Gentle Heroes. Cautious Myths.


SLAP Mother Nature in the face” is the crass text on a poster devised by Motorola to sell its new ‘rugged’ cell phone. The poster is illustrated by a tough guy biting down hard on a very slim phone. The marketing professionals who devised this ad apparently believed that slapping Mother Nature in the face conveyed a positive message and would spur sales. Naomi Klein, author of the international best seller, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, cites it as a shocking confession of the violence, exploitation, and abuse industrialized nations wreak upon Mother Nature’s soils, waters, and air as a matter of principle and policy. 

Wholism: Earth Science and Deep Ecology

The new thoughts contained in this blog regarding the spiritual practices fostered by deep ecology’s commitment of “wholism” were spurred by news that Red Earth has co-authored an extensive essay that will soon appear in Total Art Journal.

Deep Ecology is commonly associated with the belief that humans should respect all entities, whether or not they possess souls and consciousness. Instead of monotheism, Deep Ecologists treat the whole of nature as sacred.

Such affinity bypasses function and recreation. It delves into the human soul where true communion across species can flourish.

Maya Lin: Empty Room Exhibit

Everyone can help stem the onslaught of specie extinctions.

Maya Lin is showing us how.

One of her proposals, related to her “What is Missing?” memorial, is presented as a challenge to art museum and science museum professionals. Her concept is immune to such excuses for non-participation as “No money.” “No time.” “Too much work.”

Lin proposes to convey the impact of the disappearance of species from Earth by mounting an Empty Room exhibit!

Eco Art: Counter Culture 1970s / Culture 2010s

In the decades following World War II and the Korean War, European and American cultures split into two contrasting camps: culture and counter culture.

Culture was represented by growth in the industrial sector. It produced unprecedented affluence that was fueled by new technologies, the spurt of investment, and the spread of multinational corporations.

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Wikipedia As Museum

Michael Mandiberg is reclaiming his position at the forefront of digital interventions. As part of Art, Environment, Action! at Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons, he will be giving a 2 day workshop on making visual contributions to Wikipedia with the particular skills he honed in creating the works discussed in TO LIFE!. In this instance he is building on the work of Wikipedia Illustrated to design visual language that explains complex concepts to a broad audience – diagrams of biological or chemical phenomena, maps of environmental issues/disasters, or charts, and also subjective expressions.

Mandiberg’s commitment to sharing, as an environmental, social, and political stance, is evident in the format of this workshop. He is inviting artists, scientists, illustrators, environmental historians, designers, activists, and Wikipedians to collaborate.

Ant Farm's Space Age Cowboy

Ant Farm critiqued consumer culture in their renowned “Cadillac Ranch” installation which is examined in TO LIFE!. But  I’m happy to have this opportunity to explore the group’s engagement with two tradition-morphing architectural explorations.

    One was based on a distinctly counter-culture model – the cowboy.
    The other expanded a mainstream image – space ship. 

The group’s exploratory zeal, therefore, propelled them in two directions simultaneously.

Eat This Book

Can you imagine a world without landfills, dumps, or garbage?

Such a world could exist if everything you ever bought, made, or used remained in your life forever: jewelry and artwork as well as broken shoe laces, paperclips, used envelopes, love letters, tissues, bath water, banana skins, burned out light bulbs, spent oil, food wrappings, diplomas, batteries, shoes, your refrigerator, car, computer, and the myriad other material objects with which your form a relationship.

If you were a resident in such a waste-free zone, you would be obliged to manage your material belongings when you were alive. When you die, this entire accumulation would be inherited by your descendents who would bequeath them to their descendents in an ever escalating, multi-generational inheritance. Your tastes and behaviors would determine if your material legacy will be a pleasure or a burden, an asset or a life sentence.

Having just written a 370 page book, I fret as much about sales as lack of sales. Will those who acquire a copy support the judicious reuse of rejected and defunct materials once they no longer have use for this book?

Living Systems Thinking

While those who experience art are typically referred to as spectators (‘spec’ = see a work) and audiences (‘audi’  = hear a work), art provides so much more than sensual stimulation. It also functions as thinking and affecting tools. The tool that is particular to eco art is often referred to as ‘living systems thinking’. This means it seeks to accomplish a formidable task – instilling awareness of kinship among all living organisms.

Such art activates the human capacity to find commonalities across vast scales of time and space by imagining ‘systems’ and detecting ‘patterns’.

The search for unity that lies hidden in species diversity is essentially a search for the answer to the following question:

    What do all living organisms have in common?

Links. Strands. Extensions

Less and less, the world we occupy is being envisioned bilaterally – as earth and sky. More and more it is assuming the form of a sprawling and decentralized network of links and strands and extensions.

This formal arrangement is characteristic of functioning ecosystems. It is prevalent in eco art and abounds throughout the contemporary world.

      – Scientists are summoning this web-like model to describe the structure of micro-matter and viruses.

      – Political extremists have adopted this scheme to establish networks of terrorist cells. 

      – Engineers use this model to connect telephone nodes to switching stations.

     – Mathematicians apply it to the new field of mathematics called Network Theory. 

     – Ecologists relate it to the vibrant interconnectedness of all beings.

Tue Greenfort, by replacing static arrangements of discrete objects with dynamic sets of relationships, examplifies an artist who conveys this current conception of the organization and the functioning of the universe. This compositional scheme is less formal than conceptual. It is apparent in the manner in which he composes and conveys his themes.

Victimless Meat. Victimless Architecture. Perhaps.

Meat becomes ‘victimless’ by biopsing muscles cells, placing them on a biodegradable armature within an artificial womb, and growing a steak that has never been an animal.

Efficiencies and environmental advantages abound – no birth, no feeding, no mucking, no sheltering, no transporting, no slaughtering, no butchering, no packaging. Tissue Culture & Art is a scientifically savy artists collaborative that is dedicated to this stream-lined manner of providing protein to the diets of exploding human populations.

Now Mitchell Joachim, a visionary designer and architect who founded Terreform ONE, has applied this prudent environmental tactic to architecture. He is envisioning ‘victimless’ buildings that he refers to as “IN VITRO MEAT HABITATS”.

His outrageous proposal calls for the fabrication of three dimensional forms with pig cells that multiple over an armature shaped into a shelter.These structures earn the adjective ‘organic’ three times. Once for their forms, which tend to be curvilinear. Once for their process of fabrication, which is cell duplication. Once for their materiality, which is actual pig skin.

What are the hurdles?