If you’ve heard the term Eco – Art, you might be wondering what this means? What is Eco – Art, how do you practice it, and what does the artist hope to share or evoke within his audience? What role does Eco – Art take in the art world?
What is Eco-Art?
Eco-art is artwork which concentrates on the ecology. Practitioners see the whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. Ecology looks at those ways that the many different life forms in the world intertwine in order to create a living planet. Each playing a role in maintaining the whole. Therefore, when one aspect of the planet comes under threat, all beings are threatened.
Eco-Artists see human beings as a part of the greater ecology or whole. Instead of standing outside as a separate and more advanced species, the person is a part of a planet of living beings. Many refer to the more – than – human world to erase the divide between people and nature.
Although land artists focus on earth and natural materials, Eco – Artists extend this discussion into man-made systems such as the economy, politics, colonialism and the education system. They note how these different aspects of society have created a deep divide between people and nature. Eco – Artists, therefore, explore how our common social beliefs or values have added to the crisis which exists at present. They, therefore, work towards creating an awareness of a need for social change.
Unlike land artists, Eco – Artists are activists. They use their artworks in order to create a deeper awareness or develop a sense of awakening. The goal is to work towards a sustainable world where all beings are given value. Many works towards creating a soulful awareness of their audience or participants. This awareness motivates a deep reflection on the way we live with life. Artists seek to motivate a series of small actions which will create a movement towards environmental protection.
What are some examples of an Eco – Art Project?
The social sculpture research unit at Oxford Brooks University runs a project called ‘The University of the Trees’ which aims to create a deep sense of awakening about the value of other beings. This project aims to inspire new forms of learning which are open to all people. Participants share deep experiences in the presence of other beings. The goal is to create an aesthetic or awakening which contrasts with the anaesthesia of modern day society. Once participants ‘awaken’ to the life around them, they will often be filled with an inner movement or warmth which will inspire a contribution towards a more humane world.
The Agents of Change Project
One project which forms part of the University of the Trees is The Agents of Change Project (www.agentsofchangeproject.blogspot.com). This project was created by James Reed and looks at the modern way of life, and how this has contributed to climate change. Participants stand on the beachfront, wearing bright orange life jackets and holding 3-meter poles. These poles display the projected rise in sea levels (3m in 2107), should climate change continue unabated.
However, the project is also experiential. Agents of Change share and reflect on their own thoughts and feelings about climate change and the environmental crisis. Participants have shared and reflected on the importance of safe public transport, lost forms of indigenous knowledge, access to beauty, sensual knowledge and the role of plastic in creating pollution. In addition, many participants explored the role of agency, listening, trust and safety. Sharing a wish for a better future, participants then formulate a question and stand at the water’s edge in order to engage with the public. Their discussions hope to create a deeper awareness of our earth.
An Eco Art Gallery such as those in SW Florida hope to evoke a sense of environmental citizenship, where people are able to recognize that they are a part of a living community of alternate beings. These beings have equal rights as members of the earth. As human beings, we depend on our connections to earth to breathe, eat food, travel or drink water. As capitalism and a culture of consumerism predominate and the environmental crisis deepens, humanity becomes at risk along with many species who are becoming extinct.
Environmental Citizenship introduces the role of both rights – such as the right to clean air and water, and responsibilities. We have a responsibility to take care of our planet in order to ensure the well being of all others who exist alongside us.
What role does Eco-Art play in the art world?
Eco- Art aims to expand the meaning of art, moving beyond the artist as a romantic but very individual soul. Instead, the artist is seen to be a product of a far greater society, and a part of the more-than-human world. Eco – Art seeks to expand what it means to be an artist. In this way, it moves away from traditional art. Some Eco-Artists, such as Joseph Beuys, believe that all human beings have the potential to be artists, shaping a new society. Art is no longer about the object, but the interconnected messages that can be created when people share and imagine together.
Eco-Art, therefore, expands the practice of what it means to be an artist away from objects and towards insights, imagination and new choices or possibilities. As activists, the Eco – Artist works towards creating a new awareness of our earthy roots. Many different artists acknowledge the deep connections between people and earth, but not all artists work towards radical change in the way we view life, society and how we live in our world. Eco – Artists are therefore unique in their quest for radical change.
Within the art world, Eco – Artists provide a new and emerging opportunity to explore what it means to live in a time of environmental crisis. Their goal is to work towards a more humane and sustainable world. By doing so, they hope to restore the divisions which have been constructed between human beings and their earthly home. Eco – Art is a passionate form of activism which expands our worldviews and raises our consciousness. As we awaken to the world around us, we become artists too.