ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
We are in for a season of civil disobedience. The Save Vestas campaign has gone national.Kingsnorth rumbles on, as does the Heathrow protest – which is likely to be the focus of the next Climate Camp at the end of August. Next month also sees Wales‘ and Scotland’s first Climate Camps. As COP15 focusses minds, there are even plans to disrupt the Copenhagen meeting.
A generation of jobless students will now swell numbers. But should those less used to participating in civil action also be getting stuck in?
In a recent newsletter [PDF 147KB], climate scientist/activist James Hansen concludes with a short section titled “Civil Resistance: Is the Sundance Kid a Criminal?”, suggesting the urgent need for what Gandhi called “civil resistance” rather than “civil disobedience”, especially directed towards companies who are guilty of passing the bill for carbon clean up to future generations. Even though his choice of gun-slinging Western hero rather shows which era he’s coming from, I guess he’s qualified to talk, because James Hansen himself was arrested alongside Daryl Hannah last month for his part in the West Virginia coal mining protests.
The excellent climate science blogger Jo Abbess has just raised his arrest in a post which argues that such action by scientists is vital because, as George Marshall of the New Scientisthas been saying, the public as a whole are not changing their behaviour in the way that those scientists know they should be .
This argument implies that scientists, as the people who really understand the bottom line, are now ethically bound to start to do more than produce data. They must join with scientists like Hansen. But if scientists remain hesitant to get start linking arms and chaining themselves to fences, Hansen’s own reputation as a leading climate scientist is an example of why. The man warned Congress back in 1988 about the perils of global warming has been under assault ever since he turned activist. Despite his role as a leading scientist and head of the NASA Gordon Institute for Space Studies, his name has been dragged through the mud by global warming sceptics. His arrest last month prompted the New York Times headline “Does NASA’s James Hansen Still Matter?”
What are the responsibilities of those who know to act? And what are the consequences if they do?
There have been some blips and blurps over the past few weeks on the greenmuseum blog as we settle into this new, fancy-pants version of WordPress. It didn’t like our old theme. So we changed to this one. It’s Green. To mark the occasion, here’s a link to an excellent interview of Maja and Reuben Fowkes of translocal.org, with discussion of everything from Sustainable Art with capital letters to curator Nicolas Bourriaud, pictured above. A quote:
In general we prefer to talk about the sustainability of art,
rather than Sustainable Art with capital letters, as our
primary interest is in the implications of a broad notion
of sustainability for the whole of contemporary art,
rather than just a niche area, such as is associated with
the term Environmental Art. Artists that consider the
ethical aspects of their formal decisions, such as what are
the implications of the use of animals in art or of people
in community art projects, are in that sense giving
precedence to ethics, rather than aesthetics.
Some while ago I did an interview with Siân Ede, Director of Arts at the Gulbenkian Foundation. This week I finally got around to transcribing it and posting it up on the main arts and ecology website. She was particularly smart when it came to addressing the objectives of the RSA Arts & Ecology website here:
People think there must be a use for art in issues around the environment – and we believe there is – but quite often they misconstrue what that use is.
Yes. Artists never use the word “use”. What Kant says about art is it’s purposiveness without a purpose. And it is a response to the world in any number of interesting different ways because all the artists are looking at it slightly differently. So there is a fundamental problem for me, and I think for the RSA too, and for the Arts Council, about asking artists to make things that have a utility, that are issue-based, in the jargon. You’ll get people like Cornelia Parker saying “as an individual I am very moved by the politics and the ethics
Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, Cornelia Parker 1991
of environmental issues, but I can’t do that in my art.” It’s not how it works. Because the arts are much more complex and do not have a particular purpose.
Obviously there will be some artworks that have a particular purpose, and interestingly the attitude to nature that we hold enshrined because of Romanticism, means that we are now aware that nature is no longer the nature that it was. Romanticism came about in response to the industrialisation of the countryside. Now we know nature is no longer the sublime, the transcendent, the beautiful, the God-given. It is tainted. It is sad. It is ending.
You can’t say, “Hail to thee, blithe spirit!” any more like Shelley did, without being aware that the lark is in decline. If you read the Shelley again you read it with this new awareness and you bring this awareness to it.
Is there a problem then with a project like Arts & Ecology – or is there only a problem if you think about it in terms of “use”?
Oh, subtle question. I mean, you could say, arts and sport, or arts and economics, couldn’t you? And arts and anything? In fact my book Art and Science is part of a series of books that are art and anything… Art and Medicine, Art and Sex, and in a way you’re just making an interpretive selection. “Ok, let’s look towards all the art that looks at the environment, and look at environmental issues.” Which is different from being an agenda given to artists. Of course, how can you not make art about the environment? Nobody’s isolated.
So Arts & Ecology, orArt and Science, gives you a pair of critical glasses through which to look?