Energetic Work

Millennial Abstractions, curated by Patricia Watts

This post comes to you from EcoArtSpace

cfcc502033163d0af0b78e1d6777e1b9“Abstractions are seductive and evocative and invite contemplation and reverie. In the liminal space of an abstract work of art, our perceptions are free flowing and transitional. We know the world is changing and growing rapidly, with seven billion people and counting. How we respond to these changes and cope with them can be supported by art that makes room for our deepest cultural and personal concerns.” Patricia Watts

In 2011, I began researching artists who were doing abstract paintings, mainly in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. It was my suspicion that what might be happening with this new vibrant and energetic work was a response to extreme weather events or climate change, if not explicitly, subliminally. I wasn’t sure if my hunch was right, but eventually found a few artists painting fragmented landscapes that evoke our most pressing environmental issues. Of course, the outcome was a much broader representation for an exhibition titled Millennial Abstractions including 22 artists and over 90 paintings (a few sculpture) presented at the Marin Community Foundation in Hamilton Field, Novato, California (Feb. 15 – May, 31, 2013).

 

Artists such as Marie Thiebault, Samantha Fields, Gina Stepaniuk, and Judith Belzer (from top to bottom, left to right, above) each have been very outspoken about how our changing climate influences their work. And, each has captured the intensity and dynamism of the flux we find ourselves in–working through whose to blame, whose responsible, and how can we hold on to what we have before it becomes indistinguishable. For example, Thiebault with her series on the devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; Fields will her blurred windshields with pounding weather events; Stepaniuk with her satellite perspective of a fragmented planet; and Belzer with her topographical lands eroding off in the distance.

Although not all the artists in the show felt that their works were identifiably related to events of the new millenia–9/11, the Iraq War, or climate change–they are each a part of what appears to be a revival in painting that hasn’t been seen since the 1980s.

Artists from Los Angeles and the Bay Area included: Kim Anno, Judith Belzer, Val Britton, Chris Duncan, Samantha Fields, Sherie Franssen, Justine Frishmann, Benicia Gantner, Christopher Kuhn, David McDonald, Yvette Molina, Ali Smith, April Street, Julia Schwartz, Blandine Saint-Oyant, Gina Stepaniuk, Sylvia Tidwell, Catherine Tirr, Marie Thibeault, Cassandra Tondro, Ruth Trotter, and Adam Wolpert.

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

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TippingPoint makes a step-change

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

Wallace Heim writes: The TippingPoint last month, co-hosted by the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, made a step-change from previous TP events. Many of the same elements were there, but something shifted. Something sparked in the combination of TP’s open structure and those participants, those presentations, the talk, the room and the city. It felt as if many things were converging, and instead of being an event proposing or speculating that culture and the arts could be important responses to climate change, it was an event going with and propelling the diverse and energetic work that is being made, and being dreamt of.

The presentations in more conventional conference form, many now online, were provocative, each presenting a distinct direction and raising questions that filtered through the rest of the event. Kevin Anderson and Matt Ridley’s heated head-to-head (“Two men slugging it out over data” as one participant named it) exemplified adversarial strategies and the ways in which the ‘deniers’ and those who accept the consensus views of science tend to define one another’s arguments, leaving a blank between them. It also brought out the difficulties of seeing and critiquing the rhetoric and argumentation in debates that rely on scientific data.

Lucy Conway presented the artwork that is the Isle of Eigg, and how the population there is realising low-carbon, high socially and culturally benefitted living. Ben Twist from Zero Carbon Scotland +TBD, introduced the problem of whether art can, or should, be linked to behavioural change. Erica Whyman from Northern Stage showed how the major cultural organisations in Newcastle are collaborating across their business and institutional interests, and building a network that could include developing plans for material sustainability. The idea of organisational collaboration returned in Alan Davey’s announcement of Arts Council England’s decision to embed environmental sustainability into its funding agreement.

On the last day, Sue Gill, of Dead Good Guides led everyone in singing a version of ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ before John Fox gave his reflections on the transitions in art-making from commercialised spectacle to vernacular art, to ‘random acts of culture’. “Even if the markets fail, we must not tolerate the failure of imagination.”

The three days were planned to allow for chance conversations and random mixing in small groups, like the ‘Show and Tell’ session, where participants bring an object with meaning for them relating to climate change. Some of these personal and emotive exchanges drifted into the wider discussions. The three Open Space sessions had themes, the first two mostly ignored: ‘In what ways might I influence the future’ and ‘Exploring Possibilities’, in favour of people’s more immediate concerns. The third, ‘What am I going to do about the future’, drew out dozens of groups talking about their projects, and help that could be given to them.

The openness of TP makes reporting back very subjective. It did feel as if something happened, more than presentations and networking. The unrepeatable, and well-facilitated, combination of the people, the ideas, the timing came together to make an event that showed and advanced the many edges of social and artistic action.Audio recordings of the presentations, tweets, blogs, interviews and commentaries with participants and some of the evenings’ entertainment are on Amplified. Photos above posted on Amplified by quitexander.

“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)

ashdenizen is edited by Robert Butler, and is the blog associated with the Ashden Directory, a website focusing on environment and performance.
The Ashden Directory is edited by Robert Butler and Wallace Heim, with associate editor Kellie Gutman. The Directory includes features, interviews, news, a timeline and a database of ecologically – themed productions since 1893 in the United Kingdom. Our own projects include ‘New Metaphors for Sustainability’, ‘Flowers Onstage’ and ‘Six ways to look at climate change and theatre’.

The Directory has been live since 2000.

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