Week 3

For this weeks readings, we dwelled into Ecological Art and the research of macrocosm. Wilson listed that the territories surrounding ecology were not only limited to the environment, but that ecology covered a “broad range consisting from the interdependencies of the cell to the relationships of humans to the environment.”

Descartes dualism claimed that all organisms except for humans were mechanisms. Scientists believed that when theories were established, the behavior of organisms could be “mathematically explainable through chemistry and physics.” The counter theory to Descartes dualism is vitalism, which suggested living matter contained a special vital force that inert objects did not have. Vitalists did not believe organisms could be reduced to mechanisms, as the mechanists did. During the 1920’s, the term “Organicism” was coined to suggest an organism could be whole while knowing the wholeness is not a mysterious concept that could not be solved or proven and that it can be understood with the right analysis. Wilson has us questioning how we as artists can integrate art and science; in this case ecology. The debate between the mechanists and the vitalists shows us a gap between the two cultures. We must convert scientific questions such as, why doesn’t a plant grow in this area, into artistic challenges.

Wilson goes on to talk on how ecological art projects can be hard to distinguish from political or scientifically motivated ones. However, I believe that ecological art does not have to be classified as its own category but instead merged with that of science and community service. In Mel Chin’s Revival field project, she managed to reclaim a landfill in an attempt to detoxify the six square feet of land. She also planted six plants that are known for extracting heavy metals from the earth.During the mid 1960’s, Alan Sonfist created a project named “Time Landscapes” which managed to create urban parks in order to restore areas to their natural state as if humans never intervened. As a result, he was able to show us what the area looked like in a different era. Another example of ecological art coinciding with community service is the “nine mile project” which featured Tim Collins, Reiko Goto, and Bob Bingham. They created the nine mile project which reclaims a site previously used as a dumping ground for steel industry industrial waste. Wilson explains that it “simultaneously explores the aesthetics of public spaces and ecological science. These are prime examples of art making a difference using the science of ecology to identify model applications of sustainable and alternative approaches to urban spaces.

There are also challenges involving the public and government. One of the points made was that in Christo’s “Over the River”, which included translucent canopies to be draped over the Arkansas river, many people of the public protested Christo’s project. They believed that the project would harm nearby wildlife and other means. Christo however has explained in detail that there would be no harm done, and that cooperation with natural wildlife services and the government were ongoing. He intends to fund the project with his and his fellow artists currency and will make reparations if things were to go wrong.

In this chapter, we see multiple examples of ecology being used in different ways in order to improve and revitalize the environment. The study of ecology shares a common interest in human well-being along with benefits to the environment.

-David Wang


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