After reading the Art and Ecology section about Barbara Westfall's work, I,
like Sharolyn, was left with some serious concerns about ecological art.
I, too, was horrified at treating a tree in such a manner that it would die
slowly in the name of art.
The project, "Daylighting the Woods," was performed at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, arboretum. The project was conceived by the artist as a
way to highlight a restoration process that the naturalists at the
arboretum use to prevent young aspen saplings from overtaking the prairie
grasslands. The arboretum is maintained as a prairie for visitors to come
and learn more about indigenous plants and animals of the region. Since
settlement, over 75% of Wisconsins prairies have been lost to agriculture
and population groth. Girdling, or the stripping away of the bark, kills
the trees nearest the prairie. It was this act or issue that the artist
hoped to draw attention to in order to question the significance of these
Controlled burning, on the other hand, is used to simulate the benefits
produced by this natural process. However, in an arboretum, a natural fire
rarely occurs due to the devastating effects it might produce. Therefore,
naturalists, use fires to replicate the beneficial effects of burning,i.e,
the production of new growth.
My questions about this work are:
>1. Does making a pleasant place to rest outdoors represent art, or does one
>have to claim to be an artist making the "pleasant place to rest" in order for
>it to qualify as art?
>2. Is a gathering of people you arrange (assuming you are an artist) a
Terrific questions! I believe one interpretation of Westfall's project,
"Daylighting the Woods,"is that it is not only the gathering of people in
community or the association of the event with an artist that makes this
process/performance art. It is also the conceptual attributes of the
performance and how these ideas stir the viewers/participants ability to
transform or imagine new possibilities associated with this knowledge.