[-empyre-] Eco Art - prescriptive vs personal

rebecca b bray.rebecca at gmail.com
Thu Apr 3 03:01:29 EST 2008

Hello, This is Rebecca Bray, one of the Empyre guests for the month. I am
one half of the team, along with Britta Riley, who created an installation
that is currently on display at Eyebeam in New York. The piece deals with
questions of how our bodies relate to wider ecosystems. More specifically,
how our waste - our urine - effects the ecosystem and then eventually comes
back into our bodies. The installation is accompanied by a DIY kit that
allows people to transform their own urine into fertilizer.

Over the course of developing the exhibition, Britta and I had many
conversations about how to express these concepts without being overly
didactic or prescriptive. Our other work together involves creating
interactive media strategies for science museums, so we spend a lot of time
working on creating meaningful educational opportunities around ecology
issues. The context of art installation versus science museum is an
interesting contrast. The art installation allows for a less formal
experience. We created the installation with the intention of provoking more
question-asking than providing answers. And, we exposed our own narrative
voices. It was also important to both of us that while we talk very clearly
about problems - in this case water pollution - we also talk about solutions
that are actionable.

Art that is about or approaching sustainability issues tends to appeal to me
more when it is more personal - when it is clearly driven by a unique
passionate perspective. I also feel that inducing guilt is problematic and
am more drawn to pieces that create a sense of possibility. Some of the work
I'm thinking of includes Nils Norman's intervention art, Edible Estates,
SEED Collective and others who are creating work aimed at personal action.
This is not to say that work which is exposing large systemic problems is
not extraordinarily valuable.

Looking forward to a discussion with all of you,

Rebecca Bray
Co-Founder, Submersible Design
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