“I’m always striving to find the right material for capturing the specific weirdness of the present moment.”
“Art, for me, is not about the medium. It really all comes down to the message. And the message must be communicated by my patented “Malcolm-Quattro-X” method: not just by any means, but also by any method, any action, or any material necessary. I’m not dropping or abandoning one medium in favor of another: I’m always striving to find the right material for capturing the specific weirdness of the present moment.”1
a. In this statement, Mel Chin articulates an approach to art-making that is shared by many eco artists who also allow their intended message to determine their medium, form, process, and public interface. This means their work is distinguished by intention, not a ‘signature’ appearance. These artists include, among many others, Ant Farm, Joseph Beuys, Hans Haacke, Allan Kaprow, Frans Krajcberg, Cu Yun, Critical Art Ensemble, Fernando Garcia-Dory, Amy Franceschini, Gelitin, Andy Goldsworthy, Tue Greenfort, Natalie Jeremijenko, Pedro Reyes, and Simon Starling. Choose any two works by Chin and explain why Chin chose those mediums, forms, and processes of creation. Then choose any two works by an artist listed above and explain why he or she chose those mediums, forms, and processes of creation.
b. Chin also articulates the complications that abandoning specialization for multiplicity imposes on an artist’s professional career. Chin refers to it as being ‘beaten up’, “But I’m not beaten down by whatever distance I might seem to be imposing between my work and the art market. If you start expanding your worldview, immediately you exceed the art world, the galleries and institutions, and the whole spectrum of possibilities of engagement gets larger.”2
Select any two artists mentioned above. Discuss how they and Chin have opened possibilities of public engagement that would not have been possible if they produced conventional paintings, for example.
c. Chin also speaks for many artists when he explains his willingness to sacrifice the professional recognition he enjoyed early in his career as a sculptor. “We can’t just think about art anymore. We have to be engaged in the political world.”3 He goes on to explain, “Michelangelo has his Carrara marble; he has an idea, an image. And he goes with his chisels and he creates “David” and we all ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ over it, and whatever we do in front of it. That’s it. Now I’m in a world where I open up the paper, I read these articles. We live in a world of pollution with heavy metals saturating the soil, where there is no solution to that. If that (pollution) could be carved away, and life could return to that soil, then a diverse and ecologically balanced life, then that is a wonderful sculpture.”4
Select a work of art by Chin and any artist mentioned above. Find an actual newspaper article that might have inspired these works of art. For example, the article: “Lead pollution: Urban gardeners beware!”5 might have inspired Chin’s Fundred Dollar Bill project.
d. Chin articulates the concept of ‘success’ that emerges from problem-solving art, as opposed to art that is self-expressive. He explains that this kind of art can “not only give artist latitude, but audience as well. Some artists solve problems. Others optimize conditions in which solutions can be found. Simply exposing audience to new possibilities invigorates and inspires.”6 Select a work of art by Chin and any artist mentioned above. Discuss the ‘new possibilities’ they introduce.