Nature and I have never been close friends. While I prefer to appreciate nature from behind a TV screen and narrated by David Attenborough, there is no denying that we rely heavily on the environment for food, water, and breathable air. Humans have had an enormous impact on the Earth as we exploit it for food and fuel, threatening many species through destruction of their habitat and pollution. While there are still people who deny it, the climate of our planet is changing and we must take action to prevent our planet from becoming inhospitable. Many artists have joined to efforts to attract attention to this cause through their works. Eco-art is a movement that addresses environmental issues and brings to the public’s attention many of the problems that we face (Bower, 2010). Eco-art can address issues including “pollution and global warming, species depletion, new genetic technologies, AIDS…” (Adams, 2002). Olafur Eliasson examines where the Earth and meets with the world we have built in the exhibit Riverbed, which created the landscape of a riverbed and the earth winding through the exhibition space surrounded by plain white walls. Visitors were able to walk through the riverbed (Quddus, 2014). This reminded me of the “Bare Your Souls, Bare Your Soles” experience that Linda Weintraub presented us with in class. Both exhibits encourage the visitor to enter an immersive experience that takes them out the busy city where the exhibit is hosted and into a completely different place. It forces the visitor to try and get in touch with nature and understand exactly what it is that we are destroying around the globe.
Another artist looking at the interaction of humans and the environment is David Maisel. In a series of photographs called “The Lake Project” Maisel shows Owens Lake, which used to supply water to much of Los Angeles. The Lake has since turned dark red due to a concentration of carcinogenic minerals causing blooms of bacteria (davidmaisel.com) This shows how people have exploited this landscape for their own benefit until it has become a “void,” something that we no longer benefit from and abandon it. In a somewhat ironic twist, by humans exploiting the lake for water, the lake itself has become a huge source of pollution, creating huge amounts of dangerous material dust.
Artists have also found ways to take the pollutants themselves and use them as artistic materials. John Sabraw collected water that was coming from acid mine drainage and collect heavy metals from that water, isolate the metals, and use them as pigments (johnsabraw.com). By using the materials found in the water, Sabraw forces us to look at what we are putting into one of our most precious resources, water.
Adams, Clive “A Brief Introduction” greenmueseum, 2002, http://greenmuseum.org/generic_content.php?ct_id=60
Bower, Sam “A Profusion of Terms” greenmuseum, 2010, http://greenmuseum.org/generic_content.php?ct_id=306
Quddus, Sadia “Olafur Eliasson Create an Indoor Riverbed at Danish Museum” Arch Daily, 2014, http://www.archdaily.com/540338/olafur-eliasson-creates-an-indoor-riverbed-at-danish-museum
Resonance, John Sabraw, http://www.johnsabraw.com/new-gallery-5/f7l31o237ybp8jr7cfjrv335exgzdi
The Lake Project, David Maisel, http://davidmaisel.com/works/the-lake-project/#1