Ecovention, Art Transforming Ecologies
On September 14th, i willgive my first art talk in the USA. I have been grappling with how to bring my ocean conservation work alive for an audience about as far away from the sea as you can get (perhaps there might be a spot in Africa that is further awaybut only just!) So I am thrilled to find myself living next to The Earth Mounds created by Herbert Bayer in 1955 and considered “the first instance on record of landscape as sculpture.”
From an early age, i have had a love for sculpture. I was so impressed by the work of my best friend’s father, Stephen Cox and i was intrigued when I first came acrossRichard Long’s unique style, at his solo show at The Hayward Gallery in London (1986) where my mother worked, a now renowned conceptual and ecological artist. My love of sculpturewas only matched by my love of nature and the outdoors so to find an artist working in both germinated a seed that lay dormant in me until I founded the Marine Foundation and the living sculptures in the sea art program. Fast forward and I can nowwalk around the artworks that started it all.
The Earth Mounds are part of the Aspen Institute a visionary project initiated by Chicago businessman Walter Paepcke (1896-1960), chairman of the Container Corporation of America. He was inspired to create a place that fed the mind, body and spirit. In collaboration with the Bauhaus architect Herbert, they were successful. The institute and its incredible facilitates produce an amazing music program every summer andthe Aspen ideas festival which is still one of the best and only think tank programs of its kind internationally. You can play tennis surrounded by the Mountains or swim in the fab salt water pool. Take a walk though scrub sage land, a wild flower garden dedicated to Paepcke’s wife Elizabeth or Immerse yourself in ‘Land art’, where the landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked. In its pure form; Sculptures are not placed in the landscape, rather, the landscape is the means of their creation. This Campus i believe not only pioneered the mind, body, spirit integration, i now know it was also the birth of the very art form i have dedicated my self to.
Ecovention is a term invented by Amy Lipton and Sue Spaid in 1999 to refer to an ecological art intervention in environmental degradation. I have taken this concept off landinto the seaand integrated art with marine science, allowing the life in the sea to be an integral part of the ever-changing installations.Eco art differs from Land art in that it insist that the installations cause no damage to the habitat. For example, despite its aesthetic splendour,
Spiral Jetty (1969) bythe American land artist Robert Smithson’s inflicted permanent damage upon the landscape he worked with, using a bulldozer to scrape and cut the land, with the spiral itself impinging upon the lake. Similarly, another installation artists i adore Christo was criticised by conservationistswhen he temporarily wrapped the coastline at Little Bay, south of Sydney, Australia, in 1969.
The British sculptors Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy work only with the materials they find in the landscape and leave the land they have worked with unharmed. Some of the works last only hours made from early morning snow. These artworks are captured by photography and this is an intrinsics part of the representation of these pieces to the audience, another similarity with The Marine Foundation’s art program.
The Aspen Institute is also home to‘ Stone River’ byAndy Goldsworthy. I cannot quite believe that i am so fortunate to have probably my most favourite Eco artiston my backdoor step. I look at this work and ponder how much he would have enjoyed making this installation as it seems to so differ from his chosen style and clearly the materials are not from the surroundings. During a recent tour I took with Landscape architect Ann Mullins she explained that thestones for the ‘in-situ’ installation were gathered from all over the world and in alignmentwith the Bauhaus ethos of integration; integrating interior and exterior, the work flowsinside and outside, this sculpture also integrates cultures.
Ecological Art also stands apart from land art as an art practice because it embraces an ethic of social justice. It is created to inspire caring and respect, stimulate dialogue, and encourage the long-term flourishing of the social and natural environments in which we live. These are fundamental ideas that led me to create the living sculptures in the sea program. I wanted to not only create artworks that had a beneficial effect on the ecosystems but at the same time enabled us to engage in environmental issues in ways that were both positive and creative.
I recently found this quote in an article about our underwater art program in Indonesia;
‘This form of art intervention is so beautiful because it not only sends a message, it also physically interacts with the issue it is speaking for and provides a platform for growth. In my opinion, all art intervention work should in some way act as a place for change to generate and expand. These sculptures are also part of the local community and it is inspiring to see that these artists saw an opportunity for generation in the empty spaces of loss and destruction. This art is deeply rooted within the context of its location and will only continue to become more intertwined with the story of Indonesia and with the reef of Indonesia as time goes on.’
Far far away from Indonesia, i am still very much inspired tocontextualise my projects in the environment. Herbert Bayer along with Fritz Benedict also created the marble garden in 1955 where they used discarded marble segmentsfrom the near by quarry in Marble, which i visited last year. I was astounded when i realised these 14,000 feet Mountains of Colorado were infact once under the sea and marble is made from crystallised sea creatures. I conceived‘Returning to the sea’ aliving sculpture which will be carvedfrom marble here in the mountains and will take a metaphorical journey down River, (Colorado is the source of both the Rio Grande and Arkansas River) to the Gulf of Mexico where itwill be placed in the Museum of underwater art in Cancun,Mexico. Coral makes its hard skeleton from Calcium carbonate and it just loves to settle on calcium carbonate, another name for marble so we anticipate the sculpture will be a perfect home for young coral polyps. We will make a mould of the sculpture and caste a second in concrete, so scientist can compare how the coral behaves on the varying surfaces. Coral gardening and artificial reefs theory is still pioneeringand this will provide valuable data for best practise.
With my underwater studio so far away, I find my new studio is outside and i am harping back to the techniques of my beloved mentors Andy and Richard. I amcreatinga series of ephemeral artworks called #ecolove. Love has brought me to this stunning mountain landscape where i am deeply inspired by the colours and textures. Mountain meadows full of wild flowers that have been blooming for centuries. I am full of increasingwonder assee more and more detail; the shapes of leaves, there are so types of grasses and now as the season changes, there are berries and the emergingcolours are just incredible. I promised; “Every day I will post a heart made with love from things I have found during my magical wanders in nature. Some old, some new, some made to last for a brief time in nature others for sale. One thing I know for sure in these crazy times is we all need more love! “
I feel Eco art is an exciting internationalart form andbelieve there is great potential to develop an Eco art programhere in Colorado. As a newbie I can see with fresh eyesthe beauty of this place but equally I love how much this community clearly loves their surroundings and spending time being active in Nature. There is also a great love of art so I find myself immersed in my two great loves; art and nature. I am expanding my own art practise infact i am ‘returning to the land’, upstream to the mountains. I am excited to be developing a human nest willow sculpture with ACES, a beloved environmental organisation. They too can see the potential of how art can reveal new perspective on the Eco issues we as a global community face; This can be creative journey rather then a negative one.
"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. " Albert Einstein