[-empyre-] Eco Art - prescriptive vs personal

Renate Ferro rtf9 at cornell.edu
Sat Apr 5 03:47:50 EST 2008

>Hi, Rebecca,

Your posting makes me think of work by activist earth artists, such 
as Helen and Newton Harrison, who created virtual laboratories in 
their studios and galleries to mime the threatened conditions of the 
natural environment.  The Harrisons' Lagoon Cycle, created in the 
80s, is a case in point.  They created artist lagoons for threatened 
Sri Lankan crabs and created many similar interventions with river 
beds and aqua systems (such as the Salton Sea in California) for the 
sake of staging metaphors regarding social and political 
sustainability.  For their work, the stakes were just as high for 
metaphor as for technological intervention.  Since they understood 
the fundamentals of sustainability to lie in policy as much as in 
science.  It's this foregrounding of metaphor that we so enjoyed in 
your Eyebeam piece.

We wonder if you or other -empyreans- have similar thoughts about the 
political valance of the staging of the metaphors of sustaintability 
in new media installations?


Renate and Tim

>Thank you for you comment Tim.
>Yes, definitely - our project is very much about ongoing engagement 
>with systems that are often either taken for granted or thought of 
>as beyond our control. I do think that the enormous popular focus on 
>sustainability owes much to the flowering of the age of information 
>and participatory media. The environmental problems have been around 
>for a long time - they are not new. What is new is a better sense of 
>personal control over larger systems and technologies that seemed 
>out of reach, or in the realm of experts in the past.
>For the next iteration of the project, we are looking into creating 
>a functional system:  a bathroom that actually links the toilet and 
>water fountain through a series of cleaning systems. This would take 
>the piece into a more interventionist realm.
>I love the idea that artists may be increasingly involved in large 
>infrastructure issues. I wonder if anyone out there has had 
>experience with larger institutions or governments instituting 
>infrastructure changes based on artists' work. I know of wastewater 
>treatment systems designed by artists in park areas, such as the 
>work of Jackie Brookner, but I'm wondering about internal building 
>infrastructures or city-wide planning.
>On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 10:44 AM, Timothy Murray 
><<mailto:tcm1 at cornell.edu>tcm1 at cornell.edu> wrote:
>Thanks, Britta and Rebecca, for introducing us to your art.  One of 
>the things that struck me and Renate about your installation 
>currently up at Eyebeam in New York  is its blend of didacticism and 
>interactive openness.  We appreciated how  both the design of the 
>piece and the various ecosystems it links together mimed the 
>precariousness of interlinked technological systems and the 
>variability of interactive participation.  In this case, users are 
>required to move through, lean under, bend around various tubes, 
>screens, tanks, and systems in order to experience the piece, as if 
>a materialization of the online linkages we navigate daily.
>I'd welcome hearing more of your thoughts about the interrelation of 
>technology and systems in your work that's so provocatively 
>reflexive about sustainability.
>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
>empyre forum
><mailto:empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>Timothy Murray
>Professor of Comparative Literature and English
>Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
>Director of Graduate Studies in Comparative Literature
>Director of Graduate Studies in Film and Video
>285 Goldwin Smith Hall
>Cornell University
>Ithaca, New York 14853
>empyre forum
><mailto:empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>empyre forum
>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

Timothy Murray
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
Director of Graduate Studies in Comparative Literature
Director of Graduate Studies in Film and Video
285 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853

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