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Land Art (Smithson, Hiezer) vs. Ecological art (Harrisons, Ukeles, etc):
there is a lack of vocabulary to cover this distinction due to the relative
newness of the shift; practically every landscape painter I see is labeling
him/herself an "environmental artist" which I have a hard time with. Land
and eco work best for me at the moment. In Smithson's defense, he was
working on a lot of ideas for reclaiming degraded land like mine sites when
he was killed in a plane wreck; I think one was realized in Holland.
Hiezer has done one large reclamation project (see "reclamation art"
website) although he denies any interest in the environmental implications
The Harrisons work: brought up by the 2 Elizabeths, I think. Few artists
are working anywhere near the scale of the problems we are addressing; they
are a shining example. The story on how they began I heard from Newton was
that he was lecturing on minimal art to students who were not responding.
He asked what was wrong, and they said "we get it, but why should we care?"
He said he had to think about it, and came back to the next class several
days later to say "You're right. From now on I will only make art about
issues of Survival". I think he has succeeded to an astounding degree; the
two are now addressing whole countries, beginning to work on whole
continents. Newton and I discussed how social, economic and political
policies as well as environmental policies tend to all be part of "the war
against nature", so such things as child and woman battering and
clearcutting forests are part of the same attitude.
Elizabeth R. Thanks for the profound statement and insight. I
might offer a possibility that the metaphor could also be reversed--that
interdisciplinary education may be a model for ecological thinking. I'm
currently watching the video MINDWALK, a film of a dialog on converting to
ecological thinking based on Fritof Capra's writing.
Butterfly Gardens: Sharon and others, with the reservations offered by Ron
H, I have seen successful schoolyard gardens. One way to begin is to plant
buddlia (butterfly plant) the first year and monitor it closely. Identify
all the butterflies who are attracted to it, investigate which nectar and
host plants they need, and begin to plant those the next year. For gardens
I have worked on, we added a logpile sculpture for species which hibernate
as adults, and a sand/mineral/water pit. Great opportunities for artistic
Ron--can we have more information on your river project?
Connecting kids to their "native place"when it's a desert or praire or
forest with "nothing there"--an idea I had from Ron's suggestion to get
kids to look really closely at a site and from the grubworm offerings.
Begin with a small box--a small shoebox at largest. have students examine
the site and create representations (3D or 2D) of EVERY SPECIES, FLORA AND
FAUNA to start a diorama. When they have finished, send them back to
find species they missed the first time. Repeat until the box is full and
overflowing. The idea is that they can NEVER find or identify every
species --it is simply too complex and too full. For older students,
perhaps with a science teacher, create a life web (maybe inside the box
lid) to show the connections between species. To examine sites at
different scales, add magnifying glasses, telescope, toilet paper binocs as
suggested. To share observations, hang paper tubes on sticks or posts to
"select views" to share (as in Nancy Holt's Missoula Ranch Locators" or
have one child be a "camera" for another child. The "camera" is guided
around the site blindfolded or with the partner covering his/her eyes, then
the partner opens the "shutter" to give the view.
Cathy--great idea. need a volunteer coach?
Lisa--thanks for clarifying q'z about my work. The raptor roosts have
mostly been out on the plains where there are few trees, and those trees
(in riparian areas, dry stream beds, etc) have been taken over humans as
prime development land. Then humans introduced power poles where birds get
zapped. Sport 4wheel driving has made ground nesting perilous; killing off
large predators has put the predator-prey base out of balance and impacted
ground nesting. So the roosts are to a large degree to compensate for human
impact on the birds. A few Swainson's hawks in Wyoming have taken to
nesting in trees in towns, becoming suburbanites, if there is a nearby
ground squirrel population to support them, but the species has suffered
major population losses on their winter grounds in Argentina due to
pesticide use. Ferruginous Hawks are highly sensitive to disturbance and
can't seem to make it around humans. To the question of aesthetics, I
don't believe we can reproduce nature and most efforts look very artificial
to me. Maybe I use that to justify indulging my aesthetic sensibility; it
sounds spacy to say that the site tells me the appropriate form but I often
feel that. I may also differentiate (to my advantage) between ecological
impact and visual, aesthetic impact which makes an ecological contribution.
Besides, I find it more interesting to defend this decision than to try to
defend the "where's the art" side that results from doing work that tries
to replicate nature. I am working as an artist, and not as a wildlife
Arizona Owl--can somebody give me more information on this bird? Sounds
like a perfect opportunity for students to examine and be involved in a