Blog

Hunters/Gatherers with Cell Phones

The joy that radiates from the face in this photograph seems absolute. It also seems so rare. The smiles of my acquaintances lack such complete joy. Happiness does not define their constant state of being.

FroFro

The Declining Relevance of Animal Metaphors

Establishing continuity among entities that are typically presented as contrasting disparities is the principle inspiring Terike Haapoja. In an effort to establish rapport and cooperation, Haapoja dissolves the contrast between ‘alive’ and ‘dead’, for example, by displaying the gradual morphing that occurs when an entity is no longer supported by breath and metabolism. Furthermore, she erases the boundaries between human life and bacterial life, highlighting the neglected interdependency that fuels the engines of all forms of life. Haapoja---horse

An article in today’s NY Times by Edward Hoagland introduces an ironic twist to this theme. Hoagland points out how many popular phrases and adjectives in the language suggest the correlation between homo sapiens and other kinds of animals, “By our own account we’re pigs, yet bearish, owly but mousy, catty and bovine. We beaver at work, hawk merchandise, and ape others by parroting them. We’re lemmings, wolfish, snakes in the grass, weasels, bucks, hens, leonine or sharks. We’re beaky or tigerish, doe-eyed, raven-haired, foxy, chicken-hearted, slow as a tortoise, meek as a dove, sheepish, dogged, old goats, goosey, sitting ducks or vultures. We butt in, bull ahead, change our stripes or spots, strut like a peacock, weep crocodile tears, ram through or swan about. We’re rabbity, calf-eyed, we beat our chests like gorillas, buzz off, or act like a jellyfish.”

Creating a History of Contemporary Eco Art

Contemporary eco art is a living phenomenon, which means it is responsive, capricious, unpredictable, and evolving. Manifold creative opportunities are available to contemporary eco artists. Such liberties are matched by the creative opportunities available to eco art historians (writers, critics, curators, and instructors). Yet this exhilerating freedom hardly seems conducive to a disciplined scrutiny required of those who engage in art history, a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events.

But we eco art historians are impatient to construct the history of our era. We often begin this task the instant a work of art is presented to the public.  Conducting this process in the absence of formulated theories and identified qualifiers is essentially a creative act. Like contemporary artists, contemporary art historians have been emancipated from the confining rules of established orthodoxies.

Should Humans Eat Rats?

Subway rats are adding a new dimension to the definition of ‘foody’. These nuisance rodents have defied previous poisons and traps set by transit officials. According to an article headlined, “MTA Sets New Tactic In Rat Wart”, rats are ‘foodies’ who are also locavores’. The current extermination tactic is to offer bait laced with birth control medications. This approach has been successful elsewhere, but it has been difficult in New York.

 

Devising a tempting bait has revealed that city rats have sophsticated regional palates. Rats in Laos like coconut, which did not appeal to rats in Indonesia that prefer fish. What tempts rats in New York city?

 

Officials are trying food from their regional diets – trash that contains pizza crusts, cold French fries, and the remains of Chinese take-out. The experiment on the rats’ favorite Manhattan trash recipe is being funded by that the National Institutes of Health. It allocated $1 million to finance rodent taste tests in NYC subway trash rooms. Preliminary findings: rats prefer pepperoni and chicken nuggets.

The Irrelevance of Nations

Nations provide solidarity, protection, and security.  But they also produce disputes, dangers, and difficulties. The entities that are currently passing freely across national borders includes toxic heavy metals from mining operations that travel downstream as far as the waters flow; airborne pollutants from coal-fired installations that ride air currents that encircle the globe; crude oil spilled from tankers that travels up the food chain to lodge in the cells of fish that swim the seas; plastic debris that is washed from shores of one continent to arrive on the shores of another; radioactive wastes with half-lives that outlast disposal technologies intended to prevent leakage; GMO crops that escape the confines of an agricultural site by self-propagating.

While no fortification is capable of preventing endangering leakages, the futility of sealing borders is advantageous when benign and beneficial trespassers cross border patrols unimpeded.

Old Time Geology Survives

We are culturally inclined to replace the encounters that enabled humans to survive for tens of thousands of years in favor of advanced detection gadgetry, complex analytic formulas, and sophisticated simulation programs. Our conclusions are no longer based upon experience of each entity’s unique combination of temperature, weight, texture, smell, size, and sound.

Until this week, it seemed that such intimate interactions with our planet’s animate and inanimate entities had been discarded as crude and outmoded forms of exploration. Then I read an article about mining in South Africa with the headline, “Mining Firms Discover Old-Timers Can Be Worth Their Weight in Gold”.

Environmentalism = Radicalism

Environmentalism does not need to engage with eco-terrorists by represent a radical culture-shifting enterprise. Even those who contribute to the movement by such humble acts ad gathering litter or planting tomatoes are disruptive forces. That is because environmental concerns for the well-being of the planet dislodge our culture’s pursuit of ‘self-interest’, ‘self-fulfillment’, and ‘self-expression’.  Such entrenched attitudes currently define most peoples’ identity and establish their aspirations.

 

Art’s Fitness

May I justify my belief that eco art will come to represent the current era in all future histories of art:

Art has been evolving since its inception tens of thousands of years ago. Despite undergoing continual transformations, a flip through any art survey reveals these diverse entries all have one thing in common – ‘innovation’. 

Those who confirm the status quo may be beloved in their own time. But they tend to fade from the historic record.  Throughout the ages, it is the artist who tampers with norms and disrupts expectations that are significant in the long run.

Strategists and Activists

Environmentalism originates in discontent. You will not find supporters of the status quo among its ranks.

For this reason, every artist in this book advocates for reform. Norms are considered obstructions that must either be destroyed or circumvented.

Occasionally some resort to sabotage, a deliberate act aimed at obstructing or disrupting activities that are considered to be damaging to ecosystems and their populations. Eco-terrorists, for example, might spike trees to ruin the loggers’ saws to prevent logging. This is not the tactic of any artist in this book.

Robert Smithson: Mines versus Gardens

Could one say that art degenerates as it approaches gardening?

 

This provocative statement is new to me. I discovered it in a text written by Catherine Howett in Places/vol. 3 / no. 3.

Howett suggests that Smithson’s objection was targetted specifically at the aspiration of gardeners to create mini Edens in their back yards. Smithson, she asserts, was less critical of those who imitated nature’s picturesque wildness. Placing these contrasting views of the garden within the context of Smithson’s art works and writings, Edens emphasize the gestation and growth aspects of life cycles, whereas those who cultivate the picturesque focus on the decay and decomposition aspects of the life cycle.