This ground-breaking collection of essays focuses on how theatre, dance, and other forms of performance are helping to transform our ecological values. Leading scholars and practitioners explore the ways that familiar and new works of theatre and dance can help us recognize our reciprocal relationship with the natural world and how performance helps us understand the way our bodies are integrally connected to the land. They also explore how environmentalists use performance as a form of protest; how performance illuminates our relationships with animals as autonomous creatures and artistic symbols; and how performance can help humans re-define our place in the larger ecological community.
CSPA Director Ian Garrett contributed a chapter about the carbon footprint of theatrical production.
The Aldrich is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibition
Fritz Haeg: Something for Everyone
June 27, 2010, to January 2, 2011
Experience Fritz Haeg’s unconventional exhibition, Something for Everyone, a series of participatory projects for plants, animals, and people presented in the Museum’s grounds and atrium. One component, Edible Estate #9, places a productive garden on the Museum’s pristine front lawn in Ridgefield’s historic district, where the Museum staff will grow their own food and create compost, transforming this longstanding symbol of the “American Dream” and questioning definitions of agriculture and art. For updates about programs and events related to the exhibition, as well as time-lapse photographs of the installation, please visit:
Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of art around these days questioning our relationship with the natural world and the creatures that live in it. Arts Catalyst’s extraordinaryInterspecies series last year contained a series of works in which artists “collaborated” with animals in disturbing ways that disrupted our conventional ideas of the co-dependency of the natural and human worlds.
As part of their excellent Flash Point series “How do arts respond to the natural world?”, art:21 blog has just published an essay by curator Nova Benway on the artist David Olsen, whose work explores the toxic impact we have on the natural world. As part of it he adopts the persona of “Vulture”, dressing in bizarre protective handmade clothing to ape the vulture’s adaptive strategy of becoming resistent to the pathogens that it finds in the decaying food that it finds. His attempts to become animal appear ridiculous.
Benway explains how Olsen then suberges pieces of work beneath the polluted waters of Benway Creek in Brooklyn:
The creek is one of the most pollutedwaterways in the country, and the sculptures are, in a certain sense, tools for healing. Made from natural materials like clay, wax, and rope, they employ humble filtration devices to purify tiny amounts of water, or crystals intended to absorb negative forces. One recent work, Witness (2008), is a seal skull with crystals embedded in the eye sockets. A rope attaches the skull to a glass buoy, so when it is lowered into the water it can float through the depths, “seeing” and collecting information or negative energy, until it is retrieved by the artist. Olsen adopts the identity of “Vulture” for these actions, wearing a handmade protective helmet and suit to mimic the bird’s heightened immune system. Of course, these activities have negligible impact on the rampant pollution of the waterway. Olsen’s deliberate mixing of pragmatic and mystical solutions to the problem further obfuscate their effectiveness, while retaining the urgent desire for change.
Its an interesting idea, and I like the idea of art-as-warning, but I confess the Mad Max apocalypticism of this work puts me off. That it revels in the aesthetic of decay seems to dent the point it may be trying to make about the awfulness of pollution.
There have been some blips and blurps over the past few weeks on the greenmuseum blog as we settle into this new, fancy-pants version of WordPress. It didn’t like our old theme. So we changed to this one. It’s Green. To mark the occasion, here’s a link to an excellent interview of Maja and Reuben Fowkes of translocal.org, with discussion of everything from Sustainable Art with capital letters to curator Nicolas Bourriaud, pictured above. A quote:
In general we prefer to talk about the sustainability of art,
rather than Sustainable Art with capital letters, as our
primary interest is in the implications of a broad notion
of sustainability for the whole of contemporary art,
rather than just a niche area, such as is associated with
the term Environmental Art. Artists that consider the
ethical aspects of their formal decisions, such as what are
the implications of the use of animals in art or of people
in community art projects, are in that sense giving
precedence to ethics, rather than aesthetics.
After Darwin: Contemporary Expressions has just opened at the Natural History Museum. It’s a lot of fun. Based on Darwin’s book less-known tome The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals it veers into less obvious territories than some of the other Darwin200 events and exhibitions, looking at the …
Artists exploring gray areas: Interspecies at Manchester Cornerhouse until March 22. Four new pieces that attempt to work with animals, not as subjects of their art, but “as equals”. The artists involved include performance artist Kira O’Reilly, whose piece involved 36 hours living, sleeping and eating, with a pig called Delilah. You can read O’Reilly’s blog about the experience on her site here.
Interspecies has been curated by Arts Catalyst, an organisation that works in that strange but sometimes extremely productive space of the Venn diagram between arts and science. They partnered with us to run the Nuclear Forum at the end of last year with Gustav Metzger and James Acord – exploring the depths of another subject that often goes undiscussed.
The power of the subject of Interspecies is the way in which it encounters our increasingly uncomfortable relationship with animals. As any anthropologist will tell you, animals have always been the subject of taboos – which ones you should eat, and which ones you should stroke.
Post-industrial society assumes it’s past such primitive notions as taboos. OK, sex is everywhere in these days, but try asking people when they last saw a dead body? In our society death, as natural a process as sex or birth, has become invisible. Victorians used to hold dinner parties in graveyards; you’d get arrested if you tried that now.
I was talking to the designer Julia Lohmann recently; she is the creator of the cow bench – a single cow’s hide stretched over a wooden skeleton that ends up looking uncomfortably like the animal that surrendered its skin for us. It’s physically uncomfortable to sit on too, but that’s the point. Lohmann is in fact a passionate animal lover. When she returned from a spell working on a farm to London she saw an advertisement for dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets that so disturbed her that she set out on a process that ended with making a sofa that looked like what it really was.
And, as O’Reilly’s work suggests, our relationship with meat has never been stranger.