[-empyre-] Ecological aesthetics

Jacquie Clarke arapito at pl.net
Fri Apr 25 09:47:47 EST 2008

Hello all,

I've been lurking on this discussion since the beginning of the month 
and have been interested in the eddies and currents of thinking coming 
I am currently writing a PhD on ecological aesthetics at the University 
of Auckland across architecture and art history. I've been very 
Interested to read the commentary and hear about all of the projects 
and so far but have hesitated to join the discussion because my focus 
isn't primarily digital. So I apologise if my input isn't strictly on 

The seismic shift in emphasis in global politics is being paralleled in 
art discourse when we discuss the potential redundancy of forms and 
spaces in which we habitually operate. As 'ecology' models 
interdependence its behaviouristic as a discipline is 
interdisciplinary.  Ecology naturally creates adjacencies, overlaps, 
interfaces with many domains of social activity including agriculture, 
urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, art,  science, 
health,  etc. The resilience of ecological aesthetics is created by 
feeding on a diversity of inputs.

Jale Erzen writes:

"The connecting space is like an interface which is infinite and 
multi-layered. Perception connects all essences and is itself 
transgressing of boundaries. It creates an unlimited and fluid space of 
experience. We, as human beings, exist also within this space are one 
of the objects, all the while we are perceiving the rest of the world. 
... Our existence is simultaneous with all that surrounds us. "

In both the Eyebeam show and Exit Art's project it seems that art is 
stepping more and more into an educational role with practical 
objectives. When land artists such as Robert Morris and Robert Smithson 
went into industrial wastelands in the 1970s and created large earth 
art works they were demonstrating knowingly or unknowingly the future 
utility of those spaces. The were also actively rejecting the gallery 
system. Dross scapes are now the contemporary edge of landscape 
architecture but they inherited that focus from artists.

Art is capable of translating ecology and systems theory into a more 
human-centered technology that is educational in focus. That idea in 
itself with its didactic emphasis is almost antithetical to the notion 
of aesthetics. Yet a wind turbine demonstrates its aesthetic beauty in 
the very economy of its science. Jale Erzen describes it like this, "a 
dynamic aesthetics is itself an ecological system and in turn, ecology 
as an environmental condition is related to the interdependence of 
mutual perceptions."

Ecology has traditionally suffered from excluding the human factor from 
its terrain. Now the buzz is around 'patch dynamics' and increasingly 
the microsocial. You might ask if wondering how to create the 
experience of a  'psychic harmonic' in a landscape is ecological? There 
is a park in Switzerland that has been designed by a landscape 
architect to activate a sense of 'coincidence' for the visitor as they 
wander the trails.

Jeffrey Kastner writes, "the only thing we have to preserve nature with 
is culture".

Some contemporary interdisciplinary models  I find very interesting and 
truely engaged are The Luminous Green project by Foam http://fo.am/ . 
Materials and Applications in Los Angeles http://www.emanate.org and 
also for nodal play http://www.levitated.net/daily/index.html

There are artists working with incredible scale and scope today on 
ecological problematics. Betsy Damon an American environmental artist 
of Keepers of the Waters is currently working on the filtration system 
for the Beijing Olympic Forest Park project and speaking at the Ecocity 
World Summit in San Francisco this week about the many projects she has 
worked on in China and the US.
The United Nations and NGO's generally are becoming new commissioners 
of eco art practice precisely because that is where ecological politics 
are engaged. The World Water Forum in Kyoto 2003 included an exhibition 
programme with two ecological artists, David Haley of the UK and 
Israeli artist Shai Zakai. The UN Climate Change Conventions are 
following on from that.

Bruce Mau writes, "The new axis is defined by advanced and retrograde, 
forward and reverse." Progress is giving way to process.

In my perception the challenge for artists is to stay in the 
conversation, politically, and culturally and to make a meaningful 
contribution across a dynamic range of mediums in a much wider field of 

Kind regards,

Jacquie Clarke
PhD candidate
University of Auckland
New Zealand

On 25/04/2008, at 5:27 AM, Timothy Murray , Renate Ferro wrote:

> Sounds great, will be an opportunity for broader visibility, maybe 
> there is some part of the program that we can present in New York, I 
> think this is a moment for collaborations, we can discuss further how 
> this might be possible, then we can use our energies more efficiently 
> and not keep repeating the shows that others are doing, certainly the 
> least we can do is link to your website, but I am sure we can be more 
> creative than that to have a real exposure of some aspect of the 
> exhibition, program, video presentation etc. in New York. We are 
> conceiving of our SEA initiative as an archive presenting information, 
> we don't have big installations, just documentations of them, our goal 
> is to move fast and program fast, not a normal exhibition space, 
> notify by emails, website, podcasts etc. and have a constantly 
> changing series of activities in our Underground space of SEA.
> Jeanette.
> On Apr 24, 2008, at 9:15 AM, Novamedia wrote:
>>  dear all
>>  a brief contribution to the discussion to let you know of an  
>> initiative we've been working on since September last year, titled  
>> IMPACT: living in the age of climate change.
>>  In December 2009, Denmark is hosting the UN Climate Change  
>> Convention in Copenhagen, during which a new global climate treaty  
>> will be signed. We felt culture could play a major role in stirring  
>> up a broader public debate as well as in encouraging and promoting  
>> new ideas and creative solutions. At least this is on of the  
>> intentions of the initiative. This is a Danish-Australian  
>> collaboration and the focus will be on the crossing points between  
>> climate change issues and art, technology, science, politics and  
>> globalization. In  the lead up to the  UN convention, we will be  
>> launching a series of programs starting with web-debates on this  
>> website www.impact09.com, culminating with a major international  
>> show as part of the UN cultural program. We are currently working on  
>> devising the debates and, all things equal, hope to commence them in  
>> July.
>>  Best regards
>>  Antoanetta Ivanova (Curator) & Anne Sophie Witzke (Producer)
>>  IMPACT'09
>>  On 24/04/2008, at 10:15 PM, Jeanette Ingberman wrote:
>>>  Thank you for the invitation to post to this list and the  
>>> opportunity to address this international group of thinkers.
>>>  I would be particularly interested in learning and sharing how we  
>>> can present these ideas, works of art, the artists involved, in a  
>>> physical space like our galleries as well as alternative  
>>> involvements to what I see is an enormous public that is very  
>>> interested and committed.
>>>  Exit Art is committing resources of time, space and funds to create 
>>>  a major new initiative SEA (social environmental aesthetics) that  
>>> will address issues of the environment through exhibitions,  
>>> performances, panels and a permanent archive. SEA will assemble  
>>> artists, activists, scientists and scholars to address  
>>> environmental issues through presentations of visual art,  
>>> performances, panels and lecture series that will communicate  
>>> international activities concerning environmental and social  
>>> activism. SEA will occupy a permanent space in Exit Underground, a  
>>> 3000 square-foot, multi-media performance, film and exhibition  
>>> venue underneath Exit Art's main gallery space. The Sea archive  
>>> will be a permanent archive of information, images and videos that  
>>> will be a continuous source for upcoming exhibitions and projects.
>>>  It was so curious that although Amanda and I know each other and  
>>> talk, and our organizations Exit Art and Eyebeam are only blocks  
>>> apart in New York, we came up with similar ideas to investigate,  
>>> the presentations are different, but we didn't know it, till they  
>>> were well under way, so now we have begun talking and sharing and  
>>> hopefully in the future will work together on some projects. So  
>>> much for communication!
>>>  The first project of SEA just recently opened, EPA (environmental  
>>> performance actions) which is an exhibition, or maybe more  
>>> accurately an archive of information, surveying recent performance  
>>> work from around the world that addresses current environmental  
>>> crises consisting of videos, photographs, texts, related ephemera  
>>> and a film program documenting recent performances. For this  
>>> opening project we invited curator, Amy Lipton, and founder/co-
>>>  curator Patricia Watts of ecoartspace, a leading international  
>>> environmental arts organization, to collaborate with Exit Art.  
>>> Ironically the impulse for the show was the incredible action by  
>>> the activist Julia Butterfly who lived in a 1000 year old redwood  
>>> tree, to prevent it from being cut down. I won't go into great  
>>> detail about the show, that is on our website. But it is very  
>>> interesting to us that people stay for hours and read and watch and  
>>> ask us questions. All this work will become part of an 'archive' at  
>>> Exit Art that will be available to the public for research at Exit  
>>> Art and in the future an online database. FUture projects include  
>>> The End of Oil, Environmental Paintings, etc.
>>>  Amanda's question: In this last week of discussion around "wired  
>>> sustainability" I'd like to see us address how we feel about being  
>>> techno-evangelists who care about the environment.  What does it  
>>> mean for us, as a community, to be ardent users and promoters of  
>>> technology while at the same time, trying to take care to have a  
>>> low (eco) footprint on the planet? is very much something we are  
>>> also thinking about. We recently acquired 2 acres of land in the  
>>> rainforest of Puerto Rico, El Yunque, and my partner, artist Papo  
>>> Colo, wants to establish an 'artists healing retreat' , not a  
>>> residency, where you come for one week to be healed. We are working  
>>> with people to set up an environment that will be 'off the grid',  
>>> to give artists and others the opportunity to be in this  
>>> environment, we are still at the very beginning stages of this.
>>>  As a cultural center, I hope to take some of the ideas we discuss  
>>> here and put into practice in our space. For me the ultimate goal  
>>> is to get this information to the public, however we do that.
>>>  Jeanette
>>>  _______________
>>>  Jeanette Ingberman
>>>  Co-Founder/Director
>>>  475 Tenth Avenue
>>>  New York, NY 10018
>>>  212 966 7745 x11
>>>  http://www.exitart.org
>>>  On Apr 24, 2008, at 12:05 AM, amanda mcdonald crowley wrote:
>>>>  Hi all and thanks Renate and Tim for the opportunity to 
>>>> participate.
>>>>  In my brief intro, I mentioned that I am a lurker on a lot of  
>>>> media, technology and culture related lists, which have included [-
>>>>  empyre-] pretty much since its inception, so its kinda fun to be  
>>>> forced out of the closet in this way :)  I have to admit that  
>>>> Christina McPhee also attempted this a while back with less  
>>>> success than you guys, so here we go...
>>>>  The timeliness of the invitation as it related to Eyebeam's  
>>>> Feedback exhibition was obviously the draw.  It has been really  
>>>> inspiring to see this discussion kicked off by Renate and Tim in  
>>>> collaboration with Britta and Rebecca, who were exhibiting in the  
>>>> Feedback show, and to have included Stephanie Rothenberg, who with  
>>>> Jeff Crouse, presented their Invisible Threads project at Eyebeam  
>>>> this month.
>>>>  For Eyebeam, as we were developing the Feedback show, it was  
>>>> really important that we not do yet another eco-art exhibition.   
>>>> With Feedback we attempted to inspire both artists and their  
>>>> audiences to action.  The show was curated by a research group  
>>>> that has been meeting at Eyebeam for about 20 months now.  In fact  
>>>> Rebecca Bray was the facilitator of that group from the get-go.   
>>>> And Feedback was umbrella'd under the theme "Beyond Light Bulbs"  
>>>> developed by our sustainability research group -- the premise  
>>>> being that once we had changed our light-bulbs to carbon  
>>>> fluorescents what do we do next?  Affecting policy change, not  
>>>> just personal action, was an aim of the show.
>>>>  But we also now have an emerging (un)sustainable research group at 
>>>>  Eyebeam.  The questions being posed there are around the  
>>>> (ir)relevance of thinking "green".  Where is the punk work when we  
>>>> are all being so serious about the environmental issues that we  
>>>> are currently facing? Where is the discussion about the fact that  
>>>> energy exists aplenty, it is just poorly distributed? And in  
>>>> America, where we work from, how to we begin to dissect the  
>>>> *extreme* industry that is emerging around the green movement?   
>>>> Here, Green Consumerism (a shockingly apt oxymoron) is in the  
>>>> process of becoming a core industry.
>>>>  In this last week of discussion around "wired sustainability" I'd  
>>>> like to see us address how we feel about being techno-evangelists  
>>>> who care about the environment.  What does it mean for us, as a  
>>>> community, to be ardent users and promoters of technology while at  
>>>> the same time, trying to take care to have a low (eco) footprint  
>>>> on the planet?
>>>>  So now I am going off to cook food -- all locally sourced -- and  
>>>> turn my computer off, for a while.
>>>>  Looking forward to connecting with you all, once I have eaten, to  
>>>> talk about projects that address these issues and to see if we can  
>>>> find a way to move forward after this discussion.
>>>>  Amanda
>>>>  --
>>>>  Amanda McDonald Crowley
>>>>  executive director
>>>>  540 W. 21st Street
>>>>  New York, NY  10011, USA
>>>>  T +1 - 212.937.6580 x223
>>>>  F +1 - 212.937.6582
>>>>  amc at eyebeam.org
>>>>  www.eyebeam.org
> -- 
> Timothy Murray
> Professor of Comparative Literature and English
> Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
> http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu
> 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
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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