ecoartscotland has just published a pair of blogs by Dr. Wallace Heim reviewing two important publications on art-science collaborations focused on the environment. Wallace very kindly also looked at Thames and Hudson’s new book Art & Ecology Now. Below is her response.
There’s a confusion in form in Andrew Brown’s Art & Ecology Now, one that reflects on the book’s perspective on its subject matter. It is a printed book. It needs methods of navigation through the pages that provide the reader, without the benefit of internet links, to move around its layers. In other words, a sufficient table of contents. Art & Ecology Now is a compilation of the works of dozens of artists, but the artists are not listed in the table of contents. There is an alphabetised list with some websites and an index at the end, but you can’t click a link in a book. Knowing whose work Brown thought worth representing requires a hit and miss ruffling through pages. This may seem a small point, but the communicative effect is of obfuscation.
So, with respect to the artists whose work is included, here they are under their section headings:
Benoit Aquin; Yao Lu; Nadav Kander; Daniel Beltrá; Bright Ugochukwu Eke; HeHe; Ravi Agarwal; Edgar Martins; Marjolijn Dijkman; Katie Holten; Suky Best; Andrej Zdravič; Erika Blumenfeld; Rúri; Haubitz+Zoche; Tea Mäkipää; David Maisel; Susannah Sayler & Edward Morris; Rigo 23; Mitch Epstein; Joel Sternfeld
Chris Drury; David Buckland; Katie Paterson; Susan Derges; Buster Simpson; Klaus Weber; Tim Knowles; Luke Jerram; Rivane Neuenschwander; Wilhelm Scheruebl; Henrik Håkansson; Sabrina Raaf; Chiara Lecca; Liu Bolin; Berndnaut Smilde
Heather Ackroyd & Dan Harvey; Brian Collier; Alexandra Regan Toland; Alison Turnbull; Mark Fairnington; Brandon Ballengée; Janine Randerson; Lise Autogena & Joshua Portway; Layla Curtis; Baily, Corby & Mackenzie; United Visual Artists; Lucy & Jorge Orta; Maria Thereza Alves
Naoya Hatakeyama; Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla; Andrea Polli; Chris Jordan; Alejandro Durán; Heather & Ivan Morison; Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo; Svetlana Ostapovici; Eva Jospin; Simon Draper; Lara Almárcegui; Matt Costello
And here are the ecological artists named in the introductory text:
Mel Chin; Agnes Denes; Olafur Eliasson; Andy Goldsworthy; Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison; Michael Heizer; Nancy Holt; Lynn Hull; Patricia Johanson; Richard Long; Walter De Maria; Kathryn Miller; Dennis Oppenheim; Giuseppe Penone; Robert Smithson; Alan Sonfist; James Turrell; Mierle Laderman Ukeles; Garcia Uriburu; herman de vries.
This list represents the better part of the book, each artist providing a starting point for a reader. Should a reader also be unfamiliar with art history and ecological thought, though, the introductory text provides a bare, formulaic account of both. There is no movement of ideas in the book. There is the mention of, for example, how works may be challenging conventional ideas of beauty, or the dilemmas posed by photography in situations of conflict and suffering, but these are presented anecdotally. The accounts of ecological thought are generalised around activism, representation, values and participation, and are given sparse treatment. The text that accompanies many of the artists’ pages reads as though poorly edited versions of text or publicity material that may have been supplied by artists. Critical commentary is, most often, absent.
The book may be intended for a ‘new’ and ‘now’ audience, or as informed entertainment. If it does entice some readers to learn more, people from a general arts or public readership, it has fulfilled a purpose. But new readers and artists are vital to the continual generation of art and ecology. They are too important to be presented with poor research. An unintended consequence of the book is the challenge it sets for those, including myself, writing about art and ecology but only within academia or the confines of the field, to write outside those boundaries in whatever form is necessary.
Art & Ecology Now by Andrew Brown. Published by Thames and Hudson. ISBN: 978-0-500-23916-2
Dr. Wallace Heim writes and researches on performance and ecology, and she does this in many places. Her academic slant is philosophical, but she works across disciplines to analyse the experience of performance, of art and of social practice arts, to consider how these events shape ecological and social understanding.
She recently published Landing Stages. Selections from the Ashden Directory 2000 – 2014, an ebook marking the archiving of the Ashden Directory and Ashdenizen, websites focused on ecology, climate and culture which she co-edited. Landing Stages can be downloaded from www.ashdendirectory.org.uk.
Her current writing is on conflict; on sense and extinction; and on how a place can learn.
She has published in Performance Research and in Readings in Performance and Ecology. She is on the Advisory Board of the upcoming publication series Performing Landscapes. She co-edited Nature Performed, and co-curated the conference/event BETWEEN NATURE. She taught on the ‘Art & Ecology’ MA at Dartington College of Arts. She has also worked as a set designer.