EcoArtSpace

Betsy Damon: Passages: Rites and Rituals – Brooklyn Rail review

ArtSeen

By Alex A. Jones

What function does art serve in society? There are always multiple answers to this question, all of which can be true at once. At different moments in space and time, however, certain functions of art have perhaps been extra salient. Art always reflects the creative (which is to say, the spiritual) needs of the collective. Thus art can illuminate historical consciousness, and vice versa.

The contemporary art that I grew up with, from postmodern to post-internet, seems to have principally served a social function of deconstruction. You could call it collective reckoning. In a world made ever-more complex by globalization and the rise of mass media, the creative tools of artists have served to detangle its complexities. This analytical function is reflected in the common praxis of contemporary art: interdisciplinary research as a dominant artistic strategy, critical engagement with history and subjectivity, and the inextricability of texts from visual media. In short, a complicated world has been mirrored by complex conceptual art.

But now, I am certain that a new paradigm is in the process of emerging, aligning art with a new social function. It comes forth in the context of collective crisis. Ecosystems are collapsing, the authority of capital forecloses all other priorities, liberal democracy has failed to assure human rights, and beyond the event-horizon of technological “progress” lies an equally alienating and inhumane frontier. These are not just the dooms of one pessimistic critic. “Humanity is failing,” read a banner over the River Clyde in Glasgow last week, an act of protest during the COP26 climate conference. The banner was flown by two German children, ages 10 and 11.1

I believe their slogan is a sentiment shared by many artists of my generation, who now feel the deconstructive modes of conceptual art are insufficient. In times such as these, art must do more. It must evolve from modes of critique into modes of possibility, becoming an agent of change. In the broken world we now inherit, art must help us to heal. 

Betsy Damon’s current solo show in New York successfully frames her as a pioneer of such a healing practice, and as a key artist through which to consider the relationship between art and activism. I first wrote about Damon’s work last summer in a review of the 2020 group show ecofeminisms, where her standout sculpture The Memory of Clean Water (1985) represented to me a sort of elegy for gallery-based practice in times of crisis. However, the current exhibition (curated by Monika Fabijanska) takes a retrospective look at Damon’s experimental performance works from the 1970s and ’80s that preceded the departure of her practice into eco-activism. The 12 projects on view include collaborative works of feminist theater, workshops and public meditations for women, and a Shrine for Everywoman at the United Nations World Conference on Women in 1980 and ’85. Collaboration, public engagement, and solidarity-building are central to all these projects, so that on the whole, the exhibition ties a powerful feedback loop between performance art and activism.

Damon’s breakout performance series was the 7,000 Year Old Woman (1977–79). It started as a quest to discover the lost collective history of women. The artist painted her skin in white makeup with black lips, and covered her body in little cloth sacks filled with 40-pounds of colored flour. She cut these open one by one to spill onto the ground, gradually exposing her naked or nearly-naked body. Beginning with a gallery performance in 1977, Damon subsequently took the character to the city streets, staging public happenings in SoHo and on Wall Street. As she wrote at the time, “so complete has been the eradication of things female from our streets that we do not miss them.”

Holding public space as the 7,000-year-old Woman was an emotionally difficult act, so much so that Damon said, “at a certain point I felt so exposed, I tried to put the bags back on.” Throughout one iteration of the performance on Prince Street, collaborator and painter Amy Siliman painted yellow triangles in a ring around Damon, creating a protective barrier while further underscoring her reclamation of space.

At the time of the performances, Damon recalls, everyone interpreted the 7,000-year-old woman as a goddess image. The character doubtless recalled the mysterious Roman cult statue Diana of Ephesus, covered in little sacs like breasts or eggs (or offertory testicles). But it was a limited reading, for a dead fertility goddess hardly constitutes a credible threat to modern patriarchal order—which is exactly what Damon intended for the work to do. With her white and black makeup, the 7,000 Year Old Woman is more like a ritual-clown, one who both amuses and frightens her audience into the ambivalent space of transformation. In the documentary photos through which the work is experienced today, we see a range of emotions on the faces of the crowd: some laugh at the weird woman on the ground while some solemnly watch. The artist recalls some boys throwing eggs.

Continue reading on the Brooklyn Rail site HERE

(Top image: Betsy Damon, 7,000 Year Old Woman, performance on Prince Street, New York, May 21, 1977. Archival Print. © Betsy Damon 1977/2021. Courtesy the artist.)

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ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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Member Spotlight: Erika Blumenfeld

This week we recognize the work of artist Erika Blumenfeld.

“In April of 2011, after seven months without rainfall, the Rock House Fire ignited in Marfa and raged across the beautiful landscape of far West Texas, devastating the region’s environment. I was living in Marfa at that time and, in those weeks while the wildfire reigned, I began collecting material from the burned landscape—carbonized trees, cacti, dirt, animal bones, grasses—and photographed the charred remains and blackened earth.”

Graphite & Charcoal Trees: Las Conchas Wildfire (New Mexico 2011), 2013

“I followed those devastating wildfires throughout the summer of 2011 to Arizona and New Mexico, again in 2012 during the wildfire season in New Mexico and Colorado and finally in 2013’s season in New Mexico. I have documented five major wildfires across of the southwest in this way, gathering burned material from the Rock House Wildfire (Texas 2011), the Wallow Wildfire (Arizona 2011), the Las Conchas Wildfire (New Mexico 2011), the Waldo Canyon Wildfire (Colorado 2012) and the Silver Wildfire (New Mexico, 2012).”

Left: Wildfire Paintings, 2012; Right: An Offering to Stolen Nature, 2012

“For the Wildfire Paintings, I hand-grind the burned debris into a fine carbon pigment and then adhere it to a gilded-edged panel, allowing the raw material to sit on the surface. Each wildfire pigment varies slightly depending on each location’s indigenous flora and fauna as well as how hot the fire burned. In the Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado wildfires the highly iridescent sheen across the surface of the black carbon tells the story of a very hot fire fueled by burning timber. In contrast, the Texas wildfire consists mainly of grasses and dirt and so the pigment is more matte and slightly brown in tone.”

An Offering to Stolen Nature, 2012, and Charred Earth: Rock House Wildfire (Marfa, Texas 2011), 2012

“For the installation, An Offering to Stolen Nature, I filled hand-hammered Tibetan song bowls with charred trees, grasses, pine cones, and pine needles and displayed them alongside burned volcanic rocks, animal bones and cacti. All of these materials were collected from areas that were private, state, or federal land. At each location that I gathered debris, I was at some point evicted from the land, and in one case was asked to put back the burned material I had collected. This piece considers the innate sacredness of nature alongside the human desire to own or manage the land, exploring the question: has our land ownership in one sense stolen the land from nature? In stealing it back, the piece intends to re-sacralize nature beyond our possession of it.

In the photographic works, I documented the thick smoke of the active fires and the blackened landscape in the aftermath of fire’s blaze.

These works become forensic evidence of the crime of anthropogenic climate disruption – they are a eulogy to the wildfires, and homage to the nature they consumed. Yet, as carbon is both the building block of all life and is itself an artifact of light, these works also intend to look to the regeneration that is possible as we look for solutions.”

Blackened Forest: Las Conchas Wildfire (New Mexico 2011), 2013

Erika Blumenfeld is a transdisciplinary artist whose practice is motivated by the wonder of natural phenomena and the relationship between nature and culture. A Guggenheim and Smithsonian Fellow, Blumenfeld approaches her work like an archivist, driven by a passion to trace and collect the evidence and stories of connection across the cosmos. Blumenfeld often works in collaboration with scientists and research institutions, including NASA, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, McDonald Observatory, and the South African National Antarctic Program. The photo and video-based works, installations, paintings, drawings, sculptures, writing and data science visualizations that result from her artistic investigations are the artifacts that express her inquiries’ reflections and weave an equally conceptual and formalist intent. Blumenfeld lives and works in Houston, Texas. erikablumenfeld.com

Featured Images: ©Erika Blumenfeld, Wildfires series 

Header: Smoke: Las Conchas Wildfire (Los Alamos, New Mexico 2011), 2012

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ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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Ceramic Seascapes: Interview with Harriet Hellman for TL Magazine

Interview by Blaire Dessent

TL Magazine, Landscape’ Autumn–Winter 2021

TLmag: While your work deals with ecological concerns of the planet, there is a  particular connection with the sea and coastline. Where does your interest in this come from?

Harriet Hellman: I have always been drawn to the sea and coast, finding it a rich source of inspiration. My connection to the elements embeds itself in my making, both physically and emotionally. I am particularly drawn to wild coastlines, such as the Atlantic coast of North Devon where the ceaseless cycle of the natural elements and the engagement of time on the landscape, creates a visceral response in me which is both immediate and meditative.

I find clay to be the perfect medium to express my ideas, using the tide and the cyclical movement of time as a convergence of thought and action. I am not looking for answers but enjoy the freedom and spontaneity of the journey, exploring hunches, experimenting with form andresponding intuitively to the atmosphere and conditions of the moment. I would love to live on the coast but my family and work are in London, so I make sure I visit often, taking a car-full of clay and art materials and my camera, sometimes digging wild clay from the beach to bringback to the studio.

The shifting tidal seascapes and the environmental impact of erosion and tidal destruction are all too evident on the south coast of the UK. Tidal barriers have been swept away and the coastline is constantly changing, serving to remind me of the power of nature and our powerlessness to control it. My work reflects my thinking around this as I let go of my unfired ceramics into the oncoming tide, surrendering it to the sea. The process of filming, painting, sculpting, collecting, interacting with the inter-tidal zone and documenting eroded coastal spaces,creates a visceral response in me, celebrating impermanence and imperfection.

I am striving to capture place, space and time and the energy of the moment. Creating, intimate, ephemeral narratives with clay on the coast. This deliberate communing with nature, means letting go, and hoping for unexpected and transformed, ‘gifts from the sea’. Ceramic residues are fired , completing this alchemical exchange.

Tipping Point, stoneware, porcelain, wood fired, 23 x 12 x 65 cm, 2020

TLmag: You started making ceramics once you had already begun a separate career path. When and how did you get started working in ceramic? Were you doing something else artistic or was this a big shift?

H.H.: I received a BA in Fine Art Sculpture and then followed a career as a prop maker and Art Director in the film and TV industry both here and abroad. I loved the work, but the hours were long and once I had a young family I was not seeing my children enough. A friend suggested I take an evening class in pottery, so I enrolled and was immediately hooked. I reduced my working hours and undertook a part time HND in Ceramics at my local Higher Education College, then decided to rent a studio and continue Ceramics in a full-time  capacity. My dream was to study an MA at the Royal College of Art, so I was delighted to gain a place to study there in 2018, this experience gave me the confidence to consider myself a professional Ceramic Sculptor.

TLmag: As you started going further with clay, was it then when you saw a link to landscapes and the sea or were you already looking for the right medium to convey ideas and concepts you had wanted to explore?

H.H.: I find the elements of water, earth, air and fire in ceramics, and the transformative power that these afford exciting and challenging. Clay is a material of change from one state to another and this gives me the opportunity to facilitate transformation, while reflecting on the balanceand fragility of the geological landscape. I see clay as the conduit between myself and the natural world through the process of layering, tearing and building.

The concept of letting go of the outcome and surrendering it to the elements was a response to seeing the effect of coastal erosion on the geology of the shoreline and my belief that everything is connected. Not only is clay a particularly suitable material to express those concerns, being of the earth, but the final fired form of the ceramic sculptures evoke geological formations. The deep history of the land feeds directly into the work it inspires. The title of ‘Anthropocene’ points to my concern for ecological fragility, which is powerfully present and concerning incoastal erosion and rising sea levels.

Perspectives of Time, stoneware, porcelain, 38 x 40 x 20 cm, 2020

TLmag: Would you talk about your process? It’s incredible how each piece seems as if it was peeled away by time  and nature so organically, the surfaces so textured.

H.H.: I layer many different clays together in the studio, bringing to mind the layers of geological strata in the landscape. These layers are eroded and revealed when the work is left exposed on the shore or when the work is torn, scarred and peeled back in the studio. The pebbles, sand and seaweed imprint themselves into the work, which is then fired, embedding into the surface layer. Tearing up the layers of clay ignites an emotional and physical connection in me, embedding memories of the coast into the form and surface which is worn, torn and scarred. I multi fire and add layers of glaze until I am satisfied with the surface texture and colour, and intuitively know that the work is finished.

TLmag: You recently had a residency in Denmark. How was this experience on your work? You developed a new way of firing?

H.H.: My experience at Guldagergaard International Ceramic research centre in Denmark was very positive. I was able finish the work I had been doing on my MA in London, which had been suspended due the pandemic in March 2020. The studio was open 24hours a day and I was able to work with no distractions in a supportive environment with other International artists. I was also introduced to wood firing and soda firing, which were new for me and I found it really suited my work. I have continued with this method of firing whenever I get the opportunity.

Recently I sailed around the South Coast of the UK with Sail Britain as an artist-in-residence, looking at the marine environment from diverse perspectives. A cross disciplinary crew from creative and scientific back grounds took part, studying environmental issues such as marine aquaculture, plastic pollution , climate change, and eroding coastlines. Highlighting the cultural importance of our relationship with the sea and the connection between ecological issues and society. This experience was invaluable to my practise and I hope to continue exploring opportunities to broaden my understanding of the natural world in the
future.

Uncertain Rhythm, stoneware, porcelain, 24 x 30 x 12 cm, 2020

TLmag: How do you explore, as it says on your website, ‘human’ time vs ‘deep’ time, in your work? What does this mean exactly?

H.H.: Scales of time are most evident to me when I am at the coast, when considering the ecological fragility of the ocean and the geology of the coastline. The contrast between millennial geological timescales and ephemeral human timescales, reflecting on the micro and macro is particularly present when I am working and responding to the coastal landscape. Considering the Anthropocene, the current geological age where human impact has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment makes me consider the scale of human time versus that of deep time. Recognizing our interconnectedness to the earth and the balance and fragility of our place within it is evident in my making, accepting transience and imperfection. Letting go, surrendering and appreciating the moment, stimulates my thoughts and heightens my awareness, opening new possibilities and directions in my work.

This connection to the coastal environment is what drives my practice and I feel it most when experiencing the rawness of the Atlantic coast.

London based ceramic artist Harriet Hellman is deeply inspired and influenced by wild coastlines, tides, erosion and the sea. She creates layered sculptural ceramic objects that feel as if they’ve been stripped by time and the natural elements, which in some cases they have as she often immerses her unfired pieces into the tides and films the experience of its effects on the object.Curved forms that suggest waves or shells, specks of sand and minerals compacted within cracked white glaze, flecks of colour or charred surfaces, the work seems to be influx, as if it was still on a journey within the sea and its current state is only momentary, an unexpected treasure discovered with delight yet holding secrets to harsher realities of the Anthropocene.

Hellman was shortlisted for the Sustainability First prize in 2021.
harriethellman.co.uk
@harriet_ceramics

(Top image: Shape Shifting, porcelain, 50 x 52 x 22 cm, 2020)

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ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

Powered by WPeMatico

The Truths that Entangle Us: Interview with Tosca Hidalgo y Terán

Interview with Tosca Hidalgo y Terán by Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein

Tosca Hidalgo y Terán is an internationally exhibited and recognized creator of interactive environments and objects that provide shared experiences surrounding topics of entanglement and interconnectedness. Using her unique perspective on the world and the magic that lives within it, she has employed engineering and technologies to tackle often difficult topics. Her work creating musical collaborations with mycelium has led to incredible insights into the consciousness and interconnectedness of the world around us all.

Hi Tosca, I am so excited to interview you this month. Can we dig right into your interactive musical collaborations with mycelium? You even mention that the mycelium reacts differently to different people.

I believe fungi are sentient, have cognition. Perhaps, too this sentience or awareness is more expansive than human due to its very nature. Mycelium consistently generates periodic patterns that are both enigmatic and very musical. For reasons that I do not fully understand, Mycelium reacts to the proximity of some people more than others—growing more frenetic or more harmonic or completely silent when humans are present.

In 2019 while I was a resident bio-artist during a MOCA Toronto and Ontario Science Centre partnership, MOCA offered resident artists a 500+ square foot studio in their building. Also, on the 3rd floor of MOCA central sat the Akin artist’s studio spaces and once or twice a month, they would hold open studio events. During one such occasion, fellow Alien Agency Collective artists Joel Ong, Nicole Clouston, and I opened our temporary bio-art studio to the public to share our various research in progress. My Mycelium, Martian Dome project, sponsored by Ecovative Design, Moog Audio, and The Brothers Dressler. I had a massive sound system set up for this open studio, synthesizers connected to living mycelium I had sculpted into the shape of a brain. The Myco-brain contained inside a plexiglass case with electrodes threaded through holes; this case was covered in black cloth. There was also a greenhouse set-up that housed large mushroom bags and Petri dishes of growing Ganoderma lucidum, Pleurotus ostreatus and djamor, Stropharia rugosoannulata and Armillaria mellea.

(Symbiosis/Dysbiosis, Remote Residencies)

Guests would enter the studio and hear an ambient mycelium soundscape playing. Rapid, chaotic shifts in the soundscape made it quite obvious the fungi were responding to the people. Children picked up on this quickly and started to play with this interactivity. They would run-up to the Myco-brain and then run out of the space. The adults in the room did not know what to make of this, were the fungi responding to vibrations?  Then, quite abruptly, the soundscape stopped playing. At that moment, everyone turned towards the entrance to see a man standing there. To be fair to this person, I have no idea what they were experiencing or going through; there was an aggressive, Joker is wild, air about them. They frantically walked into the studio space and made a bee-line for the greenhouse. I asked them to please refrain from opening it, but I would happily open it if they wanted to see inside. Before I could finish my sentence, they cut me off aggressively, yelling, “Why, is the monster in there?!” Chuckling, I replied, I am just cautious about contamination, and with that, they wildly moved through the studio space and out the door. In the exact moment they crossed the threshold, the soundscape started back up, and everyone in the studio gasped.

One couple left saying that this entirely freaked them out, the mushroom going silent to come back to life then. Now, sure this may have been a curious coincidence, but I don’t think it was. During my Primordia installation at Grow-Op 2019, where I installed an unground mycelium cave in a historic hotel room, similar occurrences took place where people would affect the mycelium – without touching it!

(Detail View of Forest UnderSound 2021)


Holy Moly! That’s truly unbelievable. And the work continues: in your monthly podcast you share your recent interactions with mycelium. What have you noticed over the course of this work in different spaces?

I’ve been very fortunate to receive invitations to residencies abroad pre-pandemic which brought me to the Southern Hemisphere (Australia and New Zealand). Different seasons offer different fungi. I also cultivate various mycelium so when I am home or at my studio over the winter there is always fungi growing nearby. ;) Trees are a different story.

(Exhibition View of Forest UnderSound 2021)


And can you discuss a bit about how it is made? What are the technical components that are necessary to create these interactions?

The Symbiosis/Dysbiosis project, generously supported by the Goethe-Institute Montreal, Canada Arts and Toronto Arts councils, is a fully immersive, mixed reality, participatory experience working with living mycelium biodata-sonification within a VR environment. I am collaborating with media artist Allison Moore collecting photogrammetry point clouds scanned from coastal rainforests and Canadian Boreal Forest regions to visualize the VR environment. Projection-mapped floor and wall(s) around the VR space allow visitors within the installation, outside of the VR forests, to interact with the point cloud visuals by stepping on pressure-sensitive mats and touching the projection-mapped surfaces. These actions send data into the VR environment representing an impact within the forest. Living mycelium from locally cultivated fungi responds to the installation’s human presence while creating a generative soundscape. Human EEG/PPG/EDA/GSR influences each “player’s” VR experience.

(Exhibition View Chaos Fungorum, 2018)


Sonically speaking, I’ve been working with various purpose-built circuits to detect micro-fluctuations in conductivity, translating this activity in real-time to MIDI notes and controls or voltage control signals.

The primary concept involves visualizing interactions between human and non-human microbiota and the shared environment through macro visualizations of the microbial life on us, around us in the air, trees, fungi, pollen, pollutants. Collaborator and neuroscientist Brendan Lehman has developed code that integrates biodata readings captured in real-time into the virtual environment. Specifically, we are developing for the OpenBCI and Emotibit platforms. I’ve been awarded an artist research residency at the Coalesce Centre for Biological Art with Dr. Paul Vanouse. During this residency, mycelium is grown and observed using SEM, AFM and Confocal microscopy. This imagery is being captured and integrated into the VR experience of Sym/Dys. I am looking forward to jumping into the mycelium network on a microbial level. Sonically speaking, I’ve been working with various purpose-built circuits to detect micro-fluctuations in conductivity, translating this activity in real-time to MIDI notes and controls or voltage control signals. MIDI and control voltage enables me to patch directly into my analog and digital synthesizers, creating a mycelial network soundscape. One of the bio-sonification modules I build comes from engineer Sam Cusumano of Electricity for Progress. Initially, I purchased a PCB and a few electrical components from Manuel Domke, who also shared a schematic and Arduino code with me back in 2017. Before that, I was building my touch sensors towards “listening” to various mycelium.

Your work with mycelium goes beyond musical collaboration, but also into creating vegan leather-alternatives by growing the mushrooms directly into form. Can you describe this process and where this is leading?  

Admittedly, this research took a bit of a back-burner status over the pandemic. Though I have been consulting several artists towards sculpting, forming, and growing their own pellicles with mycelium. First cultivating their own and then expanding upon that. One project involves developing large, mycelium-covered surfaces that will act like an artist’s canvas’ to explore how the mycelium might remediate paint – the artist works in acrylic and oils, sometimes watercolours. Another consult is growing hollow sculptural forms with an assistant prof at York University to house electronics that work with IoT devices taking readings from a nearby Ontario forest.  

You mention that the pandemic has influenced your practice. Can you expand on this please?

With the pandemic and restrictions, my retreating into the forest primarily took shape in the virtual. More time to focus on sound creations, 3D work (3D, VRML, QTVR, and HTML is something I was very much into when I lived in New Mexico in the ’90s), and exploring haptic sensors and solenoid-based projects. I was fortunate with the Mycorrhizal Rhythm Machine installation at New Adventures in Sound Art as it included a short residency at their northern Ontario resort, several kilometres from Algonquin Park and next to Deer Lake. Algonquin Park is simply breathtaking, and there is a lot to explore fungi-wise. I collected a lot of biodata and field recordings of the Dawn Chorus while there.

(Still from Nanopod, Pascal Perich)


Your early work involves using glass and metals to sculpt wearable objects depicting your dreams and thoughts about decay. How does your relationship and workflow with such solid forms contrast to the fluid, living musical and interactive space work?

Many of my past metal and glass works involved soundscapes. Imagining the sounds of the worlds and environments where such objects come from or dwell. Descent to Perelandra, Orbis Tertius and An UnNatural History are bodies of metal and glass works (some wearable) that explored soundscapes and immersive installation. I’ve been revisiting metal and glass projects from 2004, where I started to incorporate various Bone conductance output and touch capacitance. Glass is an incredible medium for this because you can embed metals into molten glass. Burnish gold and fine silver onto the surface of hot-glass, or fume metals onto glass, grow metal onto the Glass through Electro-forming; there are a lot of potentials. Incorporating living fungi adds yet another reactive element.

(An UnNatural History, Metal and Glass)

There are a lot of potentials. Incorporating living fungi adds yet another reactive element.

In the video “Nanopod”, you talk about your dreams and relationship to death. What do you decide to bring into this world from those dreams and what are some of your hopes for the work?

When I was a child, I had recurring nightmares that involved a family member that would transform (not be who I had thought they were) and try to take my life multiple times every night I went to sleep. These nightmares began and lasted from ages 3 to late teens. The family member in my nightmares was similar to a vampire yet, not a vampire. These were also flying dreams; armies of flying skeletons would arrive to take me away. Much later in life, I would learn that this person showing up in my nightmares suffered from postpartum depression, heard voices, and had considered taking my life. That is a lot to carry, both for myself and definitely for the person being my mother.  As a young person and artist, I wanted to understand the “darker” aspects of nature, psychological, mythical, occult and these ideas and nightmares made their way into my work.

(Still from Nanopod, Pascal Perich)

As a young person and artist, I wanted to understand the “darker” aspects of nature, psychological, mythical, occult and these ideas and nightmares made their way into my work.

Later in life, I had two near-death experiences from ectopic pregnancies. A particular work that truly manifested “Motherhood” for me was, Inside Incubus. Inside Incubus was a web narrative and a physical work I built to combat sorrow, poor self-image, and dragons, if you will. The metal-made physical version was interestingly very popular with people; it received fan mail and poems! The web narrative began with an animated paper doll version of myself, which divided into twins after a while and led visitors deeper into the forest (mind) through visuals and sounds. Visitors traveled either the left-hand path or the right. With the virtual death of fabulous flash-based websites, Inside Incubus was archived. I’ve considered revisiting it and creating an updated VR version that would now, I suppose, start venturing into the Crone

Thank you for sharing, your story is incredibly touching. You have such a unique and magical perspective on the world. How have your multiple cultural influences (Mexican, German, Canadian, etc) helped form this perspectice?

Dia de Los Muertos always held an appeal to me. My grandfather would bring me marionettes from Mexico; skeletons, animals, strange characters, along with chocolate-covered ants! I have learned a lot about my father’s family later in life. My paternal grandparents wanted me to learn Spanish and more about their culture/my culture, while unfortunately, my father lived through a lot of racism that his parents did not experience. So, I did not grow up speaking Spanish at home. My grandparents and father also did not practice Catholicism. There’s a long story regarding family name changes during the Spanish inquisition and a great-great uncle’s head being removed. Fidel Castro is (was?) a relative. So, there certainly is a lot to draw from, familially and culturally speaking.

Science Fiction and Fantastical worlds inspired me, and now I guess my love of SciFi and electronic and classical music continues through more bio-art explorations.

I look at Scandinavian, Germanic, Celt land-wise on my maternal side, but I feel more connected to my father, and everything unsaid. But how any of this informs my work, I am uncertain. Childhood dreams of transforming into different shapes; machine and animal. I would then describe driving vehicles with windscreens like televisions (it was the ’70s, and I was 5). I was visiting different worlds, both extraterrestrial and subterranean. Unlike my peers, I repeatedly listened to Klaus Schulze, Tomita and experiencing films like Planet Sauvage, Silent Running, Heavy Metal magazine, and Giger’s Necronomicon had a significant impact. Science Fiction and Fantastical worlds inspired me, and now I guess my love of SciFi and electronic and classical music continues through more bio-art explorations. My musical tastes have remained constant; only now, along with my partner, I create the electronic soundscapes.

Lastly, in “creating artwork to raise awareness,” what do you want your audience to take away from interacting with your spaces? What are the most pressing issues of today for you and the work that you create?  

There is seemingly more awareness and sensitivity towards your particular interests and focus when you are an artist. In my instance, this involves the shared environment through nonhuman kinships and entanglements. Human communication is tricky. People often do not tell the truth or hide, or worse, they blame other people for their problems. I am not feeling better or more aware than other folks by sharing this. It is simply vital to know who you work with and their motivations. The COVID-19 Pandemic certainly affected all life, and bringing more awareness to this remains essential. It is unfortunate to be shouting at the air.

(Jokulsarlon Chopines Beast, Metal and Glass)


I am creating spaces and object-based experiences that open memories, that perhaps ground people into the now, that make slight adjustments to human-centric beliefs and movement.

When I wrote, creating artwork to raise awareness, this is multi-faceted because it also pertains to myself as a human. Over the years, I have met people utterly moved to tears by my work, by spaces I have created and shared. Over the Pandemic, I have had time to reflect on this and ask what moved them, what brought on the emotional response? I would like to believe that I am not merely creating more content. I am creating spaces and object-based experiences that open memories, that perhaps ground people into the now, that make slight adjustments to human-centric beliefs and movement. Maybe this is what brings on the empathic responses. When I am conceptualizing, I am not thinking how the work might affect people or make money or anything other than simply creating the work, which is the prime objective.

I am devastated by all the hate and trolling. How Indigenous and Black identifying people are treated, disrespected and killed. Perhaps naively, I believe sharing immersive experiences of how connected and entangled we all are might offer a course correction or, at best, a reprieve from the doom scrolling.

Thank you so much for your time, Tosca. This has been a truly touching and inspiring interview!

(Top image: Interplanetary Hearing Device)

———-

ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

Powered by WPeMatico

Member Spotlight: Linda Gass

This week we recognize the work of artist Linda Gass.

San Francisco Bay Area multimedia artist Linda Gass creates stitched paintings and works in glass to question the relationship between humans and their environment. Informed and inspired by her extensive research on the impact of changing waterways, sea-level rise, fire and drought in California and the American West, her work uses beauty to shed light on difficult issues. “I am inspired by the relationship between humans and the water and land that sustain them. My work explores how landscapes change over time focusing on those places where destruction and renewal, wounding and healing, absence and presence overlap.”

Dogpatch, the sea is rising: 0, 3 and 6 feet, 2019

Sea level rise, caused by the thermal expansion of warming ocean water and the melting of land ice, is a significant climate change threat to coastal. From 1900 to 2016 global sea level has risen by 7-8 inches and the rate has increased to a rate of about 1/8” per year. The most recent scientific estimates for San Francisco Bay were released in 2018 by the California Ocean Protection Council (a State Government appointed council). Projections for 2050 are relatively modest with a likely increase of 1-foot. However, by 2100 the likely projection puts sea-level rise at between 3 to 6 feet. The range of projections is affected by whether carbon emission levels fall significantly or if they continue at current levels.

“Using sea-level rise maps published by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), I have created a triptych of artworks showing the present day and the impact of 3 and 6 feet of sea level rise on the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. If you are familiar with this are, you may recognize familiar features such as the new Chase Center in Mission Bay and Oracle Park to the north.”

San Joaquin Merced Revival, 2012

San Joaquin Merced Revival is part of a series about confluences of bodies of water that no longer exist due to human impact. The artwork shows a birds-eye view of where the confluence of the San Joaquin and Merced rivers once was, paired with endangered Chinook salmon. Before the San Joaquin was dammed and heavily diverted for agriculture in the 1940s, the river was the largest in Central California and supported spring and fall salmon runs of over 300,000 fish. The completion of the Friant Dam in 1942 and the diversion of water into the Friant-Kern Canal left little more than a trickle below the dam in most years, drying up the San Joaquin before it reaches its confluence with the Merced. As a result, the count of Chinook salmon fell to zero by the 1950s and the spring and fall salmon runs became extinct.

Although this situation may seem hopeless, there is an effort underway to restore the river and the Chinook salmon runs. In 1988, 13 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit and successfully proved that the Friant Dam’s diversion of water from the San Joaquin River violated the Endangered Species Act and California’s public trust policies. Eventually a settlement was reached in 2006, requiring the river flow and the salmon runs to be restored. Restoration efforts are currently underway.

Some day there may be no more snow: California snowpack 1960 – 2019

This data visualization artwork shows the average annual snow water equivalent for the state of California for the years 1960 – 2019. The snow water equivalent is a critical measurement: the state’s water delivery system of dams and reservoirs was designed to rely on the snowpack’s natural reservoir. The mountains store vast quantities of winter precipitation as frozen snow until late spring when it begins melting, slowly releasing water throughout the summer to replenish the human-made reservoirs.

The artwork shows that California has very few “normal” years; for as long as humans have kept track, it never has. Flood and drought are the normal, however the data shows the water content is on a downward trend. The decrease is caused by warmer winter air temperatures where less precipitation falls in the form of snow. The delicate thread-lace columns evoke the shape of the tubes used by snow surveyors to measure the snow pack and their shaded gradation help the viewer see the extremes in the data.

Some day there may be no more snow: California Snowpack 1960-2019, 2019 (detail)

Linda Gass is best known for her intricately stitched paintings about climate change, land use, and water issues in California and the American West. She graduated from Stanford University with a BS in Mathematics and MS in Computer Science and has been creating art for more than 20 years after a decade-long career in software. Her work has been exhibited throughout the US, in Europe and Russia, and at venues including the Museum of Craft and Design, Oakland Museum, the Bellevue Arts Museum, and the US Embassy in Moscow; and has been written about in National Geographic’s All Over the Map: A Cartographic Odyssey, and American Craft as well as other publications. Gass’s work is held in several public and private collections including the International Quilt Museum, San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. lindagass.com

Featured Images: ©Linda Gass, Dogpatch, the sea is rising: 0, 3, and 6 feet, 2019, silk painting, digital scanning , digital image manipulation (Adobe Photoshop), digital printing on silk, machine quilting, 35.5 x 60 x 1.5 inches (Top); San Joaquin Merced Revival, 2012, silk painting and machine quilting, 30 x 45 x .5 inches; Some day there may be no more snow: California Snowpack 1960-2019, 2019, cotton, rayon and clear polyester, monofilament thread, dissolvable stabilizer, fabric stiffener, magnets, nails, 58 x 90 x 1.25 inches (bottom). Portrait of the artist at the Museum of Craft and Design, San Francisco, 2020 (Below).

———-

ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

Powered by WPeMatico

Art and Science: Portraits of Interconnectedness

interview with collaborators David Paul Bayles and Fred Swanson

Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein 

David Paul Bayles, photographer, and Fred Swanson, forest ecologist, are artists and science collaborators whose ongoing project portraying the ecological ramifications of human influence on Oregon trees creates both scientifically useful and hauntingly crafted portraits. In this work, art tells the story of the ongoing climate-related influences of the old-growth forest, and science provides factual information for making sound decisions. The most recent part of their series “Standing, Still,” presents the charred exteriors of trees after a forest fire. In conversation, they provide both warning and hope in the face of a blazing summer in the North-West of the United States.

David, Fred, thank you so much for discussing your work with me! Let’s dig right in.

This summer’s fires have been shocking, and you have been extremely responsive in your collaborative work to portray the effects of forest fires in Oregon. These fires are the reality of what is right past your back doors and daily work. Working intricately with the forests for many years, were there signs that there would be this kind of a disaster prior to it happening? And how have you responded?

FS: As an earth scientist working in a forest ecology world, I’ve been very attentive to “disturbance” events for a long time—fire, flood, volcanic eruption, logging, forest policy conflicts. From a geological perspective, the  natural processes in this list are frequent and integral parts of the regional landscape. I like to be as close to the action as possible to learn what’s happening in geophysical and ecological terms while also being attentive to human interactions. The extreme fire events in western Oregon in Sept 2020 were unprecedented in the period of European occupation (beginning in the 19th century). Still, tree-ring studies of forest history suggest similar events occurred ca. 500 years ago. The extreme heatwave of June 2021 scorched the foliage of trees in ways we have not seen before, but very few trees have died (so far). Still, this heatwave is a scary wake-up call for what climate change is bringing us.  In these two events, tree canopies were scorched from below by the fall 2020 fires burning through the understory and then scorched from above by the June 2021 heatwave, which is fascinating and worrisome.  

DPB: My wife and I live surrounded by forest as well as industrial tree farms. Though we have not had any fires threateningly close, we live with the knowledge that it could happen. We will be on our own when it does, so the questions are when to leave and what to take. We can build a new home and studio, but when I imagine the landscape that would surround us post-fire, that is the difficult part.

For decades scientists have been telling us we would be right where we are today. So, yes, the signs have been here all along. Anecdotally, we put tomatoes in the ground earlier in the spring, and this will be the first year we will have made it to October without turning the heat on in the mornings.   

The extreme heatwave of June 2021 scorched the foliage of trees in ways we have not seen before, but very few trees have died (so far).

When it does…we can build a new home and studio, but when I imagine the landscape that would surround us post-fire, that is the difficult part.

The fires are quite a reality to come to terms with and to prepare for. It is telling how direct the results of warming have been in your direct surroundings. David, as a logger and photographer, and Fred, as a scientist and nature lover, you must have an intricate understanding of both the life and post-life of the trees that you work with. What has been your photographic mission in relation to the trees themselves?

DPB: To be clear, I was a logger for four years in the mid-1970s. When and where I worked on US Forest Service land in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the timber sales were all selective cutting. When we left a logging site, 60-70% of the forest was still standing. Today’s clear cuts are a very different beast, and I am against industrial tree farming as practiced today.

My photographic path (rather than a mission) has been to explore different facets of the complex relationship between trees/forests and human beings. I have long felt that the way we treat our forests can also be seen in the ways we treat other human beings.  

FS: My mission in relation to trees and forests as a scientist has been to learn all I can concerning their history with regard to disturbance events, both natural and human-imposed. I have done this as a participant in a large, long-term ecosystem research team working in the old-growth of the Andrews Experimental Forest in the Oregon Cascades and at Mount St. Helens, which erupted in 1980. The stories from our studies are conveyed to the public through many channels, including works of artists and creative writers who have engaged with these places. I count on the citizenry to take in the sense of awe, wonder, and mystery revealed through these inquiries and be attentive to the natural world’s well being.

My photographic path (rather than a mission) has been to explore different facets of the complex relationship between trees/forests and human beings.

I count on the citizenry to take in the sense of awe, wonder, and mystery revealed through these inquiries and be attentive to the natural world’s well being.

Fred, you describe how the citizenry should take in this sense of awe, but you must experience this working with the forest daily. You have studied the effects of climate on regional forests throughout the Western United States. What have been the major changes in the forests that you have studied over the past ten years?

FS: Our home bioregion in the wet conifer forests along the Pacific Coast of the northwest US appears to be in the early stages of profound alteration by climate change. Certainly, other bioregions, such as polar regions, have experienced greater warming and have expressed more significant vulnerabilities as water takes liquid rather than solid forms in soil and on lakes, rivers, seas, and land surfaces. Our long-term research at the Andrews Experimental Forest in the Oregon Cascades shows that air temperature, even under the forest canopy, has been warming over the past 40 years, suggesting that the forest and stream ecosystems are subjected to multiple stresses. Perhaps this warming in the summer months is drying fuels, contributing to the increased intensity of wildfire. With support from the National Science Foundation, the US Forest Service, and other sources, we continue to be vigilant for ecosystem responses.

A common motivation between basic science (Fred calls it ‘Wild Science’) and art is curiosity. We use different languages to explore and express, but motivations are similar.

(David’s) reactions to forms and color prompts have led me to see and ponder the forest in ways new to me.  

What incredible findings! The two of you have paired art and science to work as important collaborators in ecology. What can the two disciplines do best together? How have you both been able to build off each other’s work and unique perspectives?

DPB: A common motivation between basic science (Fred calls it ‘Wild Science’) and art is curiosity. We use different languages to explore and express, but motivations are similar. By collaborating and using different languages, we can reach wider audiences. One of the greatest joys in this process has been to share a child-like curiosity with Fred. We both get down on the ground and stick our heads into burned-out stump caverns to look at the first bits of green fire moss or oxalis. A moment later, Fred points to a giant boulder and asks me, ‘Do you know where that came from?’ I’m thinking it’s a boulder. Didn’t it come from underground somewhere? He explains this particular rock was pushed down the canyon by the last glacier 13,000 years ago. Me—awestruck and grateful to share this journey with him.

FS: I have long felt that scientists and their science communications have not been the greatest storytellers. The methods of science can be quite constraining.  So, it has been very refreshing to team up with David and visit a situation new to both of us—freshly burned forest. As David puts it, this is a fascinating common ground in which to exercise the common ground of our curiosities. His reactions to forms and color prompts have led me to see and ponder the forest in ways new to me. And, it is inspiring to see how others, both scientists and non-scientists, respond to his works and the forest. Even in its blackened state, there are beauty and mysterious manifestations of complexity and inter-connectedness.

To draw from Robin, we need to be attentive to our “kinship” with trees and have “relationships of reciprocity.”

In 1989, I participated with TreePeople in Los Angeles to plant Sequoia seedlings in the Sierras near the Mi-Wuk reservation… Loggers, Mi-Wuk, and urban Angelinos all planting trees together.

Speaking of complexity and interconnectedness: as I write this, the oldest and largest sequoia tree in the world is being wrapped in fire protective blankets. What have been some efforts you have experienced of inter-species collaboration between humans and the trees?

FS: Some human-forest relationships are simple and exploitative, like logging native forests and replacing them with simple plantations. But, in the words of Robin Kimmerer, this is not an “honorable harvest.” Some might argue that, by revealing their histories of disturbance and resilience in tree-ring and other records, forests are teaching us how we may selectively remove trees for our uses while leaving enough of the forest ecosystem that it can continue to function as complex, highly interconnected systems. Again, to draw from Robin, we need to be attentive to our “kinship” with trees and have “relationships of reciprocity.”

DPB: In 1989, I participated with TreePeople in Los Angeles to plant Sequoia seedlings near the Mi-Wuk reservation in the Sierras. Steve Brye, as a volunteer, grew 7,000 seedlings and coordinated this effort with the US Forest Service. A group of urban environmentalists from LA went up to the Sierras to plant all the trees for a weekend. Since it was near where I used to be a logger, I organized some logging families who came out also to help plant the trees. To everyone’s delight and surprise that Saturday morning, Elders and others came from the reservation to bless the planting of the trees and help us plant. Loggers, Mi-Wuk, and urban Angelinos all planting trees together. We finished Sunday afternoon and were spontaneously invited to their Roundhouse to witness a drum and dance ceremony. It was a great weekend.

There are parallels between how we live with each other and how we live with trees.

These are such important messages of reciprocity and collaboration. In your description of “Standing, Still,” you describe, “Treetops broke off, plunging in the river. Limbs dangled, connected by tissues charred and crisp, and still, the cedars stood, a testament to their strength.” The description could also be used for the loss of human life in war. What are the parallels for you between the trees and the human experience?

DPB: Great question—thank you. Fred and I chose specifically to narrow our attention to the forest itself, being quite aware, each time we drove up the highway of all the human loss. So many homes were reduced to concrete foundations with standing chimneys and melted twisted metal roofing. So, these portraits also reflect that. I also felt the collective “Disturbance” the pandemic brought to all of us with loss of life, jobs, incomes, etc. In my book Urban Forest there are images of trees trying to survive along our city streets which can also be seen as unhoused humans trying to survive our city streets. There are parallels between how we live with each other and how we live with trees.

Fire immediately changed the forest dramatically, and now the forest is responding in amazing ways, fast and slow, physical, chemical, and biological.

We can 3D print homes with adobe. We now need to leave trees in the ground, both alive and burned.

I am so glad that you mentioned forest “management” since you both hold unique perspectives related to industrial processes and the forests you work with. David, in your recent work “Hazard Tree,” you discuss the industrial uses of the tree’s “destinies.” How has industry shaped these destinies, and how much of the destruction is necessary? Is there a balance within the forest that is being kept?

DPB: This is a huge topic and difficult to narrow down to an article. It’s not possible to begin without acknowledging that there is, to varying degrees, a mutual dance in our capitalist society of supply and demand. For my first exhibit on this topic, I researched data that showed that from 1950 to 1990, the average family size shrunk from 6 to 4.5, and the average single-family home built increased from 1,200 square feet in 1950 to 2050 square feet in 1990.

Another factor to consider, as we can no longer deny the climate is changing, is where and what is the balance point? For 5,000 years, we have used trees and forests for our purposes of building societies and civilizations. We now need trees and forests in a vastly different way. We can 3D print homes with adobe. We now need to leave trees in the ground, both alive and burned. 

3D printing homes is a fantastic way that art and engineering can work together toward climate solutions. What are your hopes surrounding what art can do to create awareness for an ecological response? What can the artistic community do to help the forest recover?

DPB: I hope all our creative endeavors can inspire awe, wonder, and appreciation to create changes in three ways. First, always ask ourselves what we can do personally to bring about the changes we want on a global level. Second, we can’t lose hope in finding ways to apply pressure politically. And third, if you can, donate money to legitimate conservation and land trust entities buying forest and prairie lands, setting them aside to grow and maintain healthy, natural ecosystems.  

FS: I have had the pleasure of working with creative writers and artists in the amazing ancient forest of the Andrews Forest and the blast zone of Mount St. Helens since 2000. I see my mission as helping them find their stories in these compelling landscapes, which has taken place through the Long-Term Ecological Reflections program at the interface of the Andrews Forest science program and the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word in Oregon State University.

Thank you both for joining me for this excellent discussion. Many of the insights you shared have been eye-opening, offering both warnings and hope in light of the recent disasters.

DPB: Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein, thank you for this opportunity to share our experience in this way. It is very much appreciated. Thanks.

FS: And a hearty thanks from me too. 

Images: all photographs by David Paul Bayes are from his Standing, Still series and are numbered 3, 14, 13, 10, 5, 1, 12, 17 as seen from top to bottom.

———-

ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

Powered by WPeMatico

Member Spotlight: Beverly Naidus

This week we recognize the work of artist Beverly Naidus.

EXTREME MAKEOVER: Reimagining the Port of Tacoma Free of Fossil Fuels is a community-based art project. The Port of Tacoma is an industrial port built on tribal land in violation of the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854. The soil and water have been contaminated by years of dumping and now host several designated superfund sites. In recent years, the community has been fighting the installation of new and dangerous fossil fuel projects in the Port and Extreme Makeover arose out of that resistance.

MAP OF THE 3-MILE BLAST ZONE (CREATED BY THE PUYALLUP TRIBE)

“Extreme Makeover has been hosting art workshops (most recently with the support of Tacoma’s 350.org) to engage the public in a reconstructive visioning process. The questions we ask participants are: what would the Port of Tacoma look like if the toxic superfund sites are healed as much as possible via permaculture design and the port becomes a showcase for green, renewable energy? What would happen if the Puyallup Nation’s vision for a restored estuary is made tangible through multidisciplinary art projects so that the public will get behind it? How can this project help the community prepare, both emotionally and pragmatically, for the impact of rising sea levels on the Port of Tacoma and the local ecosystem?” 

“After some meditation exercises, participants make collages, digital images and drawings as part of their visioning process. Our art making can be powerful medicine. It can awaken people to their power and motivate them to take action. It can be the glue that brings together strangers when they sit in workshops making art together. Participants have come to various public locations and community centers to discuss the questions above and create images that will be eventually projected onto walls in their neighborhoods, captured on social media, and shared virally.”

“Scientists, activists, artists, and members of the Puyallup tribe have been developing performance interventions for different public events. Those events will eventually be videotaped and shared online. The goal will be to awaken a typically uninformed citizenry and help them become stakeholders in their shared future. 

We want to reach people who have given up hope and have succumbed to dystopic views of the future. This is an intergenerational project so that stories about getting through hardship, healing from trauma, and recovering from depression and difficult circumstances will help younger participants believe that we can shift things.”

Beverly Naidus’s art and life have straddled the art world’s socially engaged margins, artful activism collaborations, and community-based art projects. Much of her work deals with ecological and social issues that have adversely affected her and those around her. Naidus has taught art as a subversive activity at NYC museums, the Institute for Social Ecology, California State University, Long Beach, where she had tenure, Goddard College, Hampshire College, and Carleton College. She’s been a tenured member of the UW Tacoma faculty for the past 16 + years, where she’s shaped an innovative, interdisciplinary studio arts curriculum in art for social change and healing. She is the author of Arts for Change: Teaching Outside the Frame (a book that is shifting studio arts curriculum around the world) and has written & published many essays on eco-art and social practice, as well as a few works of speculative fiction. She recently published a limited-edition artist’s book, Not Just Words: A 30-Year Exhortation to Love & Resistance. faculty.washington.edu/bnaidus

Featured Images: ©Beverly Naidus, EXTREME MAKEOVER: Reimagining the Port of Tacoma Free of Fossil Fuels, 2018-2020.

———-

ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

Powered by WPeMatico

Member Spotlight: Mark Brest van Kempen

This week we recognize the work of artist Mark Brest van Kempen.

Brest van Kempen has created a variety of artworks using the landscape itself as sculptural material. From the Free Speech Monument on the UC Berkeley campus to Land Exchange at the National Academy of Art in China, his work explores the range of emotions and issues that are embodied in our complex relationship to the environment. He has spoken around the country and abroad on the possibilities of creating artwork that functions outside the museum /gallery context and that bring aesthetic and symbolic meaning to everyday situations.

Living From Land

“This thirty day performance consisted of living within a five square mile area of wilderness and bringing no food with me. I ate only the plants and animals from the site. The project was an inversion of landscape painting that reoriented the artist’s relationship with land. Instead of standing outside of the landscape and taking it in with my eyes, I stood inside it and took it in with my mouth. The performance was documented in a video installation that was exhibited at the Richmond Art Center and the Armory Center for the Arts in California and Exit Art in New York.”

Ravenna Creek Drop

“This project sculpts the land and city infrastructure itself in a mile-long artwork that traces Ravenna Creek as it flows under the streets and sidewalks of Seattle. The project has a number of components along the corridor that includes a blue line that traces where the creek flows in a pipe under the city. Text of cast aluminum spelling out “Ravenna Creek” is embedded in the sidewalk along the line, creating a life-sized map embedded in the landscape itself. This maps traces where the creek flows underground. Pedestrians can follow the path of the creek from Ravenna Park to Lake Washington. 

The daylighted section of Ravenna Creek ends in a small pond before flowing to a pipe under the city. I designed a steel and glass sculptural outfall that creates an 11 foot long wedge-shaped void in the water as the creek disappears into the city’s infrastructure. Two sides are blue, visually connecting the water with the blue line described above. The other two sides are glass and reveal a cross section of the pond bed.

Three Viewing vaults located along the pipeline allow pedestrians to see the creek flowing eight feet beneath the city.  This subterranean creek is lit and complete with boulders and ferns.

Fifteen plaques mark the locations of glass capsules buried beneath the sidewalk. Each capsule contains seeds of a plant found on the site before the city was built. The capsules are designed to break and scatter the seeds during any future construction projects.”

Leona Quarry Earthwork

“This large scale, multi-faceted project brings together land art with community activism, environmental art and land use on a one hundred fifty-acre urban riparian site. After documenting numerous violations of local and federal clean water laws on the site of a large new development, I worked with a small group of community activists to sue the developer and the city in federal court. This lawsuit resulted in altering the design of their developments to protect the watershed. I see this endeavor as a large-scale earthwork that was the result of a political struggle played out on the landscape. 

Several interventions in the landscape frame the site as a large-scale artwork including legal text from the lawsuit stenciled onto drainage channels. The text continues in pipes underground and extends beneath the development itself. Several sites have become habitat for animals such as Pacific Tree Frogs, Western Fence Lizards and the endangered Alameda Whipsnake. Also, the creek itself was temporarily sculpted into a large inverted fountain that alters its legal standing from ‘groundwater’ to ‘creek’.”

Mark Brest van Kempen has received numerous commissions for public art projects including the San Francisco Art Commission, the City of San Jose, the City of Seattle and the Haas Foundation. His work has been presented in several books including Lucy Lippard’s The Lure of the Local and Peter Selz’s Art of Engagement as well as Time Magazine, The New York Times, Art in America, and the LA Times. He has received a California Arts Council Fellowship and has taught at the San Francisco Art Institute, Stanford University and California College of the Arts. mbvkstudio.com

Featured Images: ©Mark Brest van Kempen, Living From Land; Ravenna Creek Drop; Leona Quarry Earthwork 

Above: Mark Brest van Kempen, image courtesy of San Francisco Art Institute

———-

ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

Powered by WPeMatico

A New Monograph Catalogues the Career of Eco Artist Christy Rupp

Noisy Autumn: Sculpture and Works on Paper, which publishes November 16, ​​includes essays by Carlo McCormick, Amy Lipton, Nina Felshin, Bob Holman, and Lucy R. Lippard.

Posted on Hyperallergic by Insight Editions 

November 2, 2021

Ever since her emergence as an artist and activist in Manhattan in the late 1970s, eco artist Christy Rupp has used art to understand the human definition of “natural.” Wielding commodified materials to construct three-dimensional sculptural pieces that examine our perception of nature, her work has been noted for its dynamic ability to deconstruct the harsh divisions that separate us from our environment. Noisy Autumn: Sculpture and Works on Paper, a new career-spanning monograph from Insight Editions, shows the precision, scale, and enduring power of this work.

Christy Rupp, “Dodo” (2007), welded steel, fast food chicken bones, wood, 33 x 16 x 29 inches

Through her artwork, Rupp directly addresses the intersection of geopolitics, culture, and economics as they impact the vulnerabilities of ecosystems. “Foundational in my art practice is the intersection of animal behavior and the environment. As I started to learn more about how the science of economics impacts habitat, pretty much everything I’ve made since then flows from the waste stream, the creation and persistence of garbage, and how that waste has defined the world we live in today,” Rupp says. “I study economics as if it were a natural system which has been corrupted. The ravages of oil spills, industrial pollutants, pesticides, and climate chaos have made me an eco artist.”

Noisy Autumn — its title celebrating Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking Silent Spring upon the forthcoming 60th anniversary of its publication —includes essays by Carlo McCormick, Amy Lipton, Nina Felshin, Bob Holman, and Lucy R. Lippard, who writes, “This book displays the extraordinary variety of Rupp’s work over the years and the increasing urgency of her wide-ranging concentration on the cultural framing of nature… Amid today’s rapid slide into uncaring obsolescence danced to the drumbeats of war and ecological disaster, Rupp’s work becomes prescient. While many “climate artists” focus on our own fears of loss rather than empathy for others, she goes to the heart of the crisis. Caring about wildlife for its own sake, on its own grounds, she is a voice for scientific and aesthetic reason.”

Christy Rupp’s sculptures and works on paper alike leave readers pondering human engagement with the natural world amid rampant consumption — and how they may take action.

Noisy Autumn is available to preorder now on Bookshop and Amazon, and you can pick up a copy wherever books are sold on November 16.

Continue reading HERE

(Top photo: Christy Rupp, “Social Progress” (1985), Broadway and 5th Ave, NYC; mixed media and steel. Photo by Peter Bellamy, sponsored by the Public Art Fund)

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ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

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Flow and Integration in the River Basin: Interview with Basia Irland

Flow and Integration in the River Basin: Basia Irland on her Career Inspired by and Alongside the Rivers of the World

Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein

Fulbright Scholar, Basia Irland, creates international water projects featured in two books, “Water Library” (University of New Mexico Press, 2007) and “Reading the River: The Ecological Activist Art of Basia Irland” (Museum De Domijnen, 2017). Through her work, Irland offers a creative understanding of water while examining how communities of all beings rely on this vital element. She is Professor Emerita, Department of Art and Art History, University of New Mexico, where she established the Arts and Ecology Program. Her art is featured in over 70 international publications.

Hello Basia, thank you so much for your time. It is such a pleasure to speak with you. Since your work has revolved around the major theme of rivers but has allowed for incredible depth and diversity in practice, I want to dig into several aspects of your career.

Hydrolibros series. Retrospective, Museum de Domijnen, The Netherlands

You have worked so closely with these soils, waters and riverbeds; often using close observation to determine and drive your artwork. Yet, many of these ecologies have experienced drastic change. Over the course of your career, climate-related disaster and water mismanagement has increased drastically. How has this affected your work? What have you noticed in the field?

Good question because these two areas affect my work every day. My global river projects have investigated climate disruption for decades. “Icefield” was created twenty-one years ago in 2000. When this installation, (in the collection of the Colorado Water Center), was reshown last year in 2020, at a Denver exhibition, the curator wrote: “Ice Field anticipated by many years the more recent alarm over glacial melting. Twenty years ago, when climate disruption was rarely discussed in most of the world, Irland spent time hiking on a number of glaciers, including those in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Inspired by these hikes across glaciers and her observations of meltwater, Irland began thinking about a future when there would be no more glaciers on the planet and the runoff from the ice would be the only relic remaining for scientists to study. Knowing that meltwater contains microbial populations, nutrients and metals that escape from glaciers and feed downstream ecosystems, Irland developed an installation entitled Ice Field. She used some of the instruments of scientific research–petri dishes, vials, test tubes and flasks filled with water as both an artistic interpretation of a future scientific study set in a pristine lab and an ode to the melting glaciers themselves. Ice Field was also installed in 2015 as part of a major retrospective of Irland’s work at the Museum De Domijnen in the Netherlands.”

No matter how dire the situation for rivers seems to be these days, there are plenty of thoughtful humans along riverbanks everywhere who work tirelessly to envision a better future for their community waterways.

We have seen how pollution, dams, channelization, climate disruption, over-exploitation, habitat destruction, uncontrolled urbanization, floods, and drought are drastically affecting our waterways. However, it is also important to reflect on some of the positive ways local groups are actively addressing the problems. No matter how dire the situation for rivers seems to be these days, there are plenty of thoughtful humans along riverbanks everywhere who work tirelessly to envision a better future for their community waterways. Numerous restoration projects are happening thanks to local governmental, environmental, and health organizations. Residents and businesses, nearby schools, and universities all pitch in to assist. Globally, concerned people are stepping up to take care of degraded streams, but obviously there is continually more to be done.

Icefield. Detail of installation.

What a hopeful message! Your work has followed riverways all over the world. They are symbols of this global interconnectedness, yet each experience is individual. What are some similarities and differences that you have discovered in the stories the river ecologies have to tell? What do the rivers want us to know?

I have written twenty-four essays for National Geographic about international rivers, written in the first person, from the perspective of the water. Cultural critic Lucy Lippard writes, “The genius of these National Geographic posts is the fact that they are written in the first person, the persona of the river herself. This unorthodox viewpoint removes the distanced objectivity expected of journalistic criticism and delivers the writing into direct experience – not the experience of someone simply rafting and hiking and researching a river, but the experience of being a river.”

We are not separate from the waters of the world.

Almost all global rivers I have visited share similarities because they are in peril, but in different ways. The Bagmati River, Nepal is a dumping site for thousands of cremated bodies. The Narmada River, India, is sacred and yet has one of the largest dams in the world. Lake Tana is the source of the Blue Nile, Ethiopia, and is rampant with the water-borne disease, schistosomiasis. The Portneuf River is completely encased in concrete as it flows through Pocatello, Idaho, so it can no longer breathe and meander naturally.

On a brighter note, Singapore recycles almost all of its wastewater into clean drinking water using a rigorous treatment process. It was fascinating to visit one of their plants with a biologist and see the various technologies being utilized. I think rivers would want us to deeply understand that they are alive. They have a body called a watershed with a mouth at the delta; organs of wetlands and riparian zones; cells, molecules of water; and like us, a circulatory system. We are not separate from the waters of the world.

Your symbolism between humanity and waterways is deeply touching! And your work is very collaborative between disciplines and people. For example, you work closely with scientists and with large local communities. What have been some important moments related to these interdisciplinary and global collaborations?

I could not do the work I do without the collaboration of scientists from many disciplines, including parasitologists in Nepal; a restoration biologist with the Nisqually Tribe, Washington; an algal scientist in Georgia; a biogeochemist in Colorado. I have partnered with dozens of hydrologists, and when invited to create Ice Book projects, I work closely with stream ecologists and botanists to determine the best native riparian seeds. There were nine different departments and institutes at Antioch College and the University of Dayton, which invited me to create an Ice Book project in Ohio. This included the Rivers Institute and even the physics department.

Launching Book XXXI into Rio. Photo by Ben Daitz.

The Gathering of Waters, which establishes cooperative relationships between people, and connects diverse cultures along the entire length of rivers, emphasizes that we all live downstream, and how imperative it is that we work together to face water challenges. During the five-year long Gathering of Waters; Río Grande, Source to Sea, over a thousand people participated along the entire 1,875 mile-length of the Río Grande. A canteen and logbook traveled the route of the río by boat, raft, canoe, hot-air balloon, car, van, horseback, truck, bicycle, mail, and on foot — always handed person to person the entire distance. Many of the nineteen Native American Pueblos in New Mexico along the Río Grande were involved by performing relays of running with the canteen from pueblo to pueblo escorted by Tribal Police cars. At each pueblo the arrival of the canteen would be greeted with a delicious home-cooked meal.

During the five-year long Gathering of Waters; Río Grande, Source to Sea, over a thousand people participated along the entire 1,875 mile-length of the Río Grande… Connections were made that have been lasting, and groups are working together that never would have met otherwise.

After five years, the project reached the Gulf of Mexico at Boca Chica where we held a grand ceremony with participants from Mexico and the United States, and the upper and lower basins celebrating together. Connections were made that have been lasting, and groups are working together that never would have met otherwise.

The sculptures accompanying these projects are Backpack/Repositories constructed from local materials, which contain artifacts and research from the Gatherings. They hold the scientific data, canteens, logbooks, maps, water samples, photographs, video documentaries, and other relevant art objects and information. Through an encompassing ethic of inclusion, we witness the diversity of life along the river being celebrated again and again as the container passes downstream, hand to hand. Lucy Lippard, writes; “A Gathering of Waters is a major model for eco-art. Irland takes the journey herself, swimming upstream against the currents of a society not yet convinced that our comforts are worth sacrificing for our resources.” As with the Ice Book projects, each participant is presented with a handmade gift, often sculpted from river clay, to express appreciation for their help. Reciprocity.”

Saskatchewan River Delta Backpack-Repository. Canada

To participate in both of the Gathering and Ice Receding/Books Reseeding Projects, you have to physically be at the river and interact with others. Being aware of the plight of flowing water that is always asked to give more than it has, is a call for action from each of us.

In addition to the Río Grande, Gatherings have occurred along numerous other rivers. To participate in both of the Gathering and Ice Receding/Books Reseeding Projects, you have to physically be at the river and interact with others. Being aware of the plight of flowing water that is always asked to give more than it has, is a call for action from each of us. In the video documentary about the Gatherings, my son, Derek, stands in the middle of the Río Grande on a small sandbar and tweaks a famous quote; ‘Ask not what this river can do for you, but what you can do for this river.’

Boulder Creek Repository (worn), Colorado (center). Retrospective, Museum de Domijnen, The Netherlands.

Just last week I received an email inquiry about the Gathering Projects from an ecologist in the UK who wrote, “In particular, I am in love with your log-book idea in A Gathering of Waters: The Río Grande, Source to Sea – how it meanders down-stream from person to person, community to community. I am considering how I might adapt that as a means to connect people in a similar way and be a participatory method to create knowledge to inform my research into how people feel – relational and intrinsic values, and wellbeing – about their temporary chalk streams in southern England.”

You mentioned your ice books. And I wanted to ask you specifically about, Ice Receding/Books Reseeding, how they function as seeding depositories supporting biodiversity along river ecologies and bring awareness to melting glaciers. What is your process in deciding what seeds to include in which spaces?

The Ice Book projects emphasize the necessity of communal effort, scientific knowledge, and artistic expression to address complex environmental issues and watershed restoration by releasing seed-laden ephemeral ice sculptures into rivers.

The idea for the Ice Books began in 2007 when I was invited to do a project along Boulder Creek in Colorado as part of an exhibition focused on the climate crisis. Each of the artists was paired with a local scientist. I have often collaborated with scientists from a variety of disciplines throughout my career, and it was wonderful to work with a biogeochemist on this project. A primary water source for Boulder is Arapaho Glacier, and that glacier, as with most others in the world, is melting so drastically that it may soon disappear entirely. Creating a sculpture out of ice makes this idea visible, so we tangibly sense the loss of glaciers. Simultaneously, positive action is promoted by implanting seeds within the ice. The seeds present both a practical and poetic possibility for repair and renewal.

Creating a sculpture out of ice makes this idea visible, so we tangibly sense the loss of glaciers. Simultaneously, positive action is promoted by implanting seeds within the ice. The seeds present both a practical and poetic possibility for repair and renewal.

The seeds embedded in the ice form a universal ecological language, a restoration text, a poem to the river. I work closely with stream ecologists and botanists to ascertain the best native seeds for each riparian zone. Sometimes other natural materials are used instead of seeds. Deckers Creek in West Virginia is highly polluted with acid mine drainage. At this location the pH level drops from a healthy 7.7 to a problematic 4.2. Instead of seeds, we used limestone because of its ability to neutralize acidity. On False Creek in Vancouver, Canada, krill was used rather than seeds to provide food for small fish with the hope of luring salmon back into the area.

Most of these projects are highly collaborative and could not occur without the effort of many people working together along rivers where I am honored to be invited. With the help of local communities, the Ice Books are launched into the water. The calligraphic sentences of seeds slide from the melting pages of the volumes into the water to be carried to shore and begin planting themselves along the banks of the river.

In the years since the first Ice Book project, I have been invited to create over one-hundred hand-carved time-based sculptures to bring attention to rivers and how we might help with restoration efforts. These projects are not about abstract theorizing while sitting indoors; rather, they are about connecting diverse, multi-generational communities directly to their local waterways and taking tangible action for river repair. The Ice Books are replicable, ephemeral, use non-toxic materials, leave behind only native plants, and present a lyrical way to restore streams.

Tome II being read beside the Río Grande, New Mexico. Photo by Claire Cote.

These projects are not about abstract theorizing while sitting indoors; rather, they are about connecting diverse, multi-generational communities directly to their local waterways and taking tangible action for river repair.

Recently I have been working with people from around the world who want to create their own Ice Books to make connections to their waterways and initiate restorative actions that address local ecological issues. The results have been inventive, educational, and inspiring, with examples coming in from Spain, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Ireland, and many parts of the United States, including Hawaii.

A professor in China organized a two-day workshop with adults and children who launched Ice Books into the confluence of the Jailing and Yangtze Rivers. An Ice Book in England focuses on species loss and the collapse of amphibian populations. A frozen volume in Sydney, Australia is embedded with mangrove seedlings. An indigenous artist in the U.S. carved the words for “Water is Life” in his native tribal language and placed sacred corn within the text. The book was planted in the red desert earth of the Navajo Nation. Dutch Ice Books witness a river that has been dredged to help alleviate flooding. Imbedded in an Ice Book from Mexico are plants important to the ancient Lake Xochimilco and the historic canals of Mexico City. If you visit your local river today, what would you add to an Ice Book to bring attention to ecological issues faced by your watershed?

What a fantastic call to action! Your related work, Hydrolibros, accentuates local ecologies through bound books using materials from the riverbeds you explore. Through these materials you tell stories. What is your approach to telling these stories through materials?

One example of the numerous stories told in a Hydrolibros sculpture is Molybedenum Mine, Vol. I that commemorates a huge scar gaping across acres of abused wilderness in northern New Mexico caused by the Chevron Questa molybedenum mine (formerly the Molycorp Mine). Wandering illegally among the heaps of discarded mining equipment, I found the text for this hand-carved wooden book, which was fool’s gold and rust – poetic justice for this site, the tailings of which historically killed aquatic habitat for over ten miles downstream in the Red River and contaminated the soil. The mine began operations in 1920 and was officially closed in 2014. An image of Molybdenum Mine, Vol. I was included in the 2020 book, Extraction, Art on the Edge of the Abyss (pp. 480-48, CODEX Foundation).

Speaking of literature, in your scrolls you explore waterborne diseases and present them in beautiful ways and yet they are deadly…

Yes, I am very interested in the notion of a terrible beauty. When isolated and viewed through a microscope, the pathogens look incredibly beautiful, and yet, the tragic reality is that waterborne diseases kill millions of people around the world every year. According to the World Health Organization, a child dies from a water-related disease every eight seconds. A BBC reporter phrased it this way: “The number of deaths due to water pathogens is the same as twenty jumbo jets crashing each day.” The dark, destructive side of water is as fascinating and rich in history as its more sanguine side. Many households around the world, including here in the United States, do not have clean water, and this must be considered one of the most serious public health crises facing us.

For more extensive writings on The Terrible Beauty of Waterborne Micro-Pathogens, see chapter six “Polluted Waters” in Water Library, Basia Irland, University of New Mexico Press, 2007.

Waterborne Disease Scrolls. Retrospective. Museum de Domijnen, The Netherlands.

As well as your awareness work, you have created spaces for people to contemplate the river in meditation with it. You describe your Contemplation Stations as places to “repose by yourself and view a flowing stream that has the ability to quiet the mind, relax the body and feed the soul.” What was your inspiration for this work and how has the need for this developed during the past few years?

In our overly frenetic, busy lives, I enjoy creating spaces where one can visit and experience a sense of tranquility and peace – away from the work-a-day world. Contemplation Stations are woven river plants constructed around a sturdy outdoor wooden chair placed on a site near the river so the viewer can be cocooned within and be quietly attentive. The overhead dome-shape frames the view so a person’s perception is focused intently on the river. All the senses are heightened when in this type of setting. The smell of nearby plants, the sight of the current flowing downstream, the call of birds, are all brought into perspective and can be more deeply appreciated.

All the senses are heightened when in this type of setting. The smell of nearby plants, the sight of the current flowing downstream, the call of birds, are all brought into perspective and can be more deeply appreciated.
 
I created seven of these sculptural forms on the River Maas, which is the border between Belgium and the Netherlands when I had a large retrospective at the Museum de Domijnen, the Netherlands. Recently, I built and located three of the Stations along the Río Grande in New Mexico as a way for people to contemplate and focus on the importance of this major artery of the Southwest. During this time of Covid, I have heard from many people who seek out the (“socially distanced” — ha) Stations as a site to be alone in a quiet, beautiful setting.

So, the viewer is integrated into the flow and tide of the river itself? Much of your work involves ephemeral pieces that reintegrate with the chosen ecology as if in keeping with the flowing natural cycles of life. What has drawn you toward the ephemeral as a process?

Translator, David Hinton describes ancient Chinese poets who, as a form of spiritual practice, would write on rocks and trees with water-soluble ink that would wash away in the rain, so the poem was complete only when it vanished. Just as the prayer flags I photographed strung near sacred sites and hanging from temple trees throughout Nepal and India transport blessings on the wind, the rivers of the world need all the reverence and protection we can provide.

In my art, the process of creation is as important as the sculptures, which in the case of the Ice Books (described previously), are impermanent, only existing after the event through documentation and plants. Part of the significance of these time-based sculptures is that they melt away. Time and energy, which have gone into the carving of the Books vanish in the current of a stream. Everything we know is in existence for only a period of time. Instead of dust to dust, here we have water to water. A marble or steel sculpture will also eventually, over millennia, go back into the earth, but the process is speeded up drastically in melting ice. Ways of knowing later about an ephemeral object or event is through documentation. I utilize writing, filming, photography, and drawing, which are shown in museum installations.

Instead of dust to dust, here we have water to water. A marble or steel sculpture will also eventually, over millennia, go back into the earth, but the process is speeded up drastically in melting ice.

Lastly, you recently had a retrospective of your life’s work thus far. How does it feel to see it all come together? And what are you planning to do next?

I was invited by the amazing Dutch curator Roel Arkensteijn to have a large retrospective at the Museum de Dominjnen in the Netherlands, which was the most wondrous experience! The museum hired eight preparators who helped with anything that I wished to create, including installing a long reflecting pool of water with stepping-stones within the museum. My work took up seven enormous galleries and filled the entire museum. We even projected images of flowing water, entitled Below, onto the façade windows to indicate that this building might someday be underwater since the Netherlands lies so low.
    
It was fantastic to see older work side by side with brand new work created specifically for the space. We constructed seven Contemplation Stations (discussed previously) out of natural local materials that were sited along the River Maas. Within the museum was a location map of these Stations.

I feel totally fortunate to wake up each day and do the work I love to do!

The primary focus right now is representing the United States in the upcoming Biennale, Cuenca, Ecuador, curated by the brilliant Blanca de la Torre. All the work I am creating for the museum is being produced on site (instead of shipping art) to keep our ecological footprint to a minimum, including video installations translated into Spanish and projects focused on the four major regional rivers. I am also creating collaborative aquatic projects with an artist in Xochimilco, Mexico and a scientist in the UK. I feel totally fortunate to wake up each day and do the work I love to do!!

Thank you so much for your time, Basia! What amazing messages and inspiration our readers can take from your experience!

To see more of Irland’s work go to basiairland.com

Contemplation Station VII before being moved to the River Maas.

(Top image: Molybdenum Mine Vol. 1, Hydrolibros)

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ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999

Go to EcoArtSpace

Powered by WPeMatico