenting the xperiences of people around the world. Along with the instructions provided at    , participants are encouraged to ‘hack’ the device’s pack, and create their own sensors.

How Many Ways Are There to Define Eco Art? At Least 110,000!

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

….life 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

                ….science 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.

Maya Lin Returns to Washington Triumphant

The behind-the-scenes story of Maya Lin‘s renowned Vietnam Memorial on the great Mall in Washington DC may surprise those who consider this work a moving testimonial to those who died in this pursuit. The response, at the time in 1982, was mixed. Those who celebrated the honor bestowed upon this young Asian artist were pitted against those who maligned the choice and its outcome. Maya Lin was caught in the fray, discredited because of her race, gender, and age.

Now, the dust has settled in favor of her supporters. This week she received The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the ultimate honor bestowed upon artists in this country.