The ecoartspace blog features artist profiles and interviews, as well as writings on ecological systems. We are interested in presenting work that our members are making in collaboration with scientists, and poetics including spoken word, opera, and performative work. Painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, drawing, and printmaking are all welcome media. Speculative architecture and public art are also encourage. Submissions for posts can be sent to info@ecoartspace.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

You can access the previous ecoartspace blog HERE (2008-2019)

ecoartspace, LLC

Mailing address: PO Box 5211 Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502
  • Monday, May 23, 2022 8:21 AM | Anonymous
    null

    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    May 23, 2022

    This week we recognize the work of artists   Reiko Goto and Tim Collins.

    Goto and Collins embrace an ecosystems methodology, collaborating with a range of disciplines, communities and other living things. They are interested in the ways that art and imagination contribute to practical wisdom and democratic discourse about ethics and human values. The work primarily focuses upon natural public places and everyday experience of environmental commons. An ethical-aesthetic impulse permeates the artwork.

    nullDeep Mapping at Lough Boora Sculpture Park was commissioned by Offaly County Council and Bord na Móna and funded by Offaly County Council, The Arts Council and Creative Ireland. The book was published in Ireland, 2020, and documents a ‘deep mapping’ of the Park and the contexts which continue to shape its meaning. The text contributes to the goal of agreeing an exceptional and sustainable artistic vision to inform the future development of a Land and Environmental Arts facility. It also intends to provide an initial historic, cultural and ecological contribution for artists and scientists trying to orient themselves at Lough Boora in the future.

    Goto and Collins worked with a team of scientists, technologists, and musicians to reveal the breath of a tree. Their intention was to explore the empathic interrelationship we may have with trees. PLEIN AIR above integrates aesthetics, ethics, and awareness in the pursuit of a better understanding of the limitations of people-plant and culture-nature relationships. The artwork provides an experiential interface to an important but generally invisible aspect of carbon sequestration. The experience produced by PLEIN AIR is metaphoric; through the mediation of sensors and software, we hear a sound of one leaf – one tree breathing. Does our sense of moral duty change as we listen? A tree is commonly understood as property, as a utilitarian resource, and as a non-sentient thing. Yet the presence of trees in our daily lives and their bio-chemical agency, their carbon dioxide / oxygen exchange, can be construed as an essential condition of the public realm.

     

    Lanolin, Can you see the forest of Scotland    below is a commentary on the relationship between landscape, trees and sheep in Scotland. The work emerged from a walk in Loch Katrine with the Native Woodlands Discussion Group, where member Ruth Anderson showed Goto the robust bonsai-tree like stem of a native birch tree and its root structure, new growth which developed once sheep were removed (and deer fenced out) of the National Park. The removal of sheep from the Scottish landscape makes an enormous impact on trees and their ability to regenerate and prosper.

    Working with unwashed fleece the artist carefully carded the wool and established the background for the lighter, washed wool of the Saint Andrew’s Cross, the Saltire. The land is the context for culture, and the trees are the language of landscape that emerges once the pressure of sheep is lifted. Lanolin is another cultural decoy, conflating nationalism and past land use with future visions of an expanded forest in Scotland.

    Collins & Goto Studio: Reiko Goto and Tim Collins have developed long-term, socially engaged environmental research (SEER) that examines the cultural meaning of semi-natural ancient forest: Future Forest (2013-present); Sylva Caledonia (2015); Caledonian Decoy (2017); PLEIN AIR: The Ethical Aesthetic Impulse (2010); CO2 Edinburgh (2013); Sound of a Tree: Cologne (2016); PLEIN AIR Live at Glasgow Botanics (2017); Nine Mile Run (1997-2000); and 3 Rivers 2nd Nature (2000-2005). Outputs include artworks, exhibitions, seminars, workshops, and publications that embrace an arts-led dialogue method of research-and theory-informed public practice. They have worked with other artists, musicians, planners, communities, scientists, and technologists as well as  historians and philosophers to realize work for over twenty years. collinsandgoto.com

    Featured Images top to bottom: ©Collins & Goto Studio,Deep Mapping at Lough Boora Sculpture Park (2020); Deep Mapping book; Plein Air: The Breath of Trees (2019-2020); Plein Air book; Lanolin, Can you see the forest of Scotland? (2013).

    Below: Tim Collins (left) and Reiko Goto (right)



  • Monday, May 23, 2022 7:46 AM | Anonymous


    Tessa Grundon, Invasive Species, 2018-2021/2022, Asiatic Bittersweet root systems and border fencing, dimensions variable.

    Art Spiel

    Reflections on the work of contemporary artists

    Posted on May 23, 2022 by Art Spiel

    Fragile Rainbow: Traversing Habitats by ecoartspace

    Featured Project: with curator Sue Spaid

    The group show Fragile Rainbow: Traversing Habitats at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center in Brooklyn includes paintings, sculptures, videos, and installations addressing environmental issues by more than fifty artists from the New York City region who are members of ecoartspace. The title is based on Claire McConaughy’s oil painting, Fragile Rainbow, referencing both hope and loss. The show runs from May 7th through June 4th, 2022. Curator Sue Spaid elaborates on this large-scale group show.

    What is your curatorial vision for this show and can you walk us briefly through the show?

    As it turns out, organizing a members’ exhibition is a bit more complicated than curating a typical group exhibition. For one, I knew only a handful of the artists, though I had encountered many more during ecoartspace’s regular zoom presentations whereby four to five artists introduce their practice in the framework of trees, fungi, plastic, water, or abstraction (multi-monthly zoom sessions are typically thematic). Moreover, this exhibition came together rather rapidly as the gallery’s availability wasn’t secured until March. Ecoartspace founder Patricia Watts identified over fifty local artists who submitted up to six artworks along with installation instructions. Not only was I responsible for selecting artworks and creating meaningful relationships amidst this unusual space replete with radiators, windows and doors, but I had to track whether there was sufficient space to include artworks by as many members as possible.

    Technicalities aside, once the artworks were selected, the idea to organize them in terms of habitat and interconnectedness seemed obvious. Even more wonderful was the way everything came together during installation, enabling the exhibition itself to exemplify interconnected habitat. Simulating a grove, one wall features paintings replete with trees, branches, flowers, fungi, roots, animals, and seeds, including pendulous cigar tree seeds (Catalpa speciosa). Two-sided drawings dangling from wires that span three columns fortuitously mimic marks and gestures visible in nearby artworks. As a result, notions of entanglement and sinuousness abound. Continuing the tradition of Plains Indian women’s drawing abstract geometric motifs, Indigenous artist Bebonkwe’s Post-Traumatic Entanglement: Opal proffers a sober counterpoint to this exhibition’s surfeit of exuberant renderings like Pamela Casper’s Forest Spectacle and Deborah Wasserman’s Migrating Crop.

    Go to article here


  • Thursday, May 19, 2022 6:43 PM | Anonymous


    Nancy Evans, Fleurs du mal (Evil Flower), 2018. Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, 64 x 64 inches. © Nancy Evans. Courtesy the artist and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles. 

    ArtSeen, Brooklyn Rail, May 2022

    Nancy Evans: Moonshadow

    By Mary Jones

    The phenomenal supermoons of the past six years deeply impressed Nancy Evans, and in Moonshadow, Evans’s first show with Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, they serve as a powerful motif to consider our precarious, transient place in the universe. Of her seven large, radiant paintings, five are dated from 2016, the year that the largest supermoon since 1948 rose in the politically unforgettable month of November 2016. The other two were also completed during years of significant supermoons—the Blood Moon of 2018, and the rare Blue Moon of 2020. The title, Moonshadow, refers to the song by Cat Stevens, which whimsically imagines overcoming loss and embracing the here and now. Similarly, Evans constructs her avidly symbolic landscapes with simple compositions, alluding to American Modernism and evoking transformation and awakening in times of upheaval.  

    Like Agnes Pelton (1881–1961), whose retrospective title aptly labeled her as a “Desert Transcendentalist,” Evans acknowledges being inspired by the landscape of California: her formative years in the fig orchards of its fertile Central Valley, and recently, the desert of Apple Valley. She describes these experiences as encounters with the metaphysical—even hallucinatory—sublime. Also, like Pelton, Evans has studied Hinduism and Jungian symbolism and depicts lumination as a harbinger for a reality beyond the material world, perhaps a messenger for consciousness. One might refer to Evans as a “Desert Existentialist.” There’s little tranquility in these aqueous, dramatic supermoons. Instead of stasis, there’s action, even hints of foreboding. Lars von Trier's film Melancholia (2011) comes to mind, in which a beautiful bright star is soon identified as a rogue planet whose orbit will inevitably destroy Earth. As natural disasters and climate change increasingly become part of our lives, we live with—and deny—the threat of our self-imposed extinction. The moons in Evans’s paintings hover in a restless gestalt, merging natural wonder with a call to consciousness.

    Continue reading here


    On View
    Luis De Jesus
    April 16 – May 28, 2022
    Los Angeles
  • Wednesday, May 18, 2022 8:45 AM | Anonymous


    Critics picks ARTFORUM, May 16, 2022

    Los Angeles

    Radical Propagations/Propagaciones Radicales

    March 21 - July 30, 2022

    18th Street Arts Center (Airport Campus) 3026 Airport Avenue

    Guerrilla gardening, seed libraries, plant marches, and maintenance art come together in this touching and thoughtful group show on regenerative cultural gestures, curated by Mexican transdisciplinary artist Maru García in the 18th Street Arts Center’s spacious Airport Campus space.

    Light floods the gallery, illuminating Peruvian artist Lucía Monge’s Plantón Móvil (Plant Walks), 2010–, an installation featuring a menagerie of potted plants on skateboards and roller skates and in wheelbarrows, led by another plant with a megaphone—the ringleader of this verdant protest. Behind these conscientious objectors is a video documenting a collection of Monge’s various Plantóns Móvil performances, which have taken place in various cities around the world over the past twelve years: demonstrations with plants being carried by humans—spilling out of arms or poking out of backpacks—to share in a moment of solidarity. Accompanying the work is a selection of gorgeous printed Plantón Móvil materials which, in part, explain why the plant-supporting dissenters walk: “ . . . plants borrow a speed noticeable by people and in return people may borrow some of their slowness . . . we move together to express our living-ness.”

    To the right of this “protest” are a set of three sprouting oak seeds, suspended in bio gel in clear rectangular containers mounted on a wall, their roots clearly visible. This piece is part of Rebecca Youssef’s The Vanishing Canopy, 2022, a body of work inspired by a study from the Spatial Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, on the reduction of LA’s residential green cover. Due to mass-produced dwellings and home expansion, this cover has shrunk by as much as 55 percent between 2000 and 2009. As a gesture toward correcting this imbalance, Youssef cultivates five to six different oak varieties and plants approximately five thousand acorns each season in and around the Santa Monica Mountains. The Vanishing Canopy, and these pieces in particular, comment on the resilience and adaptability of oak trees, despite their restrictive and anthropocentric surroundings.

    Halo Rossetti

    More about the exhibition here



  • Monday, May 16, 2022 2:23 PM | Anonymous

    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    May 16, 2022

    This week we recognize the work of artist duo Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison.

    The Harrisons’ concept of art embraces a breathtaking range of disciplines. Their work involves proposing solutions and involves not only public discussion, but extensive mapping and documentation of these proposals in an art context.

    Greenhouse Britain is an installation that addresses Global Warming from an artist’s perspective. The work proposes an alternative narrative about how people might withdraw as waters rise, what new forms of settlement might look life, and what content or properties a new landscape might have in response to the Global Warming phenomenon. It also demonstrates how a city might be defended.

    The installation is composed of a 13 foot long model of the island of Britain. Six projectors above it project the rivers rising in response to storm surge and coastal waters rising in 2 meter increments, up to 16 meters. One key element in this work responds to the fact that the waters will rise gracefully, posing the questions, “How might one withdraw with equal grace?” and “How might one defend against the ocean’s rise?”

    Performance, Graffiti, Billboards, and Posters. "Meditations on the Sacramento River, the Delta and the Bays at San Francisco" was commissioned by the Floating Museum of San Francisco and exhibited first at the San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art as part of a three-museum show that also included street posters, billboards and street graffiti. This was the first critique of the green revolution and intensive irrigated farming in art, linking the loss of bio-diversity to the green revolution and industrialized agriculture. It also advocated an early bio-regional approach to the Central Valley of California. Written about extensively, it was twice on the cover of Art Week.

    The Lagoon Cycle, a 360 foot long and eight foot tall mural, is an extended semi-autobiographical dialogue, with stories and anecdotes, plays between two characters, a "Lagoon Maker" and a "witness", and serves to establish the philosophical basis for the ecological argument in many later works. Beginning in Sri Lanka with an edible crab and ending in the Pacific with the greenhouse effect, it seeks ever-larger frames for a consideration of survival. It looks at experimental science, the marketplace and megatechnology, finally posing the question, "What are the conditions necessary for survival" and concluding that it is necessary to reorient consciousness around a different database.

    The Lagoon Cycle was also recreated as a complex hand-made book. The Lagoon Cycle was designed to envelop. The Book of the Lagoons was designed to be intimate and accessible.

    Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison, among the leading pioneers of the eco-art movement, worked as a collaborative team for almost forty years with biologists, ecologists, architects, urban planners and other artists to initiate collaborative dialogues to uncover ideas and solutions which support biodiversity and community development. Their single exhibitions or large scale installations are numerous. Internationally they have presented their work in two Venice Biennales, Two Sao Paolo Biennales, Documenta 8, the Museums of Modern Art in Chicago, San Francisco, Bonn (Germany), Aachen (Germany), Toulouse (France), Ljublijana (Slovenia), the Museum of the Revolution in Zagreb (Croatia) as well as Kasteel Groeneveld in Holland. Their work took Second Prize at the Nagoya Bienale in 1991 in Japan. They received the Groeneveld Award for Doing the Most Significant work of the year for the Dutch Landscape in Holland in 2002. Their gallery representation has been with Ronald Feldman Fine Arts from 1974 to the present. theharrisonstudio.net

    Featured Images: ©Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison, "The Kimpenerwaard" (2002/2013), "Greenhouse Britain" (2009), "Meditations on the Sacramento River, the Delta and the Bays at San Francisco" (1976-1977), "The Lagoon Cycle" (1974-1978)



  • Thursday, May 12, 2022 1:55 PM | Anonymous

    Suzi Gablik. Courtesy Deborah Solomon.

    Alex Greenberger by Alex Greenberger, Senior Editor, ARTnews

    May 12, 2022 12:11pm

    Suzi Gablik, an art critic and artist whose polarizing work dealt with the end of modernism and the growth of a newer, more spiritual style, died of a long illness at 87 at her home in Blacksburg, Virginia.

    Deborah Solomon, an art critic for the New York Times and a close friend of Gablik, confirmed Gablik’s death in an email.

    “Suzi had a great talent for admiration, and many artists benefitted from her moral support,” Solomon wrote. “She asked little in return, other than the chance to soak up ideas from the culture and ponder them [to] no end. Her book, Has Modernism Failed, which argued, with remarkable prescience, that art should effect social change and help the environment, was disliked by many of her artist-friends. But she had no regrets and went her own way.”

    Having gained renown early on for her criticism published by ARTnews and Art in America, Gablik went on to write a series of books beginning in the late ’60s that tackled an array of topics. Many of those books were debated widely in the New York art world and, in some cases, even beyond. She continued to publish criticism in Art in America between the 1970s and 1990s.

    During the ’50s and ’60s, she also struck up close friendships with artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Ray Johnson, and found herself placed at the core of fast-growing and fast-changing New York art scene. Many of her friendships proved long-lasting.

    She is even credited in some accounts with having introduced Rauschenberg and Johns, who went on to have a romantic relationship, although in a 2016 Archives of American Art oral history, Gablik said she did not recall having done so.

    The first significant book that she published, Pop Art Redefined (1969), was co-written with the critic John Russell, with whom Gablik led a six-year-long romantic relationship. Produced in tandem with an exhibition held at the Hayward Gallery in London, the book is regarded as one of the first surveys of its kind to take up Pop art.

    “It was different to everything else that one had ever seen,” Gablik said in her oral history of Pop art as a movement. “And it was fun—and a little wacky—and it was an intriguing moment in time.”

    Despite the place it now holds in art history, Pop Art Redefined was not universally praised upon its release. In her review for the New York Times, Annette Michelson, a scholar best known for her writings on film, panned Gablik’s contributions to the book, writing that “blurring boundaries” between artistic styles had allowed her to cut corners and introduce figures who were not related, including Johns.

    Born on September 1, 1934, Suzi Gablik was instilled with an interest in art early on by her father, who took her to museums at a young age while she was growing up in New York. As a teenager, she took courses at the storied Black Mountain College in North Carolina, which had become known for its avant-garde offerings that ultimately pushed art in new and stranger directions. At Black Mountain, she took courses with the Abstract Expressionist painter Robert Motherwell.

    “Although I was only there for two months, in that unorthodox environment,” Gablik once recalled, “my maverick self, which was not easily accommodated at home, had the time and provocation to emerge.”

    Later on, she attended Hunter College for art and English. There she studied once more with Motherwell, with whom she remained friendly after graduating.

    After graduating, she had a romantic fling with Harry Torczyner, a married collector who owned some of the deepest holdings of work by René Magritte at the time. When Torczyner contacted Magritte about a potential meeting with Gablik, the Surrealist painter wrote her, and they established a form of correspondence that ultimately enabled her to write the first English-language biography of him. (She even spent nine months living with Magritte in Belgium while researching.) The resulting book, however, was not published until 1970, one year after Pop Art Redefined.

    All the while, Gablik also continued making her own art, which took the form of collages made of imagery that appeared in magazines. Some of the works from the ’70s conjure edenic vistas filled with roaring tigers and aimlessly roaming sheep. She sometimes showed with Terry Dintenfass, a New York dealer who had helped make artists like Arthur Dove and Jacob Lawrence famous.

    Following the Magritte biography and Pop Art Redefined, Gablik took up topics that may have, for some, been considered unfashionable. There was 1977’s Progress and Art, a theory-steeped meditation that attempted to understand why old styles give way to new ones, and there was 1984’s provocative Has Modernism Failed?, a treatise that sought to diagnose where art of the first half of the 20th century had gone.

    The latter book sounded a mournful note about an increasingly commodified art world and expressed concern over a perceived lack of spirituality in art. Many disagreed with its ideas.

    Dealer Eugene V. Thaw tore into Gablik in the Times for her “lack of response to the content, both visual and intellectual, of one of the richest periods in history.” “So what?” asked Fredric Tuten in Artforum.

    Yet Gablik remained true to her ideas, reiterating them in books such as The Reenchantment of Art (1991) and Conversations Before the End of Time (1995).

    Elizabeth C. Baker, who edited Art in America while Gablik was writing for it, said in an email, “She was indefatigable in dissecting the morality and ethics of art in the world at large, a preoccupation that lasted for the rest of her life.”


    New York Times obit May 20, 2022 here

  • Saturday, May 07, 2022 4:29 AM | Anonymous


    Tide Flowers is a new site-specific water installation that registers the rising and falling tide on the East River at Domino Park.

    At the southern end of Domino Park, River Street, Brooklyn, New York, 2022

    (Just north of the Williamsburg Bridge)

    Tide Flowers was created in conjunction with Fragile Rainbow: Traversing Habitats, presented by ecoartspace and curated by Sue Spaid at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center Second floor, 135 Broadway Williamsburg, New York

    Tide Flowers is a new site-specific water installation that registers the rising and falling tide on the East River at Domino Park. The pink flower petals bloom outward at high tide and draw closed as the tide ebbs.

    The East River rises and falls nearly 5 feet every 5.5 hours, but our city infrastructure often keeps us removed from these daily cycles. The Tide Flowers connect us to the ocean, the moon, and the rhythm that is nature’s own.


    More information HERE



  • Monday, May 02, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    May 2, 2022

    This week we recognize the work of artist  Chrysanne Stathacos.

    “Ritual action with nature brings us back to our source, the powers in our psyche, which are common to all human kind. At times catastrophes pop up and people connect, remember, and tie ribbons to trees, touch water with awe, weep by candles, hold a stone for a memory and link fingers wishing hoping praying for relief from suffering. These reflexes are a reflection to a constant spirit, to a past time when understanding nature was part of daily living.”

    “The Rose Mandala installations are based on historical circular structures with the intention of creating a temporal work which changes over time. These works are created by plucking dozens of roses apart petal by petal circling coloured mirrors range from 10 feet  to 60 feet wide. The viewer’s senses are touched by waves of rose scents inhabiting the space of the work. The mandalas are left to dry as the petals are reduced to a quarter of their original size. At the end, the mandala is dismantled in a final performance. The Rose Mandalas have been swept up, gathered and thrown to the winds or blown away by human in breath by myself and the audience. These installation / performances reflect the ephemeral process of change, age, decay and emptiness.”

    "Purify is the first of a series of floating sculptures, 2008-2011. Imagine a large haiku poem, floating in the river, with lotuses and lilies growing, pushing out, revealing themselves while purifying the water of toxins. The intention of these works is to probe a way an integrated form can engage the public, heal the river, and yet be both poetic and political while maintaining a conceptual framework. Going, gone, go  – beyond is the intention."

    “Refuge, a wish garden, is an interactive public artwork actings as a garden for meditation, protection, and wishing actions. Inside a 20-40 foot circle of sand, eight benches are placed around a large magnificent tree in a circular fashion mirroring a feng shui pa kua. The benches are protected vantage points in which one can sit and view the wish garden, creating a transcendent space before one makes an action. Each direction corresponds to a color, an element, and an aspect of life.

    The benches are made from wood, two small trunks holding up a log shaped plank, inspired by  benches found in Algonquin Park, Canada. The surface of each bench is painted the color of its direction. The tree has 20-30 foot lengths of hand-braided fabrics tied and wrapped around transforming it into a wishing tree. Baskets placed in between the benches are filled with cloth/fabrics to tie on the tree, rocks to pile up, sticks to draw on the sand and flowers to place anywhere.”

    Chrysanne Stathacos is a multidisciplinary artist of Greek, American and Canadian origin. Her work has encompassed printmaking, textile, painting, installation and conceptual art. Stathacos is heavily involved with and influenced by feminism, Greek Mythology, eastern spirituality and Tibetan Buddhism, all of which inform her current artistic practice. Stathacos has exhibited in museums, galleries, and venues internationally. She has participated in countless exhibitions in various media, but she is most known for her unique combination of performance and installation. She has received funding for her projects and her artwork from foundations and government agencies such as the Art Matters Foundation, the Japan Foundation, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Adolph & Esther Gottlieb Foundation, among others. chrysannestathacos.com

    Featured Images: ©Chrysanne Stathacos, "The Three Dakini Mirrors (of the body- speech and mind)" (2021), "Rose Mandala Mirror (three reflections for HHDL) Performance" (2009), "Purify," Destination Schuylkill River, The Manayunk Eco Arts Festival (2010), "Refuge, a wish garden," "Flower Power at Fiendish Plots, Lincoln, Nebraska" (2014).


  • Sunday, May 01, 2022 9:26 AM | Anonymous

    The ecoartspace May 2022 e-Newsletter is HERE


  • Sunday, May 01, 2022 8:06 AM | Anonymous


    Gene A. Felice II, Jennifer Parker, and Juniper Harrower
    Visions of Algae, installation views, 2022.
    Photos : Bradley Pierce, UNCW, courtesy of Cameron Art Museum

    The Algae Society just finished a run of two exhibitions. The Confluence exhibition at the Cameron Arts Museum in Wilmington, North Carolina, January 28 – April 24, 2022 featured sculptural, interactive works, video projections, kinetic works, and rapid prototyping, all featuring algae from the microscopic scale of phytoplankton to the giant kelp forests of the Pacific Northwest and the Confluir Exhibition at the Facultad de Bellas Artes Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Sala de Exposiciones del Salon de Actos Feb 9th-March 9th 2022. 
 The Algae Society embraces a sustainable and equitable path for human+algal relationships and the complex roles in climate change these are manifesting. In this interview Ken Rinaldo chats with members about the Algae Society and their formation and approaches as well as recent curatorial adventures.

    Questions: by Ken Rinaldo
     
    Where did you meet, and how did the Algae Society come together with its members? How many members are there, and who are they?

    Jennifer Parker: The majority of the Algae Society members worked with me in the OpenLab collaborative research center when they were graduate students at the University of California Santa Cruz. Gene Felice was part of a larger project that I was working on in 2012 called Blue Trail in San Francisco. Gene pitched an idea to work with phytoplankton as part of that initiative known as Oceanic Scales and everything sort of evolved from there. Gene and I worked together for about four years on Oceanic Scales and then when we had an opportunity to exhibit in a children’s museum in southern California, we took the foundation of what we had been building and opened it up to other members and then new connections opened and more people joined to form The Algae Society as we know it today.

    Gene Felice:  Our full members list can be viewed here:  http://algaesociety.org/about-3/ Our core group is made up of seven members from around the globe that have been collaborating for the past three years.  Our collaborative group has grown organically, starting with the initial members that Jennifer brought together and then additional members either finding us online or being friends or a colleague of another member with similar interests in algae within the arts & sciences.  Over the past five years, we have shared vocabularies, built trust and learned from each other while navigating the challenges of creating collaborative, art & science focused art across international borders.
     
    What do artists and scientists need to learn from each other, what did you feel you learned in this experience, and what realizations do you think the scientists have discovered? Can you give me examples?

    Dr. Juniper Harrower: I think art as science communication is fun and interesting, but falls short of what can be accomplished if we are talking about structural or institutional changes. Another common issue that comes up is art in the service of science, artists often becoming a hired hand or general PR for science and feeling obliged to create art that the scientist or institution approves of. While artists can engage in early stage R&D with science experiments and come up with some interesting questions or approaches they also really lack the fundamental skills and language to engage deeply with science methodology that people spend decades wrapping their heads around within their scientific discipline. I also see that many artists generally misunderstand what science even is as a discipline (and what scientists do) and scientists often greatly simplify what the arts has to offer as a research path, so there are misconceptions that are to be expected within each of the different disciplines. This can sometimes result in artists misinterpreting or simplifying systems or stories in ways that frustrate the science community and then makes them dismissive of art as a research practice. But artists can ask questions that are not considered by scientists or can dig into institutional dynamics, question power structures, problematize the western scientific approach, and approach meaning making in ways that scientists do not have skill sets for. Artists can reframe and bring attention to different ways of thinking and knowing beings, communities, and ecological spaces that science methodology does not make space for, and draw attention to modes of questioning and scientific methodologies that are flawed as an approach to respecting life forms. I am also interested in the slippage between science and mysticism and the interesting spaces that can arise when we consider the search for "objective" truths in science (who's truth?) and the methods with which we look for them as we try to make sense of life on this planet.

    I think there is a lot of emphasis put on identifying how the arts has/can measurably impact science, like examples of artist interventions that led shifts in the way that a scientist approached a project. While there are those examples out there, I think the much more interesting potential (and really the long game) comes in how an artistic approach to understanding and thinking about the world could fundamentally alter how the scientific community approaches working with life and beings. Ethics and representation, and how to consider histories of oppression and violence that form the discipline of science. Rethinking the "science gaze".

    I think the algae society is just starting to lean more into some of these questions - like what does it mean to actually collaborate with other organisms in respectful ways? - and that the work will continue to get even more exciting as we continue to grow!

    The Algae Society
    Wall Cells, installation view, 2022.
    Photo : Bradley Pierce, UNCW, courtesy of Cameron Art Museum

    Besides the fact that Algae provides between 50-80% of the oxygen we breathe on the planet, why are Algae important to the art-viewing and general audience?

    Jennifer Parker: They are just so beautiful and magical but often overlooked - bringing algae into traditional art spaces opens new pathways for thinking about living systems around us as part of our cultural fabric and common heritage.

    Gene Felice: The Algae Society attempts to tell stories about algae through art & science collaborative experiences that make the normally invisible aspects of life on our planet a bit more visible for humans to witness.  If we can begin by alluring the public with the aesthetic and functional beauty of algae, the hope is that they will make more informed choices that ultimately impact the health of our water and the life on this planet that depends upon it.
     
    Why are algae important to our oceans and planet?

    Jennifer Parker: They are a super special and diverse aquatic organism. They are critical to life on the planet. They lack roots, stems, and leaves so they are very different from other organisms that photosynthesize? - they occur in a huge variety of shapes and sizes and are found in a range of aquatic habitats both freshwater and saltwater. They also are very efficient at using carbon dioxide keeping the atmospheric levels stable.

    Dr. Jose Carlos Espinel: I think the impact of algae in our life is much bigger than we tend to think, they do not only produce the oxygen that we breathe but are very important organisms for the different ecosystems where they are present. The exhibition itself works as a tribute to algae. The term “mother nature” talks about some kind of intangible entity that takes care of life on earth and keeps its circle working, looking after the environment and all the living organisms on earth. The term itself leads us to some kind of mystic creature or being, bigger than our self and above our own comprehension. We could be talking about some kind of goddess and in this sense I believe algae could perfectly be acting as some sort of divine being.

    Gene Felice: Algae filters much of the air that we breathe turning CO2 into O2, but they’re also the base of our planet’s aquatic food web.  Micro algae serve as the photosynthesizing foundation of food for zooplankton, then fish, marine / fresh water mammals and onward. For example, phytoplankton serve as the food source for zooplankton known as copepods which serve as the food source for krill which serves as the food source for one of the largest mammals on the planet, blue whales.  Quickly we can see and feel the impact that algae have on all of the organisms on our planet, particularly ones that humans have great affinity for.  
     
    Many of the works in the exhibition seem to have been produced with the environment in mind, i.e., not using toxic petroleum-based varnishes, etc. Can you tell us more about the guiding principles for the Confluence Exhibition?


    Jennifer Parker: We try our best to use sustainable materials with as low an impact on the environment as possible - it's also a challenge of sorts - as we question our choices and seek alternative materials and methods - we always ask ourselves if it is necessary to make something and what is the value of that something is on our communities? How is it contributing to bettering our environment physically now and in the future? What is the impact of our work, how does it contribute to the waste streams, energy systems, and the future health of ecosystems we work in? - we try to have the smallest footprint possible but it's really hard.

    David Harris: Many sustainably focused projects concentrate on how they use resources. Algae is often seen as a sustainable resource in increasing amounts of food, bioplastic, and other products. However, as soon as something becomes just a resource, it becomes open to exploitation. In the Algae Society, we are interested in reconsidering this dynamic so that we consider algae as a partner in our efforts to preserve a livable world. It means considering the short- and long-term needs of algae as well as humans, so that entire ecosystems can thrive. This post-human perspective is a challenge because we don’t even have good language to discuss it let alone yet understand what algal equivalents of rights, ethics, justice, or any other similar human concepts might be applicable.

    Gene Felice: When creating a project that seeks harmony within our aquatic ecosystems, it feels counterproductive and hypocritical if the project is made from materials and processes that ultimately pollute those environments. While it can be difficult and expensive to have a zero carbon footprint or to use absolutely all local / biodegradable materials, we do our best to seek out a variety of materials, processes and technologies with biodegradability and ecological impact in mind.  For confluence this included 3D Printing material made from corn and wood, seaweed dipped in a mix of beeswax, pine resin and Jojoba oil, sculptural forms made from local cypress wood and CNC’d plywood made with soy based adhesives and finished with Shellac.  Instead of plastic window panels we cast our own forms from pine resin and tinted them with Spirulina powder and other mineral based pigments.

    What do you feel worked best in this exhibition, and were there any surprises as you installed the works?

    Jennifer Parker: That's hard to say - so many of the works are informed by each other - picking just one out would limit its value - the work in the show is valued as a collection dependent on one another to tell a rich and vibrant algal story.  Just like our collaborative efforts as a collective of humans, we influence one another through shared experience and conversation -we are always looking to expand and push our ideas to be more relevant and interesting - the work in the exhibition is an extension of our collective conversations with each other, conversations that now include the museum visitors in direct conversation with the work.

    Gene Felice: One of the most collaborative pieces from the show is Visions of Algae.  The concept for this project bounced between three of us (myself, Jennifer & Juniper) as well as feedback and ideas from all of the Algae Society as it progressed.  It started as a ceiling installation but then shifted as we moved into the high ceiling Studio 1 space at the Cameron Art museum.  It then became a floor based piece made modularly with different components being created on both the east and west coast of the U.S.  Juniper curated the archive of images from all of the Algae Society and beyond and with Jennifer printed them on Japanese rice paper and then dipped them in an encaustic process.  I prototyped and 3D printed the lens ring forms that hold the images as well as the CNC milled bases with aluminum rods and fixtures.  This combination of sensibilities, skill sets and conceptual frameworks across the group, resulted in a collaborative installation that can adapt to a variety of spaces and configurations based on site specific needs.  A lovely surprise was when we installed Visions of Algae into the Cameron Art Museum and realized the morning light through the large corner window illuminates the encaustic dipped images, giving them a warm, translucent glowing quality.  At night they also served as dynamic projection surfaces, back lit from a projector used for the Bioluminescent Thursday event series.

    Many museums would be reluctant to have living algae or bio artworks within a museum. Was this controversial for the Cameron Arts Museum to accept these elements as part of the Confluence Exhibition?

    Jennifer Parker: The Cameron Art Museum is a fantastic place. The director was really open and responsive to all of our ideas. With all the work we do there is a certain level of trust required by the venues as the work is definitely not your typical art exhibition. We want people to pick up work and interact with it, to come back and see what has evolved and changed since their last visit. The work for us is very alive in this way - literally and figuratively

    Gene Felice: The Cameron Art Museum and its curatorial staff are both innovative and open minded when it comes to new modes of experiencing art. From experiential groups like Team Lab to our unique blend of eco / bio art, they welcomed us with open arms.  Their mission includes major site specific themes such as history and environment and the Algae Society became a perfect fit for the CAM to explore its connections with our local / global water issues, within our particular focus on algae.  The museum itself is a stunning environment to create within and the Studio 1 space fits our work in ways that we didn’t fully realize until we were installing.  The staff at the Cameron worked with us to create a mix of light and dark spaces as well as a window installation space that can transform at night into a double sided video projection mapped wall of light.  Their flexibility allowed us to evolve the show to the space throughout its run, adding new pieces and shifting and adapting experimental work as it evolved through its life cycle. The retention pond on the grounds of the Cameron extended the work beyond the gallery to include our long term, Floating Island Ecosystem bioremediation project.

    Do you feel the viewing and interacting audience was able to find a new love of Algae in its myriad of forms?

    Jennifer Parker: I hope so! It was our intention to show really diverse works in a variety of media types to spark interest and curiosity with a broad audience inclusive of all ages and backgrounds.

    Gene Felice: Our intention is to allure through multi-sensory experiences that foster compelling questions in the minds of our audience. What makes such complex forms?  How is it possible that algae produces so much for us (air, food, etc.)?  How do our choices affect this multifaceted range of organisms? By cultivating these questions through a multitude of approaches and materials, we hope to reach across multi-generational and political / social divides. One of the most inspiring parts of working in the Cameron Art Museum is that each day the museum welcomes school trips from elementary through middle school as well as families with middle aged parents and babies and older generations of empty nesters and retirees. Each of these groups brings a different set of experiences and questions in relation to our work and the connections between human beings and algae.  Some of these questions overlap and others inform each other in new and unexpected ways, shaping the way we evolve our art and science focused work in the future.
     
    How do you imagine the Algae Society could recreate this Confluence Exhibition at other venues?

    Jennifer Parker: Working with local residents, creatives in the arts and sciences is one way that we connect and co-create in each of the venues we have exhibited. This includes different types of regional and local algae at the micro and macro levels.

    Dr. Jose Carlos Espinal: In this case, the Confluence show had a sister exhibition in Madrid, “Confluir” at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Universidad Complutense, where graduate students developed works related to algae and aquatic environments and the impact of human activity on those. Works developed there were mainly focused on a local level, but keeping a global mindset.

    David Harris: Algae Society exhibitions so far have exhibited an ebb and flow of works, with a view to engaging with the needs and interests of communities local to the exhibitions. As we engage different communities around the world, the specific works shown with unique local collaborators help present different emphases but within the broader agenda of the society. For example, we have in mind a future exhibition in Australia that would include a strong connection to and critical involvement of local indigenous peoples and knowledge systems, while also connecting with a robust local institutional research effort.

    Gene Felice: The Algae Society is a global collaborative that seeks new questions and art making challenges in each community that it connects with. Confluence was designed to break down into a series of modular parts that can be easily shipped and adapted to new spaces in the future with as low of a carbon footprint as possible. Some projects can be sent digitally and fabricated on site with the tools at hand.  Projects like Wall Cells are curatable micro-spaces that can speak and connect to site specific conditions and local ecosystems.  Visions of Algae breaks down into a series of flat shipping containers, to reduce space and shipping costs.

    Are there other contemporary art science/movements or artists you admire and look to as models for what could be?

    Jennifer Parker: That’s a great question. I’m interested in restorative design as a creative practice for imagining new futures of materials using natural resources that protect and restore biodiversity of ecosystems.

    Gene Felice: Each Algae Society has their own influences, but here is a short list of art & science groups / artists / architects / collaboratives that have inspired me during the production of Confluence:

    https://www.ecologicstudio.com/
    http://bestiaryanthropocene.com/
    https://feralatlas.org/
    https://collinsandgoto.com
    https://www.julialohmann.co.uk/
    https://www.laurasplan.com/
     
    What is next for the Algae Society?

    Jennifer Parker: We are in conversation with venues in different parts of the world to exhibit and develop new works and exhibitions in the future - we welcome interested parties reach out and connect

    Gene Felice: We’re ready to develop new, site specific work as Jennifer mentioned and we’re also ready to adapt the Confluence show to its next location in a museum, gallery, science center or non-traditional space.  More importantly, we seek to connect to aquatic ecosystems in need of a voice or a new connection for asking questions that foster balance and understanding between human and nonhuman needs.


    Ken Rinaldo
    Algae Sign, 2022.
    Photo : Bradley Pierce, UNCW, courtesy of Cameron Art Museum

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