Invitation to Dentists, Barbers, Butchers, Backhoe operators, and Plumbers
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?
These are a few of the situations when we art professionals rush to express our indignation. We protest THEIR narrow mindedness, THEIR skepticism, THEIR disinterest. Perhaps the problem is OUR lack of respect for the challenges to acceptance posed by this category of art-making, and OUR inadequacies in explaining its merits and its validity.
Even regular art viewers and art professionals are dismayed by environmental art’s frequent use of unprecedented mediums (e.g. dirt, motor oil, urine), processes, (photosynthesis, hydrogenation, breeding), and tools (scalpels, shovels, microscopes). Alienation intensifies when eco artists blatantly tamper with such cherished art conventions as self-expression, craftsmanship, and creating an enduring product.
What inducements have we offered skeptics to relinquish personal and cultural values they hold dear, especially when they are deeply entrenched in cultural history?
Creators and supporters of eco art need to make a better case, one that is neither ‘defensive’ nor ‘offensive’, but respectful and reasonable. There is no shortage of eco art merits. There is, however, a shortage of good communicators.
Resisters have every right to ask:
What incentives have you provided for ignoring age-old parameters of art?
When will you invite dentists, barbers, butchers, backhoe operators, and plumbers to join your art ventures?
Would you welcome these professionals as collaborators if they staked a claim in art?
I believe new alliances for eco art practice need to be multi-directional and all-inclusive.