Lecture Titles & Topics

If water had a personality, it might be characterized as gregarious. But it is also meddling, fickle, and bossy. Numerous contemporary eco artists avail themselves of these qualities by garnering ecologically-related themes introduced by water (melting glaciers, rising seas, acid rain, eutrophication, etc.); and utilizing the repository of metaphors that water suggests (fluidity, reflectivity, mutability, femininity, etc.). Some eco artists enlist water’s aesthetic qualities into their artworks by incorporating it as their medium (transparent, shapeless, sparkling, etc.). Less frequently, water enters the arena of art as a tool for art creation. This talk explores water’s manifold forms of agency. It cools, carves, loosens, transports, saturates, creates buoyancy, flows, dissolves, etches, softens, conducts heat, creates sounds, enables life, kills. When these processes become tools of art creation, the artwork aligns with a ubiquitous force of geologic change.

The adjectives ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ identify the ranges of human perceptions about the environment. Since the invention of the transparent lens, micro and macro explorations have propelled technological advancements into regions that were once inaccessible to human perceptions. The grand trajectory of human accomplishment is often measured in terms of the increase in the sensitivity and power of our perceptual tools to investigate the ever-expanding frontiers of the micro and macro conceptualizations. However, attention directed toward these extreme projections diverts attention from the zone of sensory perceptions, the zone of lived experience. The neglect of such interactions becomes apparent when it is noted that in all the English language there is no adjective to describe perceptions, events, and entities that conform to human scale. The word ‘muckro’ was invented to compensate for this omission. It is positioned between micro and macro. Its connection to the word ‘muck’ reveals that interactions on this scale are sensual, intimate, responsive, and vital. The word describes human-scaled behavior that is most likely to assure ecological equity between humans and their environment. This talk presents examples of eco artists who engage the muckro realms.

For the first time in the history of humanity, people can eat without engaging with sources of the food they ingest. For most children, preparing soil, planting seeds, tending sprouts, cultivating growth, warding off pests, and harvesting fruit and vegetables are as alien as participating in animal conception, pregnancy, birth, growth, slaughtering, and butchering. Instead, encounters with foods originate only after food production concludes. Typically, that is when portions have been carved into geometric shapes that bear no resemblance to the living entities they once were. Furthermore, these portions are wrapped in tidy packages that do not approximate the conditions of how and where the food grew.
Because these children eat without awareness that the ingredients of their meals were once living entities. Both the eaters and the eaten required energy to respire, metabolize, excrete, grow, and reproduce. This text consists of eighteen narrative poems that utilize the pronoun who to refer to foods that are eaten because who indicates that all forms of life on Earth participate in a single, all-encompassing exchange and flow of energy.

Even as I reveled in the wonders, and marveled at the primal stirrings awakened by my visit to the first site designated by the US Wilderness Act of 1964, I missed the trees in my meadow back home. In any wilderness, humans are outsiders, mere visitors, tourists, and interlopers. At home, I am a member of an interspecies community. This relationship affords me the privilege of experiencing the entire life-histories of my botanical neighbors. In this talk, I describe how my trees and I take care of each other, in the manner of family members. The trees in my meadow provide fuel for winter warmth, ash for garden fertilizer, fencing for the corrals, acorns for feed, brush for critter shelter, sap for maple syrup, logs to cultivate mushrooms, mulch for the orchard, shade in the summer, and light in the winter. In exchange, I diligently prune their dead branches, clear the entangling vines, and allow last year’s leaves to support next year’s growth.

The plants in my garden provide my food and my art medium. They generate a chromatic scale that I do not intend, or anticipate, or evaluate. Instead of imposing personal aesthetic preferences, I yield to color that originates in the imperative of survival. Some colors provided camouflage to protect against predators. Others attracted beneficial insects. Still others optimized the absorption of sun energy. Color and hue are measured along a vitality index. They contain remnants of sun, bacteria, plasma, sugars, and the will to live. Botanical life is never transparent and colorless. Each food that I harvest from my garden and incorporate as art provides both a color and a chronicle of its life experience. This talk explores the five aspects of gardening that this practice introduces.

COMPOSED to DECOMPOSE: The processes undertaken by the artists I present in this talk do not represent the vast catalogue of dynamic interactions that account for ecosystem dynamics; they incorporate them. Mineral rusting, crystalizing, and combusting; biological fermenting, decaying, and moldering are welcomed as additions to traditional sculpting processes. They are comparable to the artists’ digging, burning, stacking, cutting, piling, and weaving. These processes emerge out of the inherent reactivity of materials as they interact with the fluctuating conditions that surround them. These artworks deviate from the Western art conventions of management that involve stasis and preservation; these artworks are composed to decompose. Instead of resisting environmental influences, they welcome them. Thus, the material actions conducted each artwork demonstrates the environmental imperative for humans to synchronize their material interface with the dynamics of ecosystems, instead of attempting to dominate them. Although these artists cannot predict the aesthetic outcomes, they can predict their functional effect. Each artwork that was ‘composed to decompose’ ultimately enhances its ecosystem by providing compost. They replenish fertility, revitalize ecosystems, and renew life.

POST-ANTHROPOCENTRIC CREATIVITY. The pivotal role that humanity’s imagination and inventiveness have played in the great sweep of civilization is well-documented. This narrative charts three distinct applications of these cognitive capacities. Pre-anthropocentric creativity is characterized by consecration; its interactions with the material environment typically occur when there are few tools and strategies to direct material outcomes. Anthropocentric creativity is distinguished by control; it is characterized by the manifold means humans have devised to manage outcomes, which typically privilege the human species over other species and other features of the planet. Post-anthropocentric creativity is collaborative; it is distinguished by judicious application of tools and strategies with the goal of engaging with non-humans as creative partners and kindred spirits. Post-anthropocentric creativity is a new frontier of human creativity. It emulates and embraces the non-human processes, substances, and forces that shape our planet. Instead of controlling, suppressing, and exploiting, it advocates collaborating, cooperating, and protecting. Implicit in these post-anthropocentric efforts is the hope that by revising the goal of humanity’s creative endeavors, current environmental and social predicaments are more likely to be resolved and future ones avoided. Recent works of art are included to exemplify each of the three forms of creativity.

Have you ever wondered why ‘I’ is the only pronoun in the English language that is capitalized? This talk explores why this seemingly innocuous fact imparts insights into the Western mindset, Western survival practices, and Western art. Artists cannot avoid declaring a relationship to this Western credo. It is apparent in the tools, mediums, subjects, and dispositions of the art that you produce. Thus, this talk shares ways contemporary artists are minimizing the role of ‘I’ in their attitude, philosophy, ethic, and aesthetic. It serves as an invitation to attend to a digression that is burgeoning around the globe. While it defines what is truly contemporary about contemporary art, I predict that it is lower case ‘i’ works of art that will ultimately represent the current era in the annals of art in the future.

Instead of highlighting works of art that dazzle viewers with inventive applications of advanced information technologies, this talk explores artworks that interrogate the environmental impact of the technologies that deliver this information. While technologized forms of information exchange are often referred to as ‘paperless’ and ‘immaterial’, they are, in fact, material entities that exist at the intersection of metals, chemistry, waste, and energy. The artists presented in this talk expose the environmental dangers associated with the materiality of the devices that perform the wizardry of instantaneous transmissions. For example, these works of art may note similarities between technological and biological dependence on inputs of energy. Likewise, they may acknowledge that both produce outputs of heat. However, they also expose the contrasting effects of these energy exchanges. Life’s energy use is a component of life-enhancing cyclic feedback mechanisms. In contrast, information technology’s use of energy culminates in negative effects upon the environment, the health of humans, and the well-being of wildlife. By imparting such insights, these artworks expand the environmentalists’ calls for prudence to include dependence on digital devices.

The current health crisis, political turmoil, and climate instability are all examples of ‘hyper-objects’. They earn the prefix ‘hyper’ because they carry consequences in which the stakes are so high, the dimensions so fathomless, the outcomes so unpredictable, and their future so uncertain that they cannot be measured or conceptualized, let alone calculated. In order to better contend with such discomfiting phenomena, this paper guides readers in constructing a personal “Self Portrait”. Instead of depicting a physical likeness, this portrait takes the form of an abstract image that represents the person’s projection of the near future. By varying a single line’s orientation, density, color, precision, etc. it manifests the person’s future. Besides clarifying an ambiguous mental outlook, this project demonstrates the extraordinary power of art to convey psychological complexities.

This lecture examines bionics architecture in which physiological functions of living organisms provide models of sustainable strategies with 4.6 billion years of proven success. Bionic architecture applies the efficient energy flow patterns and material cycling of resilient organisms to the built environment. Bionics architectures is bio-degradable / bio-energetic / bio-dynamic / bio-geochemical / bio-dynamic.

Permaculture is a holistic system for maximizing the productivity of any piece of land. It can be applied to deserts, swamps, mountaintops, and forests. Linda applied Permaculture principles to an eleven-acre property in upstate New York where she cultivates gardens for vegetables, berries, fruits, and herbs; composts and constructs soil; raises chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, pig, lambs, rabbit, and fish; raises bees for honey and taps trees for maple syrup; forages for mushrooms and ramps; cans and freezes food for the winter; constructs cedar fencing and stone terraces. She lives in an experimental galvalume structure that she designed with her husband, and helped construct. Because these activities evolved to include outreach to guests and students, and because they manifest her philosophic/environmental/aesthetic principles, they also constitute an important aspect of her art practice.

Eco artists are tampering with the age-old association of great art with ‘originality’ and ‘genius,’ exalting the individual. This Romantic conception has propelled recent generations of artists to pursue ‘self-expression’ by developing a ‘signature style’ thereby gaining ‘personal fame’. This lecture explores three artworks, created by three artists, that offer three different positions along the ‘ego/eco’ spectrum: Pablo Picasso, Joseph Beuys, and Gelitin. Each reveal that such transformations are not confined to art. They reflect the course of culture throughout the past hundred years.

Photographic images arouse such diverse responses as wonder, indignation, compassion, and enlightenment. Exploiting this power often suffices to identify a photographer as an environmentalist. Other photographers earn the eco-designation by applying sustainable criteria to their material choices and their technical processes. The eight artist photographers whose work is presented in this lecture are reconfiguring photographic techniques to align with mandates that attend to the well-being of wildlife and the vitality of natural systems.

Social Practice unites the diverse projects presented in this lecture. The six artists presented in this talk are drawn from Linda’s interdisciplinary eco art textbook, TO LIFE! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet. In each instance, the theme and form of the art project correlates with its geographical point of origin: Mexico, Switzerland, Great Britain, New Orleans, Spain, and Canada.

Contemporary eco artists are propelling vanguard experimentation into the frontier of environmental reform. Solutions to the grave problems currently confronting civilization lie beyond the capabilities of conventional protocols. A human oil press that uses dead bodies to replenish depleted supplies of fossil fuels is just one example. Engineering the human genome to create a new breed of humans in which submissiveness becomes a dominant trait that prevents further hostile take-overs of the natural environment. Because such schemes fall outside the parameters of conventional design / science / technological / engineering protocols, they exist within the realm of imaginative speculation that comprises the home-turf for ‘artistic imaginations. Eco artists are exploring uncharted territories of energy use, resource management, and waste cycling, for example. For this reason, today’s eco artists are providing a fertile resource of survival prospects to optimize environmental remediation and reform.

When anyone living in the 21st century chooses to be an artist, he/she enters a profession that lacks all the defining features of becoming a lawyer, teacher, farmer, athlete, manufacturer, pilot, etc. In art, there is no consensus regarding function, no ready-made standards of excellence, no definable measures of success, no required skill sets, no test of competence, no reliable cultural niche, no shared aesthetic. Art does not even offer a definition of itself. As such, 21st century artists must make these fundamental determinations for themselves. This lecture is based on the principles laid out in the book In the Making: Creative Options for Contemporary Art. It defines and organizes these issues in a manner that aids students in transforming the burden of decision-making into a celebration of their creative options.

Are rotting plant matter and decaying corpses beautiful? Ecological concepts of beauty extend far beyond the immaculate surface and geometric purity that characterize most technologies designed by humans. Eco-beauty embraces all aspects of the life cycle – decay as well as growth. By incorporating such challenging notions in works of art, contemporary art is redefining common vocabularies and reformulating prevailing values. This lecture is based on the book, WHAT’s NEXT? Eco Materialism & Contemporary Art. It explores art’s vital role in bringing language and social values into alignment with sustainable environmental practice.

Eleven pioneering artists design ingenious schemes to create art that utilizes materials from the waste stream, avoids creating waste, and raises awareness of sustainable material choices. Since their material strategies apply to the production of all products, their works of art models for cultural reform.

There is no tablet etched with a definitive environmental moral code. Environmentalists may behave like shepherds of the planets life-forms, technical designers of the planet’s systems of production, managers of the planet’s habitats, healers of the planet’s infirmities, emissaries of the planet’s wonders, avengers of the planet’s spoilers, curators of the planet’s resources, and many other positions. Multiple “EnvironMentalities” are being adopted, defined, applied, and promoted by the remarkable artists discussed in this lecture. As Preservationists, Conservationists, Deep Ecologists, EcoFeminists, Urban Ecologists, etc, they are formulating ethical and functional environmental strategies to assure the continuance of life on Earth.