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Can't spell Nature without A R T

CMJ's picture

This week in my spot was beautiful. Instead of being a kind of quiet, unprovoking beauty, the view from where I sat, and the act of taking this photograph of it, prompted many questions. I realized that what I was doing was an act of artistic expression, and that even the very things I saw within frame of my lense were not entirely nature, but some past human artistic expression as well. I thought:

What does artistic expression have to do with ecology? Where does 'art' fit into the natural ecosystem? What value does it have regarding the health of all things on the planet?

The art I saw in my view was the pennisula of Goodhart, jutting into the aesthetically sculpted lawn. Art, in this form, has a detrimental effect on the ecology of the planet because of the resources used to make it. But I, and I am sure many others am inclined to think that art is a positive development in the history of humans. Is there anyway to create art without using the resources from the earth as seen in this photograph, or this photgraph itself? Compiling a list of various forms of artistic expression, I recalled a limited number of artforms that have the potential to do no ecological harm. First, the preforming arts (singing, dancing, acting). As standing alone, each of these arts does no damage--however, when staging, effects and audience accomadation come into the picture, they can turn from benign to malignant. The second art is visual and substantive. The artistic conquests of Andy Goldsworthy can only be described as ecological. He finds places in nature where artistic materials abound (stones, sticks, icicles) and rearranges them from their lying places to form elaborate yet transient sculpture. Transient because upkeep is not reqired--water and other natural forces transform them back into the natural landscape within days or weeks, sometimes hours. His art is part of nature, not apart from it. Could this merging of two opposing things be possible for other disciplines? One and perhaps the most crucial advantage Goldsworthy has is that his thinking is cyclical, not hierarchical. He doesn't fit into the system of other, "normal" gallery-type art, he has removed himself from the structure. Can we do this with writing? Already we as a class have eliminated somewhat the use for paper, but typing words on a computer is still a usage of natural resources. Is there any way we can make our activity more recylable and cyclical? 

I would strongly recommend to anyone who's interested the film "Rivers and Tides" featuring the art of Andy Goldsworthy.

Trailer for "Rivers and Tides"


Sarah Cunningham's picture

Andy Goldsworthy

I have this DVD if anyone wants to see it. It's gorgeous and also really cool. And, one of the things that is clear from the film, is that Goldsworthy is very careful about documenting everything: photographing, filming. Which do use resources... But I think we have to find, for art, as for other things in life, a way to accept that we do use resources, while acknowledging and somehow giving back, so that our use is somehow part of a cycle, sustainable, renewable.