From Tree House to Tree Office

Is contemporary society poised to embrace the counter-culture of the ’60s and ’70s?

One example is provided by the ‘tree huggers’ who played an essential role in the 1970s environmental movement. It originally was called “The Chipko movement”, formed in India and influenced by Mohandas Gandhi. It established the practice of peacefully resisting deforestation by literally hugging tree.

Jeremineko---treeNatalie Jeremijenko, who has given this practice a pragmatic spin, represents the current generation of counter-culture rebel who actively promotes the well-being of trees.


Information-gathering / Problem-solving.

Eco artists like Amy Franceschini  are maximizing their artistic ‘success’ by divesting their work of the precise qualities that guaranteed the success of their predecessors and many of their contemporaries. They are eliminating signature, style, inspiration, and self-expression from their art, directing  their success to resolving environmental ills. Their research is so ambitious and so complex, it exceeds the capacity of any individual – even an artistic genius. For this reason, many are welcoming citizens as participants in their artistic explorations.

Buildings with Indigestion

Do buildings suffer from chronic indigestion?

Frank Lloyd Wright believes that those that resemble mechanical/industrial models are afflicted. He is referring to all the structures we have been occupying to raise our families, conducting our work, and entertaining ourselves since the advent of the Industrial Revolution.

Here is Wright’s vivid description of this malady: “Every house is a mechanical forgery of the human body…the whole inside is a sort of stomach that attempts to digest objects…. Here is where the feigned affliction installs itself, always hungry for more objects or plethoric because of excess. It seems like the  whole life of the common house is a form of indigestion, an unhealthy body that suffers slight illnesses, that demands constant repairs and remedies to survive. It is a marvel that we, its occupants, are not driven crazy in it and with it; perhaps it is a sort of insanity we have put into it.”

Urban Sub-Natures

Entire industries have developed to design, manufacture, and install sophisticated, technologies that ensure sanitation, efficiency, and safety within urban environments. Despite these efforts, unwelcome environmental phenomena pervade today’s cities. Each intrusion proves that human prowess has failed in its efforts to halt measly pests from breaching its concrete, steel, and glass borders.

Rock Gardens and Flesh Gardens

An indignant objection to Gelitin’s installation, “Klunk Garden” provides a welcome opportunity to expand on the brief discussion of this work in TO LIFE!. The objector, who identifies himself as a Buddhist practitioner, took offense to this work despie that fact that it faithfully recreates a classic rock garden’s simplicity, tranquility, precision, and order.

The objectionable component was not aesthetic; it was material. The gentleman was offended by the inclusion of the artists’ bodies that substituted for the rocks that are traditionally found in Buddhist rock gardens.

2013 – United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation

2013 has been declared the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation (Resolution A/RES/65/154). UNESCO will be leading the initiative. The mission of the UN project is to increase cooperation regarding escalating pressure for water access and allocation.

Planetary Health = Human Health

Internationally, eco art is being produced that is timely, engaging, poignant, instructive, witty, probing, and smart. Nonetheless, vast segments of the art-viewing population resist receiving this gift because it does not conform to their definition of ‘art’.  These are the same people who eagerly covet new electronic devices, new movie sensations, new fashion statements, and new foods. Yet they consistently cling to an image of fine art that emerged during the era of horses and buggies, candle light, quill pens, and outhouses.

Is There "Logic" in Eco-logical Pursuits?

Perhaps, it is the artists who baffle and perplex who provide the most accurate renditions of human life on planet Earth.

Among eco artists, there are many who make no presumption about possessing the knowledge or the acuity to decipher how our planet’s systems function. Their work attests to the fact that the cannot differentiate between temporary fluctuations and persistent trends, or between perverse anomalies and optimal evolutions. They seem to accept that any single event can be beneficial, harmful, and/or negligible depending upon:

– time frames (short-term consequences can be poor predictors of long-term effects)

 – locations (points of origin cannot predict the outer limits of their effects)

  – influences (responses to the responses creates mergers and cross-overs that cannot be predicted), and perspectives (what benefits one species harms other species). 

Battalions of Microscopic Alchemists

Just prior to participating in the “Green Hermeticism” panel organized by Alyce Santoro at the Gasser/Grunert Gallery last Saturday, I attended a soil workshop conducted by Dan Kittredge. It was a technical exploration of bionutrients, soil testing, mineral balancing, etc.  The two events proved to be remarkably congruous. The practical information Dan dispensed was infused with insights that invited a Hermetic comparison.

One gorgeous example of natural alchemy is how plants create the conditions, to enable the biology in the soil, to produce the nutrients needed to maintain the plant’s OWN vitality!

Ukeles: Maintaining Maintenance Art

On January 12, 2013, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, told the maintenance workers at the Brooklyn Museum that what they do is “the first kind of culture.” Through the performance she staged on that day, window washers, security guards and floor sweepers became acquainted with her lifelong artistic mission. “What I’ve been trying to do all these years is take those things that have been behind the scenes, downstairs, things no one will talk about it, and pull them into the zone of things to look at. I’m not just saying, ‘Oh, you poor things, you’re having such a hard time, here’s a chance to let it all hang out.’ I’m saying these are important subjects.”

These statements were reported in article, “Trash Talk” by Michael H. Miller that appeared on January 14, 2013 in The Gallerist. The performance that provided the occasion for this article consisted of live interviews with these workers, as well as with artists, architects, and city planners. Each was asked a series of questions that Ukeles first developed in the 1970s: How do you personally survive? What do you need to do to keep going? What happens to your dreams and to your freedom when you do the things you have to do to keep surviving? What keeps New York City alive? Then she added a current issue: What does the city need to do to survive after Sandy?