The ecoartspace blog will feature artist profiles and reviews of exhibitions, as well as writings on ecological systems. We are interested in presenting work that artists are making in collaboration with scientists, and poetics including spoken word, opera, and performative work. Painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, drawing, and printmaking are all welcome media. Speculative architecture and public art are also encourage. Submissions for posts can be sent to info@ecoartspace.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

You can access the previous ecoartspace blog HERE (2008-2019)

ecoartspace, LLC

Mailing address: PO Box 5211 Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502
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  • Saturday, October 10, 2020 12:31 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    Helène Aylon (American, 1931-2020), The Earth Ambulance, 1982 ©Estate of Helène Aylon

    But Is It Ecofeminist?
    by Mary Jo Aagerstoun, PhD

    Two exhibitions of art by women opened simultaneously in June 2020 within the menacing shadow of the COVID 19 pandemic, one in Santa Fe: Performative Ecologies, curated by Patricia Watts, at the new media gallery Currents 826, on June 9, 2020, and the other in New York City: ecofeminism(s), at the Thomas Erben Gallery, curated by Monika Fabijanska, on June 16, 2020. The shows’ appearances—the audiences mainly viewed the exhibitions online—also coincided with the righteous mobilizations and demands of Black Lives Matter spilling across the US in reaction to the murder of George Floyd by police. (1)

    Neither ecofeminism(s) nor Performative Ecologies included works by Black women artists. A review of ecofeminism(s) in The Brooklyn Rail vividly underscored this absence. (2) The review’s author, Darla Migan, also asserts that an ecofeminism show foregrounding white women proved the ecofeminist movement and philosophy is “anti-intersectional” and “essentialist.” This point of view is not new and has stuck to the ecofeminist movement since its beginnings.

    It was in this context that I received Patricia Watts’s invitation to write this essay on the two exhibitions for the online cultural platform, ecoartspace.(4) As I prepared to write the review I communicated with both Watts and Monika Fabijanska, asking them how they had chosen the artworks for their shows and why they had not included works by Black woman artists.(5) They both responded with reasons for the absence of Black women artists’ work and with statements of resolve that they intended to rectify this absence as they moved forward with their respective curatorial practices. They also offered detailed descriptions of their intentions for the exhibitions and their criteria for selecting the works.

    Darla Migan's critique of Black women artists’ absence from ecofeminism(s) is legitimate and can be equally applied to Performative Ecologies. There certainly are Black women artists who address relationships with the environment in a range of ways and whose works might have fit (easily or uncomfortably) in either show. Among these are the philosophically dense abstractions and performances of Torkwase Dyson, the lyrical, landscape-based photo-narratives of Allison Janae Hamilton, and the community-embeddedness of LaToya Ruby Frazier’s 2016 Flint Project. The inclusion of Black artists’ perspectives in future exhibitions of art by women concerned with environmental damage and crises will be something to look forward to!(6)

    While an in-depth exploration of whether ecofeminist analysis is an appropriate lens through which to consider works by Black women artists concerned with environmental issues would be welcome, this essay will not elaborate on the absence of their work in these shows, aside from asserting the legitimacy of the criticism leveled by Migan. This essay will consider whether the works in these exhibitions engage ecofeminism, the relationship they might have with essentialism and whether they can be seen as deploying ritualistic characteristics to oppose and resist.

    As I began to think about all this, I wondered if the curators' intentions could be divined by considering their exhibition titles. Watts’s title, Performative Ecologies, seems gender-neutral, though all the artists in her show were women. She intentionally selected self-performative, ritualistic works where the artists appear alone (and sometimes nude) in landscapes, suggesting a possible essentialist valence that could connect with some of ecofeminism’s early tendencies to make strong, frequently celebratory linkages between biological women and the alleged feminine identity of Nature.

    Fabijanska's title, ecofeminism(s), suggests the curator intended to foreground ecofeminist politics and activism in her show. Yet, in an email to me, Fabijanska states she did not intend the show to be "a piece of theoretical writing," because she expected her audience to be unfamiliar with either feminist or ecological art.(7) She wanted instead “to emphasize certain similarities and differences, to create the energy of pluses and minuses (think batteries): shapes, textures, sizes, colors, and content” to encourage gallery visitors to think deeply about what they were seeing.

    Though Watts does not claim her exhibition engages ecofeminism, she has long pursued an interest in how artists (primarily women, but some men as well) place themselves in landscapes, alone, and in performative ways.(8) Emphasis on imagery of female artists, often nude, embedded ritualistically in landscapes, could suggest a fixed, universal—essentialist—relationship between Woman and Nature. At the same time, the artists’ intentions, or the works’ manifestations themselves, can also be seen as (directly or tangentially) political or activist.

    Active opposition to all forms of oppression has been ecofeminists’ focus throughout the evolution of the movement and its discourses. Ecofeminists point to this focus as evidence of ecofeminism’s firmly embedded history of intersectionality. Could activist, resistant, or oppositional intent or manifestation influence whether a ritualistic work is interpreted as ecofeminist, but not essentialist, even when ritualistic and spiritual aspects are dominant? What makes a work spiritual or ritualistic? And how are we to interpret works that suggest activist intent but convey this in ritualistic ways?

    Scholar of ritual Ellen Dissanayake identifies particular characteristics of ritual.(9)  She posits that ritual is characterized by “unusual behavior that sets it off from the ordinary or everyday” and that the place where ritual is enacted is “made special” by such behavior. She argues that “[t]ime, space, activity, dress, and paraphernalia are all made special or extraordinary by unusual behavior, and so we can speak of ritual time, ritual space, ritual activity, ritual dress, ritual paraphernalia. . .” Works in both shows display various combinations of these characteristics.

    For example, some artists in both exhibitions choose to perform in, or refer to, damaged and even dangerous sites or to perform potentially physically dangerous or risky acts. Such choices draw attention to these sites, clear evidence of political and activist intent. If attention is not drawn to a situation of damage, the damage may never be addressed.


    Dominique Mazeaud (French American 1942-), The Great Cleansing of the Rio Grande 1987-1994 ©Estate of Dominique Mazeaud. Courtesy of the artist

    One work of this type, in Performative Ecologies, is Dominique Mazeaud’s seven-year-long The Great Cleansing of the Rio Grande (1987-1994). Repetition and endurance are characteristics of ritual, and are foregrounded in Great Cleansing. Mazeaud’s cleanups occurred in regular monthly sequences, stretching out over years, during which her community became increasingly involved in the project. Community members joined Mazeaud regularly in urging elected officials to improve enforcement of anti-littering regulations.

    Mazeaud's Great Cleansing also spawned activist involvement after the project ended. In one of these later activist interventions, in 2001, as an act of opposition to the war in Iraq, she sent a box containing “gifts from the river,” children's shoes and other "talismanic" articles collected during an earlier Great Cleansing, to one of New Mexico's US Senators. The items referred to the deaths of thousands of children during US bombings.(10) The act of placing objects together in ways that suggest the arrangement itself has power is consonant with Dissanayake’s observations that objects become ritualized when utilized for a particular purpose that is not the objects’ original one.


    Fern Shaffer (American, 1944-), Nine Year Ritual (1995-2003), The Swamp, 9th Ritual, September 9, 2003, Cashe River Basin, Illinois © Fern Shaffer. Courtesy of the artist

    Another multiyear work in Performative Ecologies, Nine Year Ritual (1995-2003), by performance artist Fern Shaffer, a self-identifying feminist healer, took place on a succession of seriously damaged sites. The artist wore a costume suggestive of an African shaman, and the piece demonstrates several aspects of ritual as described by Dissanayake. Among the more recent works in Performative Ecologies is Mary Mattingly's Pull (2013), in which the artist, who self-identifies as an ecofeminist, first documented all her possessions, researching every detail about each item's provenance and manufacture, then gathered and bound the items into several large "boulders" and ritually pulled them, alone, through New York City's streets. In this way, Mattingly activates ritual processes of temporality and endurance to bring to sharp visibility the weight of human overconsumption and its exponentially expanding impacts on all habitats—clearly an activist intent.

    Mary Mattingly (American, 1979-), Pull, 2013 © Mary Mattingly. Courtesy of the artist

    continues here

  • Thursday, October 01, 2020 12:45 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    The ecoartspace October 2020 e-Newsletter is HERE

  • Friday, September 18, 2020 8:56 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)
      Sue McNally stained glass sculptures embedded in the Fruitlands Museum landscape

    The Bounties of Nature Bring the Artist Visions of a Colorful Future

    Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein

    Just an hour’s drive outside of the city of Boston/Cambridge, one finds oneself amongst rolling hills of green, colonial houses and quaint farmland. This is where the Fruitland’s Museum is situated; a museum of American art emphasizing the symbiosis of nature and artistic practice on the lands of a former utopian community developed by two writers in the mid-1800s. The flowing earth meets a cluster of historic buildings surrounded by trails of forest interwoven with artworks.


    Jane Marsching in her apron at the beginning of the walk

    Then, meet Jane Marsching, dressed in a handmade futuristic apron of dark blue, neon green and silver with glittering trim. She stands as a proclamation toward self-sufficient, net-zero artistry in defiance of inhumane and ecologically unsound supply chains. Jane quotes the “New Eden” community of Alcott & Lane who originally founded Fruitland’s. By provoking the group of 10 gatherers who surround her toward the urgent need for future thinking during this Age of the Anthropocene, she hopes they will overcome a paralysis of growth toward a more positive and constructive future.

    Ink foraging backpack with original typographical woodblocks and Solar oven cooking bark ink

    Exhibited in the main hall is her backpack with invented Helvetica-based typography printing blocks, gathering vestibules and ladder. The backpack was originally meant as a communal activity to carry through the woods, no one person carrying the weight alone. She “takes folx into the forest to dream and print radical imaginings of what is possible” while leading the group on various meditative and ink-making activities. Outside of the farmhouse of Fruitland’s, she has made a solar oven to create her inks with gathered rainwater, foraged materials from the lands and an enamel pot as an open-air ink making lab.


    Printed banner hangs in yellow trail and Marsching’s results of site-specific ink samples

    Her inks, foraged with care, are created using materials from the landscape. They include wild grapes, sumac, barks and pokeberries. Jane reminds the group of the importance of gathering only what has fallen, the plants which are weeds, and no more than 10% of the available plant matter at one time to ensure regrowth and abundance. The large banners, which hang in various areas around the museum’s grounds read quotes from contemplative texts such as, “We are dreaming of a time when the land might give thanks to the people” and speak towards a sustainable vision of the often bleakly presented future.
        

    Jane Marsching explains the rules of sustainable foraging

    Jane insists on an ephemeral practice. By using natural inks that are light sensitive and wear in the weather they are exposed to, she emphasizes work that grows out of the relationship with time, place and humans. Her goal is to influence this particular moment rather than a moment 50 years from now.

    Forest meditation under Jane Marsching hand-printed banner

    Yet, as we gather together on the forest floor, amongst strangers in person for the first time in over half a year, and meditate to the sounds of chirping, birdsongs, wind passing through leaves and machine gun practice ranges, there is a resounding influence taking place. Jane guides us to listen with intention and think about a hopeful future. It is a call to creative arms, to dream larger than the boundaries that inhibit this vision; to ideate in order to activate.

    Close up of yellow trail forest

    The work is not ephemeral at all. Instead, the effects of existing together and reimagining the future transforms a time of challenge and turns it into an intellectual pursuit. Each moment counts to create that different future 50 years come, the trees themselves, will stand as witnesses to the choices that are made next. 

  • Tuesday, September 01, 2020 11:42 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    The ecoartspace September 2020 e-Newsletter is HERE

  • Thursday, August 27, 2020 8:41 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    The domestic and the global: Emma Nicolson on how the arts will be at the heart of Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh

    interview by Chris Fremantle

    Originally posted on the eco/art/scot/land website August 8, 2020.

    Emma Nicolson, Head of Creative Programmes, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (photo courtesy of RGBE)

    Emma Nicolson, Head of Creative Programmes, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), kindly agreed to be interviewed for ecoartscotland. The interview happened by email during July 2020 and is focused by the reinvention of Inverleith House as ‘Climate House’, moving beyond the 20th century idea of the gallery as ‘white cube’ and reconnecting with the context of the Botanic Gardens. This new approach is happening alongside a collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries in London, developed as a result of match-making by Outset Partners.

    Chris Fremantle (CF): Can you tell us a bit about what Inverleith House will be like once it is ‘Climate House’?

    Emma Nicolson (EN): We are confronting a pivotal moment in the role of the arts within Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). Climate House reimagines Inverleith House as a gallery for the 21st century, igniting a new arts strategy across the Garden, and establishing RBGE as a visionary institution within Climate Crisis.

    This marks the beginning of a three-year vision for Climate House which will act as a pilot project to be reviewed after that time. It’s underpinned by ‘By Leaves We Survive’, a new arts strategy for Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. We are focusing on the ‘21st century explorer’, inspiring discoveries between artists, scientists, horticulturists, scholars, activists, entrepreneurs, policymakers and visitors and local communities.

    Ellie Harrison, Early Warning Signs, 2011, installed outside Inverleith House 2020

    The Climate Crisis (and the pandemic) isn’t the first crisis for RBGE. RBGE was established in 1670 during an era of famine, plague and witch trials, by two physicians Robert Sibbald and Andrew Balfour. Their vision was to create a garden that would supply the apothecaries and physicians of Edinburgh with medicinal plants to help improve the wellbeing of the people of Edinburgh.

    Now, four centuries later, our vision is to transform Inverleith House into Climate House  – an institute for ecology at the edge, reconnecting our gallery both to its roots as a centre for medical innovation and its future as a hub that will  promote the synergy between art and science as we face one of the most significant challenges of the 21 century.

    Climate House will be an intimate place for contemporary art that is embedded within the natural world. The physical manifestation of Climate House is not set in stone, conceptually it will be a place to explore the future of our planet through art. 

    CF: What will we experience?

    EN: My vision for Climate House is that it will be a place you want to dwell in, as soon as you step into the building you get a sense of a warm welcome, a sense of home for art.


    Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh

    For those not familiar with Inverleith House, it has a rich history of displaying modern and contemporary art. Originally built as a house for Sir James Rocheid, a prominent agriculturalist of the 19th Century.  The house and a portion of his land was sold to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1877. The house then became the home to the Regis Keeper of the gardens. In 1960, the house was turned into the inaugural home of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and in 1986 it became the official art gallery of the Botanic Garden developing a renowned exhibition programme of contemporary and botanical art.

    Despite Inverleith House’s deep historic relationship to the gardens it has become untethered from the organisation’s wider activities in recent years. Isolated in part by the 20th Century approach to displaying contemporary art. We want to move on from the ‘white cube’ of yesteryear, taking a different tack that reconnects the house to its surroundings, but also to transform the house into a gallery fit for the pressures and urgent challenges of the 21st century. The most pressing of which is the Climate Crisis. Inverleith House’s proximity to the world of plants; the richness of scholarship, inquiry and praxis associated with RGBE means we have resources at our disposal to begin to think about the role of a gallery in the age of Climate Crisis. Art and culture have a valuable and important part to play in linking objects, images, processes, people, locations, histories and discourse in a physical space to open up dialogues and imaginaries that we see as critical to connecting audiences to this crisis.

    Our plan is to work with artists like Christine Borland, Cooking Sections, and Keg de Souza to transform Inverleith House into a Climate House and create a new vision. Inverleith House is a house in a botanic garden; a garden made for explorers of the past. We want to transform Inverleith House into a home. A home for the 21st century explorer. This explorer listens to the voices less heard, refuses to conform to the boundary between culture and nature, and is willing to imagine ways of living for the future.

    Continue reading HERE

    Submitted by ecoartspace member Chris Fremantle, Scotland.

  • Tuesday, August 11, 2020 10:27 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    (Still from “Countryside, The Future at the Guggenheim” introductory video)

    Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein 

    Countryside, The Future at the Guggenheim Museum (dates to be announced) could not be more relevant to a suddenly localized population experiencing new ways of interacting and work-life environments without being bound to urbanity. In this age of a digital shift toward more remote interactions, people are moving from cities to the countryside seeking refuge, isolation and expansiveness. According to a recent Washington Post article titled “The Pandemic is Making People Reconsider City Living…” by Heather Kelly, some real estate agents have experienced an increase of 300% in inquiries related to suburban and countryside areas. According to this exhibition, only 2% of the world is made of occupied cities and the countryside is defined as a space of cultivation. With increased dependence on the countryside for agriculture and resource support, perhaps the prospect of country cultivation is exactly where societies need to focus. Though perhaps this is simply part of the ideology of the countryside as holistic and regenerative that the exhibition explores in its semiotics stalls.

    Rem Koolhaas is described by Sarah Whiting as a maker who chooses a topic that is right in front of you that you do not realize and shows how important it is.  (Still from “Countryside, The Future at the Guggenheim” introductory video)

    And, it's exactly this paradox that puts Rem Koolhaas alongside the AMO and Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) at the forefront of a pertinent topic in The Countryside. With the intention of having an information-based, almost documentary variety of a show, Koolhaas proudly states “This is not an art exhibition.” And, how true to life that is; Countryside, The Future does not create a reflection of reality or an unanticipated visual critique for the purposes of activation, instead it takes an almost journalistic approach in describing an already existing place and dependency paradigm that's been given very little attention by artists and planners alike. Furthermore, the “Future” is now, where, as a result of the current circumstances the world shares, the countryside is proving particularly important.

    Though I was unable to visit the exhibition in person, and the Guggenheim has been closed to visitors since the beginning of the pandemic in March, just one month after its opening, I spent considerable time with the website coverage behind closed doors. Exhibition design in the digital age allows for a limited, but vibrant exchange of information. Countryside, The Future includes a combination of video shorts, audio guide podcasts, and Photoshop overviews to represent in-person content on their website.


    (Installation View, Countryside, The Future, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 20- August 14, 2020. Photo: David Heald)
     
    Experiencing an exhibition conveniently from home, has its advantages and disadvantages. Seeing an exhibition live allows for total immersion, to explore a space in depth, and to experience three dimensional presentation of images and information. Instead, when presented with an audio guide podcast as a replacement—for someone who prefers a multi-sensory experience, especially at a museum with such an awe striking exhibition space—much is left to the imagination. That said, the online experience is at least better than a book.
       
    (Installation View, Countryside, The Future, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 20- August 14, 2020. Photo: David Heald)

    Perhaps some "visitors" can look at pixelated images on a computer screen and be transported in their minds eye to a street full of noise and raucous smells, in a city that leads to such a unique building as the Guggenheim. One can imagine even further that at the entryway they are met with the transporting aura of tranquility, the open spiraled hall and clerestory lighting. As they do with many of their exhibitions, the Guggenheim chose to place text, in this case a poem by Rem Koolhaas, on the unusually low architectural railing where one might look to counter the intensity of scientific insights encircling them. A curious online viewer might speculate how such an informational, content driven art exhibition with insights on rural living, could be engaged in three dimensions. As one listens to the audio track full of incredible interviews from the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, AMO and colleagues from the GSD, one can sit at their computer and fill the gaps with memories of prior museum visits.
       

    (Installation View, Countryside, The Future, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 20- August 14, 2020. Photo: David Heald)

    Though undeniably revolutionary as an exhibition itself, this show stays behind closed doors without much empathy for the viewer who would like to truly experience it. There are several videos to rent through the website, including one free one by The Institute of Queer Ecology. Metamorphosis is full of magic and prospective theories related to a queer future dictated by nature and renewable energy, and is available to the public one part at a time, without the possibility of watching it in its entirety.

    Still from “Metamorphosis” by The Office of Queer Ecology (https://dis.art/)

    Similar to the statements made in Metamorphosis, regarding the need for new methodologies, it's important that institutions like the Guggenheim innovate and adapt to the growing digital era. From the perspective of a current-day, quarantined viewer, the open-source movement is having a heyday and rightfully so. Now, that the internet is an exclusive portal into the cultural and international world, the viewer is dependent on resources with open access to all information. Unfortunately, the Guggenheim seems to be taking the opposite approach, choosing exclusivity, to the point of being occult and unavailable to the public that supports it.

    Still, the topic itself and the intention of Koolhaas is to elaborate on a very important and much overlooked strategy. Perhaps the Guggenheim, though withholding so much of its exhibition, can inspire the interested to discover the countryside themselves. The natural world is calling us towards its incredible ecosystems and its perseverance in the face of the pandemic. The countryside, as a cultivated landscape, reminds us more than ever of the beautiful symbiotic relationship humans share with other animals and plants. Perhaps Countryside, The Future is a summons for us to show respect and to become more aware of that cohesion; to remind us to look forward, beyond the city limits, into the vast and varied spaces within our reach.

    Still from “Metamorphosis” by The Office of Queer Ecology.

  • Saturday, August 01, 2020 7:49 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    The ecoartspace August 2020 e-Newsletter is HERE

  • Tuesday, July 28, 2020 4:33 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    “Walking is often viewed as an act of resistance, at least in terms of the individual feeling empowered to shed societal expectations, identify tendencies to subjugate nature, and assess the status quo.”

    – Abigail Doan, Environmental artist and researcher

    Walking Libraries

    An interview with environmental artist and researcher Abigail Doan sheds light upon slowing down, walking and observing nature as a form of artistic practice that helps us discover new ways of relating to our surroundings. She proposes such act as means to unearth potential solutions for resiliency and connectedness — both on an individual and collective level — in this critical time of climate change. READ INTERVIEW HERE....

    PHOTOGRAPHY by ABIGAIL DOAN
    INTERVIEW by MONA KIM
    EDITED by MOOWON

  • Wednesday, July 01, 2020 5:31 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    The ecoartspace July 2020 e-Newsletter is HERE

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