EcoArtSpace

The Rest is Imagination: Countryside, The Future: Rem Koolhaas at the Guggenheim

Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein 

Countryside, The Future at the Guggenheim Museum (dates to be announced) could not be more relevant to a suddenly localized population experiencing new ways of interacting and work-life environments without being bound to urbanity. In this age of a digital shift toward more remote interactions, people are moving from cities to the countryside seeking refuge, isolation and expansiveness. According to a recent Washington Post article titled “The Pandemic is Making People Reconsider City Living…” by Heather Kelly, some real estate agents have experienced an increase of 300% in inquiries related to suburban and countryside areas. According to this exhibition, only 2% of the world is made of occupied cities and the countryside is defined as a space of cultivation. With increased dependence on the countryside for agriculture and resource support, perhaps the prospect of country cultivation is exactly where societies need to focus. Though perhaps this is simply part of the ideology of the countryside as holistic and regenerative that the exhibition explores in its semiotics stalls.

Rem Koolhaas is described by Sarah Whiting as a maker who chooses a topic that is right in front of you that you do not realize and shows how important it is.  (Still from “Countryside, The Future at the Guggenheim” introductory video)

And, it’s exactly this paradox that puts Rem Koolhaas alongside the AMO and Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) at the forefront of a pertinent topic in The Countryside. With the intention of having an information-based, almost documentary variety of a show, Koolhaas proudly states “This is not an art exhibition.” And, how true to life that is; Countryside, The Future does not create a reflection of reality or an unanticipated visual critique for the purposes of activation, instead it takes an almost journalistic approach in describing an already existing place and dependency paradigm that’s been given very little attention by artists and planners alike. Furthermore, the “Future” is now, where, as a result of the current circumstances the world shares, the countryside is proving particularly important.

Though I was unable to visit the exhibition in person, and the Guggenheim has been closed to visitors since the beginning of the pandemic in March, just one month after its opening, I spent considerable time with the website coverage behind closed doors. Exhibition design in the digital age allows for a limited, but vibrant exchange of information. Countryside, The Future includes a combination of video shorts, audio guide podcasts, and Photoshop overviews to represent in-person content on their website.

(Installation View, Countryside, The Future, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 20- August 14, 2020. Photo: David Heald)

 Experiencing an exhibition conveniently from home, has its advantages and disadvantages. Seeing an exhibition live allows for total immersion, to explore a space in depth, and to experience three dimensional presentation of images and information. Instead, when presented with an audio guide podcast as a replacement—for someone who prefers a multi-sensory experience, especially at a museum with such an awe striking exhibition space—much is left to the imagination. That said, the online experience is at least better than a book.

(Installation View, Countryside, The Future, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 20- August 14, 2020. Photo: David Heald)

Perhaps some “visitors” can look at pixelated images on a computer screen and be transported in their minds eye to a street full of noise and raucous smells, in a city that leads to such a unique building as the Guggenheim. One can imagine even further that at the entryway they are met with the transporting aura of tranquility, the open spiraled hall and clerestory lighting. As they do with many of their exhibitions, the Guggenheim chose to place text, in this case a poem by Rem Koolhaas, on the unusually low architectural railing where one might look to counter the intensity of scientific insights encircling them. A curious online viewer might speculate how such an informational, content driven art exhibition with insights on rural living, could be engaged in three dimensions. As one listens to the audio track full of incredible interviews from the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, AMO and colleagues from the GSD, one can sit at their computer and fill the gaps with memories of prior museum visits.

(Installation View, Countryside, The Future, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 20- August 14, 2020. Photo: David Heald)

Though undeniably revolutionary as an exhibition itself, this show stays behind closed doors without much empathy for the viewer who would like to truly experience it. There are several videos to rent through the website, including one free one by The Institute of Queer Ecology. Metamorphosis is full of magic and prospective theories related to a queer future dictated by nature and renewable energy, and is available to the public one part at a time, without the possibility of watching it in its entirety.

Still from “Metamorphosis” by The Office of Queer Ecology (https://dis.art/)

Similar to the statements made in Metamorphosis, regarding the need for new methodologies, it’s important that institutions like the Guggenheim innovate and adapt to the growing digital era. From the perspective of a current-day, quarantined viewer, the open-source movement is having a heyday and rightfully so. Now, that the internet is an exclusive portal into the cultural and international world, the viewer is dependent on resources with open access to all information. Unfortunately, the Guggenheim seems to be taking the opposite approach, choosing exclusivity, to the point of being occult and unavailable to the public that supports it.

Still, the topic itself and the intention of Koolhaas is to elaborate on a very important and much overlooked strategy. Perhaps the Guggenheim, though withholding so much of its exhibition, can inspire the interested to discover the countryside themselves. The natural world is calling us towards its incredible ecosystems and its perseverance in the face of the pandemic. The countryside, as a cultivated landscape, reminds us more than ever of the beautiful symbiotic relationship humans share with other animals and plants. Perhaps Countryside, The Future is a summons for us to show respect and to become more aware of that cohesion; to remind us to look forward, beyond the city limits, into the vast and varied spaces within our reach.

Still from “Metamorphosis” by The Office of Queer Ecology.

(Top photo: Still from “Countryside, The Future at the Guggenheim” introductory video)

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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Abigail Doan interview on MOOWON

“Walking is often viewed as an act of resistance, at least in terms of the individual feeling empowered to shed societal expectations, identify tendencies to subjugate nature, and assess the status quo.”

– Abigail Doan, Environmental artist and researcher
Walking Libraries

An interview with environmental artist and researcher Abigail Doan sheds light upon slowing down, walking and observing nature as a form of artistic practice that helps us discover new ways of relating to our surroundings. She proposes such act as means to unearth potential solutions for resiliency and connectedness — both on an individual and collective level — in this critical time of climate change. READ INTERVIEW HERE….

PHOTOGRAPHY by ABIGAIL DOAN
INTERVIEW by MONA KIM
EDITED by MOOWON

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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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My Life in Art, SITE Santa Fe interview with Bonnie Ora Sherk

My Life In Art with Bonnie Ora Sherk and Patricia Lea Watts from SITE Santa Fe on Vimeo.

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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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atomic dialogues

Sunday, August 9, 2020 – 11am MDT

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ecoartspace and Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace (RHIP) will present both artistic and scientific dialogues on our atomic legacies. Since that fateful day when the first nuclear bombs were used on a civilian population, artists have responded through a wide range of media. Patricia Watts, founder of ecoartspace, will begin the program with an overview of artists and artworks addressing nuclear issuesAnn Rosenthal, artist and RHIP board member, will present Infinity City, her decade-long collaboration with Stephen Moore, which explores living in the shadow of the bomb. Patricia DeMarco, PhD, has a doctorate in biology and has spent a 30-year career in energy and environmental policy. Etsuko Ichikawa is an artist, filmmaker, and activist who was born and raised in Tokyo.

This event is FREE to members and one guest. Non-members are invited to make a suggested donation of $10.

REGISTER

Above: Ann RosenthalInfinity City 2001: Plutonium, March 28, 1941, digital collage, 2001; and Etsuko IchkawaVitrified (film still) 2018.

This post was originally posted in the escortspace August 2020 Newsletter

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ecoartspace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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Performative Ecologies opens in Santa Fe

The ecoartspace exhibition Performative Ecologies officially opened on Saturday, June 13 at CURRENTS 826 Gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. You can view the show online here on the ecoartspace website under Exhibits in the Menu Bar, or CLICK HERE.

A virtual tour given by curator Patricia Watts took place on Friday evening June 12 at the gallery via on Instagram @ecoartspace. A recording of the tour can be viewed on Facebook HERE.

ecoartspace member Cindy Rinne recently emailed this poem after viewing the online version.

Climb, Tumble, Dance         

After “Performative Ecologies”         

Timeless sulfur smokes    

drifts over her strong antler    

as the horn shape repeats    

in tree branches    

that reach misty peaks    

behind this canyon dancer.   

When is the point of rising,    

her voice recovered    

from the burning?    

Body as landscape vibrates    

through muddy river sounds    

across countries, walls.    

She reads auras for seven    

years. Shaken turquoise    

stones as living books    

tumble in her hands    

touch edge.    

An offering, red-eared and    

sweet as she shares your hum,    

strum of wings. Who is really    

in a cage?   

She climbs a birch ladder    

chants to the breathing sea    

an ancient song and    

blends into swollen clouds.    

Then curves, sways    

as a blessing in the musty    

swamp. Ritual energy    

swirls long after she departs.    

© Cindy Rinne

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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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A Possible Path Toward an Infinite Eden

 Vegetal Ontology: Intro (https://www.botanicalmind.online/chapter-vegetal-ontology

The Botanical Mind: Art Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree

Reviewed by Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein

There are many lessons to be learned from the transition to virtual art exhibitions online as well as from the exhibition The Botanical Mindpresented by the Camden Art Center in London. For one, there’s a foundational comparison between a plant’s ability to adapt and navigate changing circumstances from a “rooted” place, and the resilence of the human species quarantined inside during an ongoing pandemic. The in-person exhibition has been postponed (not cancelled), so if you happen to be in the UK, here’s my recommendation. As for the rest of us, cooped up inside all over the world, a thorough and ever-growing version of the The Botanical Mind is on view for free. 

Peu Yawanawá of the Yawanawá community, Nova Esperença Village, Rio Gregório, State of Acre, Brazil. Photo: Delfina Muňoz de Toro (https://www.botanicalmind.online/chapter-indigenous-cosmologies)

The selected works represent a constructive attempt to invite an international and integrative dialogue. Indigenous practices are presented alongside western intellectuals like Hildegarde von Bingen, Sigmund Freud and the scientific documentation of plant life. Though still holding certain Eurocentric biases in artist choice and a strong emphasis on the shamanistic stereotypes surrounding Amazonian and Pre-Columbian practices—which has been pointed out as less productive in “The Role of Shamanism in Mesoamerican Art: A Reassessment” by Cecelia Klein, Eulogio Guzman et al. in 2002—the good intentions are welcome. 

Screen shot of “The Cosmic Tree” viewer (https://www.botanicalmind.online/chapter-cosmic-tree)

The exhibition is expansive in multiple ways: from its viewing possibilities to its range of topics. Adapting to the “new normal” the website provides text, digital images and video in combinations that are well organized and easy to navigate. One can experience the work from an overview page where several images are arranged similarly to the much beloved Instagram format. Or, if you want to dig deeper into each topic you can watch a 20-minute introductory video. Viewers can also look at individual pages for each of the six sections that comprise the exhibition. The video gives a catchy overview, which combines contemporary video, close-ups of plants and manuscripts and historical video to the sounds of enrapturing minimal techno beats. The digital experience attends to multiple senses by being visually and aurally sophisticated. Some pieces represented, such as the Adam Chodzko video of scanned undergrowth paired with Bingen’s choral compositions is meant to generate “a system of channeling… a possible path toward an infinite Eden.” 

Delfina Muñoz de Toro, Vimi Yuve (Fruit of the Serpent), 2019. Watercolour on paper, 61 x 45.5 cm. Credit: courtesy the artist (https://www.botanicalmind.online/chapter-cosmic-tree)
Hildegarde von Bingen, Liber Divinorum Operum (The book of divine works), 13th Century. Illuminated Manuscript. By concession of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities – Lucca State Library (https://www.botanicalmind.online/chapter-astrological-botany)

An infinite Eden could be exactly what many of us are daydreaming about in our endless hours sitting in front of digital screens, while occasionally peering at the bursting plant-life just outside our windows. The Botanical Mind certainly bridges that expanse between digital and natural while covering a wide range of peoples, philosophies, inquiries and time periods. The six topics covered are: Cosmic Tree, Sacred Geometry, Indigenous Cosmologies, Astrological Botany, As Within, So Without and Vegetal Ontology. Each contains high-resolution imagery of incredible paintings, manuscripts or photographs that are lush with vegetal and spiritual goodness, including Delfina Munoz de Toro’s depiction of the sacred plant with serpent that is represented in some form throughout the world and history from genesis to Amazonia. The bright and high contrast image is especially well suited to a computer screen whose RGB span broadcasts those pop neon greens expressively. For example, the historical manuscripts of Hildegarde von Bingen, the German healer and spiritualist whose mandala of the divine expresses seasons and elements as well as harbingers who send their visions from above. There’s a strong emphasis on German and Catholic expansions on the topic of the sacred, and the many variations of this vision seem to be mixed into an unclear theory surrounding the new age.

Giorgio Griffa, Undermilkwood (Dylan Thomas), 2019 – acrylic on 20 canvases, 200 x 650 cm (installation reference dimensions only) – work cycle: Trasparenze, Alter ego (https://www.botanicalmind.online/chapter-sacred-geometry

Though less spiritual, the contemporary artists presented reflect further on the vegetal cosmos and its complications, many of which leave the sacred or cosmological out of the equation. One example is the world of Giorgio Griffa where it is “rhythm” that is the determining force for his painted works. This “rhythm of Griffa’s extends to sowing, harvesting, the sun, the day and the night” is from an interview in Apollo Magazine by Thomas Marks (2018). His repetitive phrases express “irrationality, madness and elation” that expand past what the sciences can penetrate. These sections on contemporary art are also ever-expanded and are updated on a semi-weekly basis. 

Former plant beds and greenhouses from the herb gardens and plantation at the Dachau Concentration Camp, 2019–2020, series of photographs, dimensions variable. Photography: Marion Schönenberger. Courtesy Hollybush Gardens, London, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, and Galerie Tschudi, Zuoz. © Andrea Büttner / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020. (https://www.botanicalmind.online/chapter-cosmic-tree)

From patterns of thought to patterns on the page, this broad ranging exhibition leads us into new frontiers where wide-lens perspectives can grow uninhibited by the walls of a gallery. Perhaps this “infinite Eden” of research, communion and perpetual growth, like the cycles of plant life, exists now more than ever before, through the expansion onto the digital internet plane. Though, like looking at a tree outside your window rather than smelling its luscious flowers, it cannot be the same visceral experience as sitting in front of the smell, feel, textures and imprints that exist in real-life, personally viewing of an exhibition. And just as Buettner’s work of the Dachau Greenhouse reminds us of the chilling reality of time passing and the resurgence of the natural world when humanity makes way, there is much that we can learn from what we do not control. 

(Top photo: F. Percy Smith, Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F Percy Smith, 2016, directed by Stuart Staples. Film Still. Copyright unknown)

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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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Art to Heal Environmental Damage WORKSHOP

Art to Heal Environmental Damage; Trigger Point Theory as triage for our present environmental crises

Workshop presented by Aviva Rahmani for CAMP

July 11-14, 2020

Our degraded environment is a real world problem for most life on the planet. Most artists concern themselves with real world problems. But artists and artmaking aren’t usually associated with an overtly analytic methodology to solve problems in the real world. However, all formal art training teaches internalizing an analytic approach to perception, analogous to scientific methodologies. Conversely, ecological restoration to heal degradation has been referred to as as much art as science. This workshop will systematically explore how formal rules, equally grounded in art and science, can become the conscious basis for effecting healing ecosystemic triage. We will explore how to apply a set of premises I call trigger point theory (TPT) to environmental healing and implementing the identified strategy. These premises interact on the basis of a set of six rules. Applying these rules will allow participants to make a strategic analysis out of an embodied practice.

TPT is my original approach to solving environmental devastation grounded in artmaking. It developed from my experience creating Ghost Nets 1990-2000. That ecological art project restored a former coastal town dump to flourishing wetlands and formal gardens. The objective of this workshop is to introduce TPT skills. We will apply 6 rules identified in italics, to observe agents in interaction. This will help identify small points of entry into chaotic and degraded ecosystems.  Each rule will be introduced in a sequence to build understanding of how they work together.

This workshop has been designed for CAMP to help participants connect theoretical and personal experiences to practical initiatives in their projects. No specialized education is required but an interest in seeing connections between science and art is helpful.

Each day will follow the same routine:
Part I (2 hrs): Lecture discussion and instructions with some screen sharing.

Break (1 hr): Individual experimental explorations of location.

Part II (2 hrs): Presentations of outcomes, discussion of insights and/or challenges with screen sharing

July 11
Part I: Lecture discussion overview of TPT and how it is based in complex adaptive modeling as a form of art to see systems differently. On the first day, emphasis will be on the rule of the paradox of time between urgency and change. Brief presentations from each participant about their current location, practice, interests & current concerns will clarify where each participant will focus for the next four days. Discussion of instructions and Q&A to exercise an exploration of local space about what to look for and record for Part II. Break for exercise.

Part II: Presentation of outcomes and brief introduction to the next day’s rule of TPT for our exercise: how layering information will test perceptions.

July 12
Part I: Lecture discussion on layering information, GIS, and general research, building coalitions.
Break for exercise.

Part II: Presentations of results and brief introduction to the next rule of TPT for exercise: metaphors as idea models.

July 13
Part I: Lecture and discussion of how metaphors function in human thinking & behaviors with visuals. Introduction to the next rule, how we identify critical disruptions in sensitive initial conditions?
Break for exercise.

Part II: Presentations of exercise results and discussion of results; introduction to the final rule: play will teach.

July 14
Part I: Lecture discussion about what has been observed from each of the exercises, what has been learned so far in the context of: perceptions of time, urgency, chaos, points of intervention, and the rules of TPT.

Part II: How did each participant observe small points pf entry into chaotic systems, play with the rules of TPT and the knowledge they brought to the exercise? What might they each take away from the workshop? How might they continue to apply skills they developed to on-going projects?


Bibliography
Dewey, John. Art as Experience. New York: Capricorn Books, 1934.

Heartney, Eleanor “How the Ecological Art Practices of Today Were Born in 1970s Feminism.” Art in America May 22, 2020

Polanyi, Michael “The Tacit Dimension,” Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966.

Rahmani, Aviva. A Year in the Blued Trees Symphony, 2019*.

Rahmani, Aviva. Fifty Years of Work, 2019*.

Aviva Rahmani, “Fish Story Memphis: Memphis is the center of the world,” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Springer; Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, vol. 4(2), pages 176-179, June, 2014.

Rahmani, Aviva. Gulf to Gulf webcasts on Vimeo.

Rahmani, Aviva. “The Music of the Trees: The Blued Trees Symphony and Opera as Environmental Research and Legal Activism,” Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 29 – December 2019, p. 8-13.

Upaya Zen Center. “A Wiser, Braver World,” YouTube, June 21, 2020.

*Note: artist’s books available in hard cover, cost with shipping $70.

Ghost Nets site after restoration detail of riparian zone 2018 Photo: Aviva Rahmani

(Top photo: Ghost Nets site as quarrying operation in 1930 courtesy Vinalhaven Historical Society with insert detail of restored wetlands)

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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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Multispecies Care in a Time of Pandemic Crisis

In a time of pandemic crisis, how do we re-value what care means for all living beings?

There is a species of moss growing on the outside of my bedroom windowsill that I hadn’t noticed until recently. Two clumps of bryophyllum hiding in the shadow of a ventilation duct that extends to the roof of my apartment building in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Known for their love of cool, moist and dark spaces, moss or byrophyte is a phylum of three kinds of non-vascular plants that use rhizoids instead of roots and reproduce using spores. Although an uncommon site in some parts of New York, my windowsill is apparently a desirable habitat and has offered unlikely solace during an increasingly precarious time.

As a member of the Environmental Performance Agency, an artist collective founded in response to the dismantling of the US Environmental Protection Agency, I have been thinking a lot about the view from my window as of late. From my bedroom, I can see a rapidly expanding border of knotweed encircling a now desolate restaurant patio, a Siberian elm making use of an underused backlot, and a weedy patch of shepherd’s purse, plantain, dandelion and horseweed. These marginal spaces offer a habitat for insects, squirrels, birds and other organisms, and more recently has become my only view of urban “nature” or multispecies life.

In New York, we’ve been on PAUSE since March 22, 2020, a collection of social distancing policies that have prompted those with the privilege to do so, to work from home while “essential and frontline workers” continue to keep the City in a reduced state of operation. The impacts of Covid-19 have been uneven to say the least, with communities of color and low income residents hit hardest in terms of confirmed cases but also a range of social and economic impacts. Cities like New York are now the “vanguard” on the pandemic front, making visible the complexities of urban density, as well as decades of disinvestment in health care, education and affordable housing among other issues.

As both a response to our current moment and continuation of the EPA’s past work, we launched a new effort called the Multispecies Care Survey on Earth Day 2020. The project is a public engagement and data gathering initiative that aims to provoke new forms of environmental agency to de-center human supremacy and cultivate the co-generation of embodied, localized plant-human care practices. What do we mean by plant-human care practices? Methods for attuning oneself to a vegetal perspective – moving, breathing, listening, and working with spontaneous urban plants and other organisms as guides, collaborators, and mentors. Invitations for developing new forms of environmentalism and stewardship that decenter the human and honor the agency and possibility of multispecies communities. Spaces to reimagine and embody what care means in a time of global crisis.

Originally conceived of as a public artwork launching at the Old Stone House that would travel to communities throughout NYC, the project was re-designed as a digital platform integrating a need for social distancing. Although hesitant to move our embodied and physical practice of being together with the city’s weedy and spontaneous urban plant communities, the EPA collective felt a need to reframe our practice to reflect our current context, and to collect data on how communities across the city and US are adapting, coping and developing new strategies for resilience and connection.

The Survey website currently includes 6 “protocols” or prompts for noticing and engaging with multispecies communities through a window, balcony, backyard, or stoop. “Protocol 01: Temperature Check” for instance invites participants to consider which window you look out of more often since the crisis, to move towards this window and place an area of your body against the window pane to consider how it feels. What temperature does the glass offer? What temperature does the sunlight offer? How do you feel the climate’s temperature? After a brief engagement, the participant is then prompted to submit a photograph and brief audio recording to describe the experience, and what the view they encountered. In Protocol 04: Avian Transmissions, participants are invited to notice birds as they pass by one’s window by first observing and then placing a piece of paper to the window and create marks that follow the bird’s flight/position. A quick documentation creates an archived record of the experience. We use the term “survey” broadly, drawing from a history of public land surveys that have defined our artificial borders and notions of land use, and also survey practices that range from national undertakings like the US Census to regional biodiversity counts to collect large datasets.

Each protocol is also linked to a specific call to action related to recent changes and rollbacks to environmental policy occurring at the US EPA, or other federal and state agencies. An email notification reminds the participant to learn more about each issue and to further act by signing a petition, calling their congressional leader, or getting involved in a local movement or direct action. In “Protocol 05: Essential Tree Labor”, which prompts participants to notice and care for a street tree, we call attention to the rollback of the Clean Power Plan. This Obama-era policy required utilities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The rule was replaced in 2019 with the “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule which weakens emissions standards. Through the survey, we ask: “What kind of energy policy would street trees endorse?”

Over the past 4 years, the U.S. EPA and other federal agencies have rolled back over 95 rules put in place to protect environmental health, supporting the interests of the coal, gas, and oil industries, along with Big Agriculture. The Multispecies Care Survey continues our work to bring awareness to these increasingly alarming rollbacks under the 2016-2020 presidential administration. Even in this time of global crisis, the US EPA continues its assault on environmental policy and health protections for communities across the country. In late March, the US EPA announced new “guidelines” for how companies monitor environmental violations, pollution and hazardous waste waiving a requirement for reporting, and will not issue fines for violations. Former EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, called it “an open license to pollute.” On March 27, 2020, the US EPA announced changes to how gasoline will be mixed in the face of potential shortages, which will likely result in more air pollution nationally. Just last month in April 2020, the US EPA extended public comments on the rollback of regulations for safe methods of coal ash disposal, the byproduct of dirty coal power plants. Power companies and private interests dump this waste into unlined ponds, which contain deadly poisons and radioactive substances, including carcinogens like arsenic, and neurotoxins such as lead and mercury, threatening drinking water nationwide. And on April 16, 2020, the US EPA weakened regulations on the release of mercury and other toxic substances from power plants and other industries, which the New York Times and environmental groups point out would effectively loosen the rules on other toxic pollutants.

This is all happening at a time when we are dealing with a collective global trauma unlike many have seen in their lifetimes. And alongside an ongoing effort to censor scientists and undermine what little confidence the US had left in scientific research for the public good. (See the so-called “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” which public health advocates and environmentalists have dubbed the “Censored Science Rule”.)

Since launching the project we’ve received dozens of responses from communities across the US, offering a glimpse into the multispecies worlds on view from one’s window. We are hoping to deepen engagement with the Survey through virtual Care Circles starting on May 9th, bringing together participants to share their experience of engaging with a particular protocol and to think through what new forms of embodied environmental action we can collectively envision. As a long-term and ongoing effort, we intend to maintain the Multispecies Care Survey  through the US Elections in early November. The data collected — images, audio recordings, videos, embodied experiences — will ultimately be used to draft a new piece of policy we’re calling “The Multispecies Act.” This Act aims to offer a set of embodied, actionable principles for centering spontaneous urban plant life as one means (among many) of contending with the failure of our environmental regulatory apparatus to deliver policy that protects and values life both human and non-human.

As I write, this is day 56 of quarantine in my own apartment. Although I only have a few windows overlooking a patchwork of under-used lots and backyards, the emergence of Spring and the Survey’s protocols have brought new discoveries of life along the margins. And perhaps offer a set of novel interactions and embodied practices that help me cope through uncertain times. Now when I look out my window, I see things a bit differently and my powers of attunement sharpened. The simple practice of embodied observation offering some inspiration for how to persist in a time of global crisis and collective reimagining.

Submitted by Christopher Kennedy, assistant director at the Urban Systems Lab (The New School) and lecturer in the Parsons School of Design. 

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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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DEADLINE MAY 31 for ecoconsciousness CALL FOR ARTISTS

eco consciousness is the thematic of the inaugural ecoartspace online juried show for our artist and art professional membership levels. The show will be blind juried by Eleanor Heartney, distinguished New York art critic and author.

Approximately 100 works will be selected for exhibition. Three billboard awards will be given to artists whose work will be presented in the Midwest for three months leading up to the General Election on November 3. The exhibition will be presented as a digital catalogue (PDF), designed to accompany the online show, with an introduction by ecoartspace curators Patricia Watts and Amy Lipton.

eco consciousness, which is defined as showing concern for the environment, is a broad thematic to offer inclusivity. We, however, are encouraging work that is sensitive to the spiritual and the feminist aspects of our human relationship with nature.

Artworks selected will be featured online beginning September 1 and will be promoted in our monthly e-Newsletter and our social media channels.

Entry fee is $35

APPLY HERE NOW

READ BARBARA ROSE INTERVIEW WITH HEARTNEY l BROOKLYN RAIL

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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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Intergenerational Environmental Responsibility: Reflections during The Great Pause

An Interview with Sarah Kanouse
By Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein 

My practice is totally affected by being quarantined. I’m working on the dining room table on a failing laptop that I couldn’t get fixed before all of the computer repair places shut down as nonessential businesses. sk

Sarah Kanouse was preparing to tour her original work My Electric Genealogy throughout Southern California when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. She helplessly watched as five years of work and preparation was put on hold. The work explores the social justice impacts of her family inheritance and intergenerational environmental responsibility.

OH: I understand you’ve had to make some difficult decisions as a result of the pandemic, including leaving your residency locality in Munchen.
 
SK: Yes, I had to leave Germany abruptly last week for fear of getting stuck there for another six months, well beyond my housing contract and income. I’ve been under house quarantine in Boston for 8 days, so it’s mostly been my community here supporting me. I’ve figured out how to make some masks and plan to help deliver meals when I get out of quarantine next week.

OH: What response have you had to the ecological changes resulting from the global quarantines and how has this affected your practice?

SK: We’re getting a crash course in degrowth–the radical contraction of our economies that is needed to mitigate climate change, but that would have to be carefully planned not to make far, far worse the violent inequities of contemporary capitalism. I hope that the mutual aid networks we’ve seen spring up in neighborhoods everywhere and the ways that once-radical ideas like UBI and free health care suddenly seem eminently sensible is a preview of a beautiful eco-social future. But, unfortunately, the right-wing governments are using the shock of the pandemic to further gut environmental regulations, trample privacy, and curtail dissent. Keystone XL just a fresh infusion of money and is full speed ahead, and it barely registered in the news.

OH: You describe that the show “My Electric Genealogy” traces your relationship to the environmental and social justice impacts of (your) family inheritance.

SK: Well, my grandfather worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power from the 1930s to the 1970s—a 40-year period in which the city’s population more than doubled and the Great Acceleration of energy consumption really took off. His entire career was devoted to ensuring that the city had enough power to support rapid population growth that was concentrated in hot, arid places that required ever-increasing amounts of energy to make comfortable according to white, middle class standards.”

OH: What are some of these environmental and social justice impacts?

SK: Several power plants were built in this era in the Four Corners area hundreds of miles away either on or encircling the Navajo and Hopi reservations. Indigenous people and the animals and plants they mutually depend on experienced all the adverse health and environmental impacts of these plants and their associated coal mines but did not benefit from any of the electricity.

OH: Can you please share a specific story from the show?

SK: In the performance, I contrast this story with my grandfather’s plan to build a nuclear power plant in Malibu. This privileged beachfront community was able to successfully mobilize to defeat the DWP’s planned Corral Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, which my grandfather envisioned as the first in string of 30 nuclear power plants along the California coast. In addition to the environmental injustices involved in electrical generation in the twentieth century, the transmission infrastructure both reflects and contributes to economic and racial segregation in the built environment in the present.

OH: In the description of the solo show “Electric Genealogy” you question what role you and your identity play in the destructive infrastructures that are involved in colonization and industrialization. Tell me more.

SK: I’m strongly influenced by the environmental philosopher Kyle Powys Wyte (Potawatomi) who has called on white environmentalists to take responsibility for the ways that their (which is to say my) environmental consciousness has been shaped by white, settler colonial values and how “we” benefited intergenerationally from the very planet-imperiling practices that we now decry.

OH: For those of us who may not get the chance to see your show, have you come to any personal conclusions on the topic?

SK: The project is very personal. My grandfather was a complicated and difficult man—scornful of the burgeoning environmental movement; critical of the educated wife who gave up her own career to support his; politically conservative and deeply religious; harsh and even violent with his children. But he is also part of me. As an artist, I identify with his ambition and almost megalomaniacal focus on his life’s work. He loved photography and took hundreds of images of electrical transmission and generation systems. But what do we do about ancestors whose actions were the ones being rightfully resisted? I think of the project as a reparative project—critical of my grandfather’s legacy, of course, but also one that tries to build something out of the fragments, ruins, and traces that he and his generation left.

OH: Is the mid-century men’s suit that you wear during the performance meant to emphasize this?

SK: Wearing a suit that could have been my grandfather’s and adding and subtracting different costume elements over the course of the performance is one of the ways that I work through my connection to him and his time. It’s also a way of playing with and multiplying the possibilities for gender expression to resist the normative hetero-patriarchy which much of US infrastructure assumed: private, domestic, feminized spaces of consumption and rugged, masculine, high-tech spaces of production.

I hope that the performance prompts the audience to consider their own co-subjectivity with modern infrastructures, since we are at a moment in which they must fundamentally be reworked and rethought. sk

OH: You embody multiple generations in the show in order to ask what intergenerational environmental responsibility might look like. How might it look in your perspective?

SK: Because the environmentally unjust present was not merely what Whyte calls the environmental fantasies of my ancestors but also my grandfather’s actual life’s work that is actively imperiling the future that my child will inhabit. The performance is in some ways a counterfactual dialogue with the political and cultural legacies of my grandfather’s life’s work—one that’s needed if we are to work through the legacies of modernism, technocracy, and growth-at-all-costs that continue to animate green capitalist approaches to climate adaptation. 

OH: Much of your early work was in film. When did you decide to work in live performance? How has the medium informed the process?

SK: I started this project thinking I was making a film. Like I often do, I wrote a lot, shot a lot of material, and did some talks, which steadily became more and more performative. At one point, the script was 80 pages (a lot to memorize!), and I had done absolutely no acting since junior high. So, it slowed the creative process down immeasurably, but also in really exciting and fun ways. I audited a university acting class, joined a contact improv circle, consulted with performance artists as I reworked and finished the script, and worked with a choreographer friend to think about how my movements can convey the idea of being embodied by and related to something as big  and diffuse as the electrical grid. It took me awhile, but the project couldn’t go back to being a film—it’s just too much of hybrid creature—movement, sound, storytelling, projected moving images, sculptural set design, videoclips—to flatten on a screen.

OH: What are your next steps?

SK: Good question – and I wish I had an answer! I was just starting to set up dates for fall on the east coast, where I’m based, when the pandemic began heating up. Those were all in the early stages and are just impacted by the pandemic as the postponed spring shows, since the canceled/postponed events of the spring should be rescheduled if at all possible. It also feels incredibly icky to be worrying about the impact on this project when people are sick and dying or losing their jobs.

So, I’m taking this moment to take stock not just about this project but how I live—the ways that my creative ambitions unwittingly replicate some of my grandfather’s worldview, for example—and knowing that there cannot be business as usual after this. 

Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein is a Cambridge, MA based artist/writer and ecoartspace member.

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ecoartapace ecoartspace is a nonprofit platform providing opportunities for artists who address the human/nature relationship in the visual arts. Since 1999 they have collaborated with over 150 organizations to produce more than 40 exhibitions, 100 programs, working with 400 + artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally. Currently they are developing a media archive of video interviews with artists and collection of exhibitions ephemera for research purposes. Patricia Watts is founder and west coast curator. Amy Lipton is east coast curator and director of the ecoartspace NYC project room.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

Powered by WPeMatico