As students return to the university and to education institutions throughout the world, how will all these places take on board what has happened recently? I'm of course very aware of the dangers of Covid19 and the worries that students have about moving into working in studios even with social distancing, but the virus is only one of a complex series of issues that we need to keep aware of if as artists we are going to respond to one of the most threatening situations humans have ever faced.
I realise it's hard to prioritise but my own feeling is that the most important thing we need to be looking at is the environment. As a species we are in danger of eliminating ourselves by destroying the very spaces we live in. Global warming is already causing massive environmental damage, from the forest fires of the Western USA to the huge glacier melts of Greenland. Globally our wildlife species are rapidly dying out, and here in the UK alone more than two-fifths of our wildlife have seen significant declines in recent decades, insects in particular have been decimated by the use of chemicals on our farming land. The problem is very much to do with the fact that humans have seen the world as a series of resources to mine, rather than a system within which we are an integral part.
Covid19 is itself a result of our using animals as food and keeping them in such conditions that the chance of interspecies viral transmission is heightened. We need to change our ways or we will become extinct too. The first responsibility of all educators is to help with the process of growing self awareness and at the root of so many of our problems, be it 'Black Lives Matter', global warming, deforestation, pandemics and the lack of spiritual wellbeing that seems to have resulted in the fact that so many of us suffer from depression, is a feeling of unconnectedness and a sense that what we are doing doesn't matter. If we see other people or anything that is not us as in effect 'alien' and different, we will abuse that person or thing and treat it as an object that can simply be used, in reality we are deeply interconnected to everything.
If we can begin, step by step to rebuild a sense of that interconnectedness with everything, we can I believe gradually heal both ourselves and the world, but we have to start somewhere. Therefore this, my first post of the academic year, is simply devoted to setting out some connections to resources that I think are interesting. Some are connections to individual artists that are working with sustainability issues and others to organisations that I think have information that could be useful. I hope you will find at least one starting point that might help you develop a way forward during what are both exciting and distressing times.
Some of you may want to use these thoughts as a way of redirecting your art practice so that it responds to these issues and others may decide to keep your art practice separate from concerns that derive from the development of your individual moral and social responsibility. Whether or not to make art about these issues is not that important, what is important is that as human beings we all take a good look at ourselves and try to take some responsibility for rebuilding what we have broken. As Suzanna Clarke put it when speaking about her recent novel, 'Piranesi', "...the divide is between people who see the world for what they can use it for, and the idea that the world is important because it is not human, it's something we might be part of a community with, rather than just a resource".
(Guardian Review interview, Sat. 12th Sept 2020)
Soil City A good place to start if like me you think soil is vitally important to a sustainable future.
Invisible Dust Lots of links to both artists and scientists
Creative Carbon Scotland Lots of supportive information on what you can do
Centre for contemporary art and the natural world Exploring new understandings of our place within nature.
Deveron Projects A place to see how a single town has embraced art and climate change awareness
Arts Catalyst A commissioning body that specialises in arts and the environment
FICTILIS, Timothy Furstnau and Andrea Steves, the 'True cost market'
CLUI (Center for Land Use Interpretation)
Livin Studio, Katharina Unger and Julia Kasinger,
Individual artists: Olafur Eliasson, Kim Abeles, Jeff Hong, Lillian Ball, Subhankar Banerjee, Iain Baxter&, Bobbe Besold, Cape Farewell, Mary Ellen Carroll (Precipice Alliance), Brian Collier, Xavier Cortada, Gayle Crites, Agnes Denes, Steven Deo, Rebecca DiDomenico, Future Farmers (Amy Franceschini and Michael Swaine), Bill Gilbert, Isabella Gonzales, Green Fabrication (via Rick Sommerfeld, University of Colorado, College of Architecture and Planning), Newton Harrison & Helen Mayer Harrison, Judit Hersko, Lynne Hull, Pierre Huyghe, Basia Irland, Patricia Johanson, Chris Jordan, Marguerite Kahrl, Janet Koenig & Greg Sholette, Eve Andrée Laramée, Learning Site (Cecilia Wendt and Rikke Luther), Ellen Levy, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Patrick Marold, Natasha Mayers, Jane McMahan, Mary Miss, Joan Myers, Beverly Naidus, Chrissie Orr, Melanie Walker & George Peters, Andrea Polli, Marjetica Potrc, Aviva Rahmani, Rapid Response, Buster Simpson, Joel Sternfeld, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Ruth Wallen, Sherry Wiggins, The Yes Men, and Shai Zakai.
Suzi Gablik: The Reenchantment of Art
Sacha Kagan: Art and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity
Mike Berners-Lee: There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years
Mike Berners-Lee: How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything
Donna Haraway: Staying with the Trouble
Barad, K (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning New York: Duke University Press
Bennett, J (2010) Vibrant Matter: A political ecology of things New York: Duke University Press
Bogost, I. (2012). Alien Phenomenology. Ann Arbor, MI: Open Humanities Press
Harman, G. (2011). The Quadruple Object. United Kingdom: Zero Books
Morton, T. (2013) Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Previous posts related to sustainability