UK artist Stephen Turner, whose work “often involves spending long periods in odd abandoned places, noting the changes in the relationship between people and the natural environment,” will soon take up residence in a solar-powered floating egg in the estuary of the River Beaulieu in Hampshire, UK. An energy efficient, self-sustaining work space and a laboratory for studying the life of a tidal creek, the Exbury Egg in “an intervention in the landscape at a key moment when climate change is already creating new shorelines and habitats.” Three years in the making, the egg emerged from a collaboration between partners from architecture, art, engineering and design backgrounds. The project includes education and engagement programs that will start during the construction phase and continue throughout Turner’s period of occupation until April 2014.
Like the slow food movement, which is promoted as an alternative to fast food, I feel we should start a “slow art movement” as an antidote to artistic endeavors driven by commercial pressures. The fact that Turner will immerse himself in a specific environment, and give himself ample time to respond to what he sees and hears and experiences there, will no doubt lead to a deep understanding of the place and its occupants, and to a sophisticated response to it. In my world of making theatre, taking time is a luxury most of us can’t afford. Plays are rehearsed over the course of three or four weeks then put up for another few weeks and then it’s over. The exploration time is short, the product consumed quickly, and although great works emerge from that model, something definitely gets lost. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating for everything to be done at a snail’s pace. But it would be useful to have the opportunity to slow down sometimes. I have a feeling that what gets lost in “fast art,” and fast life in general, is exactly what we need to reinvest in if we hope to meet the challenges of climate change with a modest amount of dignity.
Artists and Climate Change is a blog by playwright Chantal Bilodeau that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.
Invisible Dust involves leading world artists and scientists collaborating to explore air pollution, health and climate change. The aim of this ambitious project is to produce significant and far reaching artists commissions in the Public Realm in the UK and internationally, as well as supporting the creation of new scientific ideas and engaging audiences with large scale events, education and community activities.
Alice Sharp has worked as an Independent Curator of projects with visual artists in the Public Realm since 1997. Sharp set up Invisible Dust as part of her commitment to involving Artists and Scientists in health and climate change.
Our works seek to raise awareness of the key climate change imperatives and objectives now being tackled by National and International Governments, Policy Makers, Charities, NGO’s, Global Corporations, Investors and Consumer groups.
Visibility plays a key role in our trying to gain an understanding of the need to live sustainably and dramatically reduce climate change. Artists have many ways of making things visible and, particularly since the Land Art movement in the 1960s and 1970s (such as the ephemeral works of Richard Long and Robert Smithson) have responded to changes in the natural environment in a variety of forms.
Invisible Dust Dialogue Day, at The Wellcome Trust, July 2009. From back left: Karen David, Ian Rawlinson, Nick Crowe, Kaffe Matthews, Peter Brimblecombe, Paul Green, Alice Sharp, Mark Levy, Dryden Goodwin, Heiko Hansen, Mariele Neudecker, Faisal Abdu’Allah, Hugh Mortimer.
The artists are collaborating with the following scientific advisors:
The first of these projects ‘in clean air we fly’ by artist Kaffe Matthews was an Electronic symphony that engaged local Primary School children in Gillett Square, Dalston, London. 600 cyclists powered the sound installation to an audience of 1000 on Sunday, 6th December 2009.
Future projects in development include working with the the View Tube, East London, the Institute of Zoology and London Zoo, the University of East Anglia, Norwich, Kings College and St Thomas’ Hospital, London and Department of the Environment, UK (DEFRA), see New Projects
The title is inspired by Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy in which dust is said to have a mystical role taking his characters to different worlds. There are many analogies with the great changes we need to make to live a sustainable future, most notably the need to travel without creating air pollution. The organisation has been set up through Curator Alice Sharp collaborating with Atmospheric Chemist Professor Peter Brimblecombe, whom she met at Tipping Point, and measures air pollution through quantifying the components of dust through time. Invisible Dust is a not for profit organisation and has been awarded a Large Arts Award from the Wellcome Trust for ‘Invisible Breath’ for 2010/11.
Joseph Amato writes about ‘the visible world of dust.’ Amato contests that this informs our ‘perceptions of reality’. The invention of cleaning equipment and the modern day obsession with removing it has changed how we live our lives. Once dust was the smallest thing the eye could see, now our relationship with dust has dramatically changed due to powerful microscopic devices. For scientists, society’s transformation took place in the laboratory through the viewing of atoms, molecules, cells, and microbes; this also defined dust and the physical world for the first time but also our view of the human body and mind.
After the congestion charge was first implemented in Central London the air became cleaner than before the charge had been implemented but no one could see the evidence, it had to be revealed by subtle statistical analysis. On a global scale the ice caps are melting, coral reefs and rain forests are being destroyed. In order for us to understand the consequences of our actions on the environment as human beings we need to ‘see’ the results. In his research Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and senior editor of Atmospheric Environment Peter Brimblecombe from the University of East Anglia has discovered that children’s playgrounds are more polluted than the surrounding area due to the exhaust fumes from the parents’ cars at the school drop off. Professor Frank Kelly is also conducting research into how air pollution effects not only our lungs but is a cause of heart disease due to small diseal particles passing into the blood.
How can people understand their own effect on the environment when the resulting gases disappear into the sky? Since the industrial revolution there have been huge gains to society but also the creation of many of the gases that are now poisoning the earth. This project brings together artists and scientists to help illuminate these consequences and bring a sense of something human and fantastical to a very invisible problem.
The mission of Invisible Dust is to encourage awareness of, and meaningful responses to, climate change, air pollution and related health and environmental issues. It achieves this by facilitating a dialogue between visual artists and leading world scientists. Invisible Duststrives, through its creation of high impact and unique arts programmes, alongside new scientific theories, to create an accessible, imaginative and approachable forum and stimulus through which to promote positive public action.
Our works seek to raise awareness of the key climate change imperatives and objectives now being tackled by National and International Governments, Policy Makers, Charities, NGO’s, Global Corporations, Investors and Consumer groups, by providing a physical and imaginative manifestation of the key messages and driving a meaningful response to them.
In order to deliver this, primarily we:
Produce high quality artworks in the public realm both permanent and temporary
Additionally we also:
Create imaginative linked workshops and activities for schools and community groups
Coordinate artists residencies in the UK and internationally
Organise conferences and talks and provide speakers for events
Support the creation of new scientific theories and ideas
Natalie Jeremijenko, an aerospace engineer and environmental health professor at New York University, came up with a rooftop design to solve these common problems for urban farming. Her fixtures may be more economical than other urban farm concepts because they take up real estate that otherwise goes unused, and unlike other urban farm designs, they can pack in the plants, because everything, from the integrated systems to their bubble shape, is a slave to efficiency.
Natalie Jeremijenko (born 1966) is an artist and engineer whose background includes studies in biochemistry, physics, neuroscience and precision engineering. She is an active member of the net.art movement, and her work primarily explores the interface between society, the environment and technology. She is currently an Associate Professor at NYU in the Visual Art Department, and has affiliated faculty appointments in Computer Science and Environmental Studies.
Ideas are a bit like oxygen. The right amount allows us functionality; too much and we get all high. Such is the feeling you get after a read of Art Nature Dialogues, wherein John K. Grande interviews a series of environmental artists. There’s a spectacular array of materials and viewpoints, from the manure sculptures of Jerilea Zempel to the interventions of Betty Beaumont. What emerges is not only a concise study of environmental artists and their motivations, but an opportunity to examine the way artists describe their work.
When asked what brought them together as artists, for instance, Gilles Bruni and Marc Babarit , known for such works as The Stream Path, reply:
“The face of working as a pair, in situ and outside brings a fundamental social dimension to our work, firstly about ‘minimal ethnic unity,’ . . . Being two, we develop the minimal conditions of collaboration and codependance, of synergy, of respect of the sharing, of conflict and contract . .”
To be blunt: What? Not every artist is quite so over-articulate, but the language of the interviews ranges from the simple and practical to the etheral and other-worldly. I’d love to be able to draw a parallel here between the quality of an artist’s work and the words they use to describe it, but that parallel would be nothing but gaudy bauble-words.
That same lung-opening high you might get from The Stream Path is present in Spin Offs by Patrick Dougherty, or Mario Reis’ river paintings. It’s what makes the artists particularly relevant and exciting (despite, not because of, their habit of comparing themselves to Andy Goldsworthy). These artists have struck a chord, gone beyond the Land Art movement of the 70s (which, they will tell you, was limitied in its true connection to place), and articulated relationships, feelings and memes that speak to where we are now(-ish).
It’s all summed up very well in a quote from Hamish Fulton, an artist of long walks:
Art is essential in a healthy society. As they say, art is like oxygen. Whether we say art is profound, or worth investing in, sexy, or a rip-off and and rubbish, it doesn’t matter, because all those crazy and insulting and wonderful qualities all go to make up what we call contemporary art.
I’d like to take an opportunity to salute some minor heroes of the eco-art movement. These are people who aren’t neccessarily attending conferences or participating in exhibitions. They might not even consider themselves eco-artists: they aren’t taking it too seriously. I’m talking about funny folks.
In the eco-art world there are few folks as significant as the collaborative duo of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison (known generally as The Harrisons). Originators of a whole systems perspective in the eco-art movement, they have worked for the past four decades with biologists, ecologists, architects, urban planners and other artists to initiate collaborative dialogues to uncover ideas and solutions which support biodiversity and community development. They work within systems for systems. It’s the future folks and their ideas, while fresh, are as old as humanity.
Can we survive and thrive with beauty and grace?
This is part of a theme that really interest me. The very oldest of human concepts informing our new and unsettling future. Wednesday, June 10, 2009, for example, [sorry: mini plug] the very cool folks at The Long Now Foundation and the new sparkly green David Brower Center in Berkeley, are hosting a talk with the Harrisons (introduced by futurist Paul Saffo). It’s a look at The Harrisons from a 10,000 year perspective. Most art today will be dust or landfill, which is fine, but what did it accomplish that the Earth would notice? Was it worth the big holes dug into hillsides and the CO2 and toxic effluents, fuel and resins? Lots of people beginning to picture what this new world would look like in every discipline and long term planning as art to knit it together is essential. We need more long term art and it’s not about using Archival materials.