Guests? Competitors? Migrants? Invaders?
How do you refer to the critters who comprise a succession of occupants of a humble shed that was constructed in the 1950s?
Black swans were the original inhabitants of this picturesque building in the Baroque Karlsaue Park in Germany? The shed was built just for them, despite the fact that they were far from their native habitat in Australia. Presumably these gorgeous birds were introduced as an ornamental feature for the park. The shed designers did their best to provide them with the wetlands they require. The shed is surrounded by water. Nonetheless, when Tue Greenfort arrived in Kassel to plan his contribution to the prestigious dOCUMENTA 13 exhibition in 20102, there was not a swan in site. The last one disappeared in the 1970s.
Since the swans were not native to the region, their disappearance constituted the elimination of an introduced, non-native creature. Was this a loss or a gain in environmental terms???
But the shed did not stand vacant all these years. The saying, “Nature abhors a vaccuum” was confirmed when wild raccoons moved in. According to the eminent environmentalist, Daniel Simberloff, even racoons are native animals. Thus, the question is complicated regarding how their presence should be interpreted. If they are invaders and interlopers, when did they acquire this status? Or, since they got to Germany before the swans, were they claiming their rightful space????
For the exhibition, Greenfort continued the line of succession by inviting humans to enter the shed via a wooden walkway.
The titles of artworks that are a little confusing are more likely to discourage viewers from prolonged consideration than those that are totally baffling. Simon Starling‘s installation entitled C.A.M. Crassulacean Acid Metabolism is an example. This baffling verbal construction sent me rushing to Wikipedia where I discovered that Crassulacean acid metabolism is an adaptation among plants to increase efficiency in the use of water. Thus, it is typically found in cactii and succulents growing in arid conditions. Specifically, C.A.M refers to the process of reducing water loss because the leaves of the plant curl up during the day, which helps them retain water, then open at night. This CO2 is then used during photosynthesis.
Would you like to take a look at contemporary humans from the wisened perspective of the planet’s true survivors?
SUPERFLEX provided this opportunity by organizing “Cockroache Tours of the Science Museum” in London from 2011 to 2013. They announced, “Having outlived the dinosaurs, what will they make of our obsessions with speed, time… and burning things? Put yourself in their shells. Sign up with your friends and family for A Cockroach Tour of the Science Museum and get an inquisitive take on the human race.”
The following words appear in the title of a delicate and mysterious drawing by Mel Chin:
An endosymbiont is any organism that lives within the body or cells of another organism. This hypothesis was put forward by Lynn Margulis in 1970. It declares that communal and parasitic relationships among bacterial cells are responsible for the evolution of complex life on Earth, not competition.
A polyp is an abnormal growth of tissue projecting from a mucous membrane.
Mel Chin, Endosymbiont Flight, Polyp Death, 2015. Graphite, colored pencil on paper. 10 1/2 × 8 inches. Courtesy the artist.
The drawing accompanies a bleak elegiac tome written by Mel Chin that is titled, Before the Storm Clouds of the 21st Century.
In the essay, the language of rapture and the sublime is reconceived to describe the planet’s dismal prospects as if they have already been fulfilled. Chin composes excrutiating descriptions of the sordid conditions that have emerged:
Philosophy. Ethics. Aesthetics. Utility. Instruction. Each of the preceding words applies to Marjetica Potrc’s building and water reclamation projects. They coalesce in her drawings. A sample of these instructive and appealing works of art follows. They address such compelling topics as the dissolution of political borders, the collapse of modernism, the delusion of stability, and a borderless society.
A compelling argument advocating the dissolution of boundaries separating art and science was expressed by Oron Catts in an interview with Piibe Piirma. Catts insists that artists should not merely provide clever visualisations of scientific data and theories.
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John Roloff demonstrated an increasingly popular approach to environmental woes when he constructed Seventh Climate (Paradise Reconsidered) in 2006. The project was located under design for I-5 Open Space freeway site in Seattle, WA. Three freeways passed overhead. The artwork occupied 7.5 acres. This zone has been blocked from all the elements that comprise the patterns of weather and diurnal rhythms since the 1960s when the freeway was constructed. Roloff recreated these conditions by reintroducing the specific amounts of rain, light, shadow and topographic properties existing at that time. Roloff is repeating a long art tradition by ‘re-creating’ what actually existed in the physical world. This representational work of art simulates the external Seattle climate. Everything is artificial: rain, sun and even moonlight.
Art and commerce officially coalesce with the expansion of Jae Rhim’s Lee commitment to acknowledging the environmental impact we have when we are dead, as well as when we are living. The company’s name is COEIO. It even has a nifty logo.
This is Mike Ma, Founder & CEO
This is Jae Rhim Lee, Founder & Chief Product Officer
Together they formed a company “to help fulfill people’s last wishes to be as unique as their lives.”
Frans Kracjberg is alive and actively expanding his lifelong efforts to serve as the forests’ steward and protector. This is my first blog dedicated to this distinguished veteran of eco art. He is not often in the news. Thus, I was delighted to discover the following mention in Artsy:
“Nine Artists Respond to Climate Change” by Julie Baumgardner
in the Artsy Editorial.
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In anticipation of my first foray into wilderness last year, I wondered if I would yield to the ‘wild’ of these unfamiliar environs – leaping instead of climbing, crawling instead of walking, screaming instead of talking – joyful escapes from the constraints of social protocols and engineered technologies. Or perhaps, I imagined, I might feel inclined to skulk through the wilderness on tip toe, whispering quietly or refusing to speak to minimize my intrusion into a territory where neither humanity’s greed, abuse, nor its generosity are welcome. Alternatively, I considered the possibility of joining generations of prophets who ventured into wilderness to seek the glory of god. On their behalf I conjured descriptions of wilderness from literature that evoked mysterious light, eternal renewal, and fearsome powers, imagining that this excursion might provide my closest encounter with the divine.
I was reminded of this trip this week when I read a headline in the Wall Street Journal, “Nature Runs Wild in Greenwich Village,” describing the postage-sized ‘wilderness’ in Manhattan created, with great care and dedication, by Alan Sonfist. My journey had led me into the vast, unsettled territory surrounding Questa, New Mexico. It was preserved, fifty years ago, by the Wilderness Act, a landmark bill that created the first legal definition of “wilderness” and established the National Wilderness Preservation System that now protects over 100 million acres of land. Sonfist’s artwork is praised in the article for including one ‘stowaway elm’ that is 40 feet tall. It is not wilderness. Instead, it is an artistic representation of wilderness, bearing the same relationship to the grandeur and expanse of authentic wilderness as a 24″ landscape painting might.