environmental art?
ecological art?
environmental art?
'environmental art' is a contemporary form of art created by artists who are concerned about local and global environmental situations. It is through their artistic practice that they address the current crises of the environment, the biodiversity and the planetary emergency more globally (Wikipedia).

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The Art of Waste

The issue of waste has been a concern since the sedentary period, but it gained significant attention during the 20th century as consumption and waste production increased dramatically. In Ancient Greece, waste collection and the installation of toilets marked early efforts to manage waste.

Fast forward to modern times, and the situation has worsened. In France, household waste per capita has risen from 180 kg in 1960 to 355 kg in 2000, though it slightly decreased to 271 kg by 2015.

To challenge the notion of waste, many artists have embraced using detritus and discarded objects in their works. They aim to raise awareness of our consumption patterns and promote a more sustainable approach.

From this practice, a group of visionary artists emerged, each with their unique approach to addressing our consumption patterns and promoting sustainability.

Arman, known for his assemblages and sculptures, transformed discarded objects like crushed cans and broken glass into captivating artworks that challenged our perception of waste. Cesar, a sculptor, compressed cars into dense cubes, symbolizing the consequences of our excessive consumption. Tony Cragg used discarded materials such as plastic, glass, and metal to create swirling sculptures that emphasized the intricate relationship between humanity and nature. El Anatsui, renowned for his large-scale installations, wove tapestries out of recycled materials like bottle caps and tin cans, inviting reflection on consumption and globalization. Mierle Laderman Ukeles, through performance art, honored sanitation workers, raising awareness of their vital role in waste management and challenging societal views of waste.

These artists, through their diverse artistic practices, inspired us to reconsider our choices and strive for a more sustainable future.
Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Touch Sanitation Performance: "Handshake and Thanking Ritual" with sanitation workers of New York City Department of Sanitation. 1979-1980 © Mierle Laderman Ukeles Courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York (source)

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Art & Nature

Nature has long served as an abundant source of inspiration for artists. In the 1960s, artists shifted their focus from imitating nature to creating with it, using natural materials as both mediums and supports. They acknowledged that nature's potential is infinite, as American artist Robert Smithson famously said, "Nature is never exhausted."

However, the alarming depletion of natural resources highlights our society's overconsumption. In France, it takes only four months to exhaust the natural resources that nature provides in a year. Globally, this time frame is even shorter, at six months. In response, some artists advocate for a vital return to nature, emphasizing the importance of sustainable practices.

In the realm of ecological art, notable artists such as Giuseppe Penone, Ana Mendieta, Fernando Garcia Dory, Dennis Oppenheim, Alan Sonfist, Samuel Tomatis, and Robert Smithson have made significant contributions. They have created diverse works that reflect their perspectives on the environment. Giuseppe Penone's sculptures explore the relationship between humans and nature, while Ana Mendieta's ephemeral artworks merge her body with the natural landscape. Fernando Garcia Dory focuses on the intersection of art, agriculture, and rural communities, and Dennis Oppenheim addresses environmental concerns through various mediums. Alan Sonfist reintroduces native flora to urban environments, and Samuel Tomatis captures the beauty and fragility of nature through photography. Robert Smithson's land art installations challenge traditional notions of art and nature.

Together, these artists inspire contemplation and action towards a sustainable future.

Giuseppe Penone, Tra...., 2008, Marian Goodman Gallery (source)

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Art & Activism

In recent years, protests and rallies have become platforms for creative expressions of activism. Artists have used their work to raise awareness and challenge environmental issues.

Through visually striking signs and thought-provoking installations, they bring attention to pressing ecological concerns. The power of art lies in its ability to convey messages effectively, making it a natural ally of activism.

In the realm of art and activism, a group of talented artists have directed their creative endeavors towards the ecological struggle, sparking contemplation and motivating action.

Piero Giraldi, through his artistic expressions, sheds light on environmental issues, urging viewers to confront the challenges we face. Josef Beuys, a renowned German artist, used his work as a platform to advocate for environmental and social change, emphasizing the transformative power of art.

Tetsumi Kudo explored the destructive impact of human activities on the environment, creating thought-provoking artworks that confront societal norms. Hans Haacke, through his conceptual art, critiqued political and economic systems, drawing attention to their ecological consequences. Nicolas Garcia Uriburu, an Argentine artist, made a bold statement by coloring polluted water bodies to raise awareness about water pollution. Patricia Johanson merged art and ecology, designing immersive landscapes that integrate functionality and sustainability. Olafur Elliasson, a Danish-Icelandic artist, created installations that engage viewers with environmental phenomena, fostering a deeper connection to nature. Julian Charrière, through his multidisciplinary approach, explores the impact of human activity on the planet and challenges our perceptions of the natural world.

These artists, each in their unique way, use their creative voices to inspire reflection and action in the face of ecological challenges.
Nicolás García Uriburu, "Coloration de la Seine, Paris", 1970 (source)

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The Art of Living: Biotechnology

Biotechnology opens up new possibilities for artists to explore the modification of living materials with virtuous research objectives. Instead of destroying life, artists aim to cultivate and integrate living organisms into their creations, promoting sustainable practices. Projects in this field seek to develop a living and thriving ecosystem through the convergence of science, art, and creativity.

A group of innovative artists has pushed the boundaries of art and science, envisioning a future where biotechnology intertwines with creativity to create sustainable and innovative solutions.

Andrew Kudless, through his artistic practice, explores the potential of living materials, forging a connection between nature and human-made creations. LUMA Arles, a creative platform, fosters collaborations between artists, scientists, and technologists, delving into the possibilities of biotechnology in shaping our future. Neri Oxman, with her pioneering approach, merges design, biology, and technology to develop groundbreaking creations inspired by nature's principles. Ecologic Studio delves into the intersection of architecture and biology, envisioning a harmonious coexistence between built environments and the natural world. Studio Klarenbeek & Dros experiments with bioplastics and mycelium, offering a glimpse into a future where sustainable materials and biotechnology intertwine.

These artists and studios inspire us to embrace the potential of biotechnology, presenting a vision of a thriving and sustainable future.

Neri Oxman’s "Aguahoja Pavilion," on display in the MIT Media Lab lobby, is made out of biopolymer composites—the organic matter found in natural sources like shrimp shells, insect exoskeletons, and leaves—3D printed from water-based molecules; Courtesy of the Mediated Matter Group. (source)
Throughout history, ecological art has evolved as a response to environmental challenges. It serves as a catalyst for change, raising awareness, promoting sustainable practices, and inspiring a more harmonious relationship between humans and nature.

By integrating ecological concerns into their works, artists contribute to a broader dialogue on environmental sustainability and envision a future where art and nature coexist in balance.

This page is a compilation of the online training provided by the Centre Pompidou "Art & Ecology".

Get access to the full training here.