The ecoartspace blog will feature artist profiles and reviews of exhibitions, as well as writings on ecological systems. We are interested in presenting work that artists 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
  • Tuesday, June 01, 2021 1:21 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)



    The ecoartspace June 2021 e-Newsletter is HERE

  • Sunday, May 30, 2021 8:13 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    Nature’s art found in the science of climate chaos. Polygon Hummocks in Denali foothills. (Photo credit: Kerry Koepping)

    Artists chronicle climate change in the Arctic and Antarctic

    Working in various media, they're capturing the full glory of rapidly changing places.

    by Kristen Pope May 12, 2021 for Yale Climate Connections

    Rising 20,310 feet above sea level, Alaska’s Denali is the tallest mountain in North America, and when it is fully visible – a relative rarity since it frequently is enshrouded in cloud – the mass of rock and ice is mesmerizing.

    The mountain was out in its full glory when renowned environmental photographer Kerry Koepping was trekking in its foothills a decade ago, but instead of staring up at the stunning mountain, he was transfixed by what he saw beneath his feet. The soft, pillowy tundra, dotted with blueberry bushes and other groundcover, was gathered in strange geometric mounds all along the ridge above the treeline.

    He realized these hypnotic patterns in the ground were “polygon hummocks” caused by cyclical melting and refreezing of permafrost – a troubling sign of a warming world. His curiosity about the geometric display overwhelmed him, and he pointed his camera lens downward, capturing images that would give rise to the Arctic Arts Project, of which he is now director.

    Artists ‘educate and inspire’ with backing of science

    Using visual imagery as a powerful tool, the project helps scientists explain concepts like the troubling phenomenon of melting permafrost. It helps them also inform people who may not realize these captivating mounds of tundra are actually part of a cycle releasing carbon into the atmosphere. The results of those releases include hastening the melting of glaciers, raising sea levels, and bringing floods to Miami and other sun-drenched coastal cities where the tundra is the furthest thing from most people’s minds.

    The project has created an opportunity for Koepping and other artists to allow their work, as the arts project describes it, to “educate and inspire, and to provide an understanding of the evolution of a warming world, through impactful imagery, backed by the most current science.”

    Arctic Arts Project photographers travel with science teams around the world, capturing images of sea ice, glaciers, old growth forests, carbon sequestration, forest fires, and other signs of the toll that climate change is taking on the Arctic and other deeply vulnerable locations.

    “There are absolutely dramatic visuals that are happening all over the world,” Koepping says.

    On one expedition, Koepping’s team sought to provide an atmospheric scientist with visual evidence of methane – a colorless gas. After some contemplation, they ultimately decided to capture images of methane bubbling up in lakes in high alpine and polar regions, freezing in beautiful, exquisite patterns.

    “Most people really don’t want to understand 10,000 data bits of any specific thing, but if you can put it in a visual term, that science can come to life,” Koepping says.

    “We take the science from a 30,000 foot [perspective] and then try and drill down and get an understanding, not only of what it looks like, and why it’s relevant, but how does it apply?” Koepping says. “Why is methane so much of an issue to somebody in California? To someone in Colorado? In Rio de Janeiro? Why is it relevant to everyone’s life? We’re the interpreters of the science.”

    Koepping thinks back to a time he was in Greenland by the Eqi Glacier, watching the glacier face calve off at an unprecedented rate. In the evening, the team retreated to their tents, but the calving continued, with thunderous booms throughout the night: Koepping described them as cannons going off every 10 minutes all night long.

    “From a dramatic standpoint, ice loss is huge,” Koepping says. “It can be overwhelming emotionally when our teams are on the ground and seeing something year after year, or even within the context of a season. It’s very riveting to see ice loss in gigatons. You’re just struck by the magnitude of what you’re witnessing.”

    Sharing those emotions and the importance of climate change is key to Koepping: “We try to bring the environment or subject to life and really give people an understanding of climate chaos, and, maybe more importantly, how it’s relevant to their own individual lives.”

    Antarctica Artists and Writers Collective

    All around the globe, artists are capturing their fears, worries, and hopes about climate change through their art.  On the other side of the world, for instance, the Antarctic Artists and Writers Collective is helping to chronicle how climate change is compromising the integrity of the frozen continent. The group showcases the work of National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program alumni. That program brings artists to the southern continent’s scientific research stations to spend time in the field and portray their experiences creatively. They use mediums ranging from visual art to poetry, composition, videography, scientific illustration, graphic novels, writing, and more.

    Thirteen previous program participants teamed up to put together a virtual show called “Adequate Earth: Artists and Writers in Antarctica.” It began early in 2021 and is scheduled to conclude in May, though exhibits may stay online beyond the closing date.

    Ulrike Heine is Adequate Earth’s curator. Her Ph.D. thesis focused on climate change-related imagery, and in 2018 she curated a climate change related exhibit focusing on the Arctic Ocean.

    “We have all the science data, which is so interesting, and it’s so hard for people to get the full picture and to understand what that actually means for their lives,” Heine says. “And art can do a lot. There are so many artistic practices, a whole range and spectrum that can bring up these questions and discuss them in a very different way, an emotionalized way, and a way that’s more tangible, more approachable using visual imagery.”

    Helen Glazer is one of the artists participating in the show. She traveled to Antarctica from late 2015 to early 2016 during the austral summer season, exploring ice and rock formations, an ice cave, a penguin colony, and “blood falls” with unusual orange stains on the ice.

    “I was constantly just blown away by the immensity of it, and just how utterly alien it is” Glazer says. “It’s so different from any other place that you can be. There are no plants, no trees, and there’s none of the usual landmarks that we use to understand distance … You just realize it’s this experience of vastness, I think [that] was something very memorable.”

    Continue reading here

  • Tuesday, May 25, 2021 10:46 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    TATTER issue 2 : Earth

    Blue Plant Soil Dust Hope

    Particulate Rugs of Madelaine Corbin

    “Blue. Plant. Soil. Dust. Hope,” conceptual artist Madelaine Corbin answers, when asked about undercurrents that unify her different bodies of work. An aggregate of pigment, particles, living matter and aspiration permeate the work, asking us to question the boundaries which define things like ‘home,’ ‘value,’ ‘empathy,’ and our escalating crisis of climate change.

    One example is a group of stenciled floor works. While each visually signifies a carpet, they aren’t woven, or even made of fiber.  Corbin’s rugs are a purposeful dusting of matter (ash, dust, pigment), temporarily delineating a space on the floor, and representing the traditional domestic object. As we encounter them, we become acutely aware of our bodies in space and the potential effects of our movements. Excessive sway of an arm or skirt might stir a wind great enough to alter the work. A misstep could be devastating.

    Surprisingly, Corbin is delighted by these unforeseen calamities. For this artist, the work lies in the ‘happening.’ Installation, deinstallation, even accidental rupture, are active, living moments that more accurately represent her concepts than do their periods of stasis on a gallery floor.  A goal in the work is often to engage nature – but nature as collaborator, rather than subject. No matter how deliberate these floor offerings might be, their passive state is only a fragment of the idea.


    Continue here


  • Friday, May 21, 2021 11:55 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    Luciana Abait, Agua, video projection, part of LUMINEX, DTLA, 2021; Photo credit @drozafilms


    Environmentally Inspiring Painterly Photographs and Mixed Media

    Written by Genie Davis for art and cake

    Luciana Abait recently focuses on photography and video creating her painterly images, but using these mediums is relatively new for her. In fact, her first photo-based work began in the 2000s after incorporating elements of mixed media into her painted works.

    Since her initial series, Underwater she’s explored the different elements that make up our environment: water, vegetation, air (and clouds) and now icebergs, water in its frozen state.

    Abait has always been intrigued by the way human civilization invades and tries to contain nature. “That was the origin of Underwater Series, exploring how mankind contains water with the architectural constructions of swimming pools. All the other series that have followed share the same fascination and questions of who is adapting to whom. Is the natural world adapting to the built environment or is human civilization adapting to nature?” she asks.

    Her commitment to the environment and awareness of climate change presently inspires her work, arising in part from a move to Los Angeles in 2005. “This city’s commitment to environmental issues made me extremely aware of the danger that the future of mankind is going through, and the responsibility I have as an artist who is already working with climate change issues, to transmit this message to the public,” she attests.

    Her current work is photo-based, two- and three- dimensional in both photo-sculptures and installations. “This year I have had the opportunity to expand my work and present time-based pieces as well. One of my main aspirations is to create magical and surreal experiences in which spectators are transported into a different world or reality. I use all different media in order to achieve this.”

    Most recently, Abait did just this as an exhibiting artist DTLA’s evening LUMINEX installations, where she created a dazzling blue, immersive image of a waterfall. It was the most interactive of the jubilant video art on display, and one of the most magical of the exhibition. Viewers came to “stand under” the waterfall and snap selfies there, as if they were playing in a cascade of water. Abait came to be a part of the exhibition after an introduction to NowArt LA Foundation – the creators of LUMINEX – by the curator and director of Building Bridges Art Exchange Marisa Caichiolo, also a board member of NowArtLA.

    She has been working with the theme of water for 20 years. “Agua,” her LUMINEX project is the natural evolution of years of research, documentation, creation, artwork production and hard work, the artist explains. “For the last few years, I have been focusing on creating public art projects that the whole community can experience…last year, when all cultural institutions closed during the California lockdown, I felt that it was so important to be part of projects where I could share my work with an audience in the outdoors and help them experience a moment of relief and wonder.”

    Her vision met this goal evocatively. “Art is so powerful, and it can change people’s minds and hearts,” she says. “‘Agua’ is based on the flood myth, and it deals with the concepts of healing and rebirth. After a year of global loss and mourning, LUMINEX founder and curator Carmen Zella and myself felt that this was exactly what ‘Agua’ could convey to the community.”

    And then the magic of the evening’s video projection happened. “People were surprised by the monumentality and illusion of water falling over the wall of a real building. Everybody was laughing, dancing, twirling. There was so much love and joy. Many people who visited the installation told me ‘We needed this so much.’ I am so thankful and honored that I was able to create an immersive experience, at such a grand scale, in the city of Los Angeles, free for all the community to enjoy, and that it brought so much needed happiness. It has been a dream come true.”

    Along with this recent experiential triumph, Abeit is currently exhibiting her Iceberg Series A Letter to the Future at LAX Terminal 7. In it, she uses surreal, photo-based manipulated landscapes. These “stem from my own experience as an immigrant and represent myself as a wanderer – shifting between oceans and continents. I created the frosty landscapes of imaginary icebergs by combining photographs I had taken of California mountain ranges with found images from encyclopedia and textbooks,” she says.

    Abeit then added another element to these layered works. “Within these inhospitable terrains, I inserted manmade objects, such as a Ferris wheel or a billboard, producing an eerie atmosphere. The presence of these out-of-place objects suggests issues of adaptation, assimilation, isolation and displacement, and serves as a reflection on the aggressive intrusion of humans on the natural world and how the effects are far reaching, impacting the most vulnerable in particular.”

    While the images were installed just prior to the lockdown, visiting them in 2021, they “represent every single human on the planet earth who has gone through isolation and confinement. The vast oceans and dark skies can easily symbolize our homes or rooms in the last year, while the colorful surreal skies talk about a world that we no longer know,” Abeit explains. “A Letter to the Future presents a vast universe where all humans are immigrants in an unknown new world still challenged by the precarious state of our beautiful environment.”

    Continue reading at art and cake


  • Thursday, May 20, 2021 3:39 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    Between the Suns | Rachel Miller interview 

    Contributed by Abigail Doan

    In her latest site-specific, window installation at FENTSTER exhibition space in Toronto, artist, design researcher, and educator, Rachel Miller continues her investigation into timely themes related to environmental fragility, complex pattern as metaphor, and material resilience. 

    Millers sculptural projects and performance-based works have consistently explored the ways that body and landscape overlap to create frameworks for growth, regeneration, and narratives of co-existence. Cycles of nature and ancient traditions have always been touchstones for the artist. Her investigations into historic rituals/texts, archaeology, architecture, and ecological principles have consistently yielded artifact-like garments, soil embedded tapestries, and organic structures rooted in identity and place.


    For Between the Suns, the artist expanded her research to the realms of Jewish art and craft traditions as paradigms for community-based and ecological healing. Her current installation at FENTSTER, which opened this past January and remains on view through June 1, 2021, is a multi-dimensional window installation for curious passersby. The textured, wax-cast tapestry forms reference delicate, traditional paper cut borders and speak to the fragility and endurance of heritage, the immigrant experience, and self preservation.

    FENTSTER’s curator, Evelyn Tauben, writes that the exhibition's title, Between the Suns is derived from a Hebrew phrase in Jewish tradition referring to the transitional time of twilight. This exhibition harkens to our present-day limbo – between environmental degradation and the possibility for repair, between life during a pandemic and a new reality on the horizon, between the uncertainty of dusk and the rise of a promising day.”

    Having followed the studio practice and artistic journey of Rachel Miller for close to a decade now, I initiated this interview to better understand the new terrain that Miller has ventured into with a community-based social practice and threads of her own family memories. The description of the uncertainty of dusk and the rise of a promising day also lured me in as possible strategies for how to prevail during these challenging times

    AD: Your most recent exhibition is in many ways a continuation of past projects but also ventures into new terrain in terms of materials, process, and historical research. Tell us more about how this site-specific project was conceived and the unique timing of its January 2021 opening.

    RM: An exhibition venue like FENTSTER, which means “window” in Yiddish, was ideal for Between the Suns, as the community opening on January 25, 2021, coincided with the Jewish Holiday of Tu Bishvat, also known as the New Year of the Trees, which for many, has become an engagement opportunity for conscientious care of the environment. 

    FENTSTER’s curator, Evelyn Tauben and I agreed that having the opening during the week of Tu Bishvat worked well with the projects theme and commitment to sustainable methods. The gallery installation and sculpture display surface featured environmentally-sensitive materials that were natural, repurposed, and totally reusable. For the cast-wax panels, Shabbat candle drippings were collected from members of Torontos Jewish community. The back wall that the work is displayed on was also created with a zero-waste  design approach, that is, built from a pre-owned table, discarded wood, and surplus paint. Between the Suns was definitely a community effort in terms of the donation of candles and wax materials, particularly with generous doorstep pick-ups and deliveries made during a pandemic.

    AD: What role does pattern and textile research play in your studio projects? How have these ideas been translated into the materiality and presentation of Between the Suns?

    RM: I have always approached my environmental and site-specific sculpture projects with an interest in pattern(s), specifically patterns of breathing, life cycles, and cyclical transitions. I view the elements as being collaborators of sorts, and see pattern as a woven continuum and visual evidence of the universality that we all experience. 

    When I initiate a project, I spend a lot of time researching ancient motifs, historical textiles/documents, and often archaeological references. I typically look across cultures and time periods, but for Between the Suns, I was particularly drawn to Jewish paper cuts that had resonance with the journey and traditions of my own family. I wanted to honor their ability to adapt and create hope during darker times. I fused these memories into the materiality of the cast-wax patterns of my sculptural installation and also accepted that the wax itself might change (melt) or be impacted by sunlight/heat throughout the course of the exhibition. 

    I think that ultimately I was trying to look beyond the chosen pattern itself towards a possible sensation of circularity, hope, light, and inhalation/exhalation expressions of the community overall. The call and response between the materials and changing atmospheric conditions, as well as the soil beneath, is very much an ongoing theme in my studio practice and one that intends to highlight resilience and the need for restoration.


    Rachel Miller, Passing 1

    AD: Why is soil an important material in your installation projects? What universal qualities does this material have for a sculptor?

    RM: Soil connects to history and memory. Soil is both a sturdy and loose, diggable threshold between what memory lies beneath, and what exists upon. Natural occurrences such as weathering, time, erosion, and communication methods such as passing on knowledge, can help to keep alive those memories that might otherwise be buried forever. Soil allows us to stay fed and nourished throughout our lifetime and offers a place to rest when we pass.  


    Artist unknown, Galicia. Watercolor, paper. (Slovak National Museum Museum of Jewish Culture)

    AD: Tell us more about your research into Jewish art forms, traditions, (family) heritage and the intricate paper cut forms that were the inspiration behind the cast-wax sculpture installation? How was the community involved and what sort of participation has resulted from the presentation of your work?

    RM: The cast wax forms were inspired by Jewish paper cuts, a traditional form of Jewish ritual and folk art that dates back for hundreds of years. The paper cut patterns that inspired my installation dated back to 1910, when my grandfather fled as a young child with his family from Galicia to New York.  Despite the fragility and delicate nature of these detailed paper cuts, the pieces that survived over a century after they were made, resonated with me.

    To a great extent, the materials I have used in my artwork are just as significant and interconnected with the concept, design, and the story behind my work. For instance, wax is malleable, flexible, adaptable, molding to a setting that it may be placed in. Although it is fragile and can break easily, it still has the ability to remold itself over and over. When I reflect on my familys immigration experience, the reflection spans beyond their experience alone. They had to leave their homes, adapt to a new country, a new set of customs, a new everything. The very physical nature of wax is a metaphor for adaptation: it is malleable, has the ability to take on the form and shape of its environment, adjusts, settles, radiates lights. And when under strife, it may break and/ or shatter, but once the pieces are picked up, one can remold, readapt, and continue.

    Feedback that has inspired and surprised me-- about a night after I completed the installation of Between the Suns, I noticed that an image of my work was shared on an Instagram story page that said something along the lines of, This is what we are here for”, To be creative”, from a kind stranger who I had never even met. Curious to know more about who he was, I sent him a direct message, thanking him for sharing my work. He messaged back, and told me that on the night when he discovered my work, he was doing late evening deliveries for Uber (on foot). It meant a lot to me that someone from within my local community, was moved by the installation, documented it, and felt compelled to share his experience in this way. 

    AD: As an educator/researcher and community member, how do you feel your work speaks to potential solutions for or examinations of environmental and/or social injustice? Do you see Between the Suns taking root in new contexts?

    RM: My work is truly a distillation of so many experiences in my life, past, present, as well as daily current events and the myriad ways that I process this information. I try to be an advocate for adaptability, flexibility and resilience in my dialogues with students and members of my community. Like the cast-wax forms in Between the Suns, I believe that we have to be open to re-casting and re-molding under adversity, and often fracturing conditions. This is true in the face of uncertainty and rootlessness as well. What prevails ultimately is the ability to keep reshaping what we have or have salvaged/preserved into something even more hopeful and everlasting. With this in mind, I feel this project will take root in another context with perhaps even more resonance and impact.


    As Between the Suns approaches its conclusion on June 1, 2021, the wax-cast forms have re-molded a bit due to the suns heat and warming spring temperatures in the window installation. This demonstration of adaptability and resilience with the passage of time is very much in line with the artists message of uncertainty translated into promise and regeneration.

    Between the Suns, is on view at FENTSTER in Toronto thru June 1, 2021.

    There will be an online conversation between curator, Evelyn Tauben, and artist, Rachel Miller, on May 26 from 12:30-1:00pm EST. Details are on the FENTSTER event page.

    A special congratulations to artist Rachel Miller, for her receipt of the 2021 Peoples Choice Award from the DesignTo Festival 2021 in Toronto.

    Learn more about Rachel Millers work here.Follow her on Instagram here.

    All photos courtesy of the artist and FENTSTER.

    Installation photos/credit: Morris Lum.



  • Thursday, May 13, 2021 5:25 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    (DFA 186: Hadēs. 2012. Unique digital-C print on watercolor paper. Cleared and stained Pacific tree frog collected in Aptos, California in scientific collaboration with Stanley K. Sessions. 46 x 34 in. )


    Creating Fertile Soil In the Face of Loss:
    Brandon Ballengée on his Art, Research and Activism

    Interviewed by Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein


    Brandon Ballengée is an incredible artist, scientist and activist whose work has consistently revolved around endangered species awareness and habitat rehabilitation. His work spans from interactive sculpture to educational environments to community and environmental activism, as well as collage, photography and painting alongside his research. He has recently been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work in the Gulf of Mexico where communities meet to create, learn and strategize solutions to one of the USA’s largest natural disasters.



    (Collapse. Installed at National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, 2014. Mixed-media installation including 26,162 preserved specimens representing 370 species. Glass, Preffer and Carosafe preservative solutions. 12 x 15 x 15 feet. In collaboration with Todd Gardner, Jack Rudloe, Brian Schiering and Peter Warny. Photo by J.D. Talasek.)


    Hi Brandon, thank you so much for your time!

    Endangered species has been a theme of your work throughout your career. You create awareness for 10s of thousands of species that are disappearing using an array of methods, both creative and scientific. How do you balance and respond to this theme using these different perspectives?
     
    We are in the middle of a mass extinction event, referred to as the Anthropocene or Sixth great extinction. Here, many familiar species, like frogs, turtles, butterflies, and bumblebees are disappearing… and rapidly. We have lost over forty percent of amphibians and more than half the planet’s overall wildlife since I have been alive. The renowned scientist and environmental philosopher Edward O. Wilson has even described this era as the Eremozoic (eremo coming from the Greek for lonely or bereft) or the ‘Age of Loneliness.’
     
    My work responds to the extinction crisis through diverse media and actions. As an artist, I have continued to develop an aesthetic of ‘loss,’ giving a visual form to the growing absence of life on our rapidly degrading planet. As a scientist, I find it increasingly important to share research findings about such losses with the public. Through art, I am able to speculate future outcomes, question our current behaviors, express my concerns as well as mourn. As a biologist, I must remain analytical and report unbiased information on species found within or missing from ecosystems.
     
    Combined, art and science are complementary ways of trying to understand our world and ourselves, as well as a means to address the complex socio-ecological challenges we and other species currently face.


    (Styx: Variation Vl. 2010. Parco Arte Vivente (PAV), Centro D'Arte Contemporanea, Torino, Italy. Mixed media installation with 9 cleared and stained Pacific treefrogs on sculptural light-box. In scientific collaboration with Stanley K. Sessions. Photograph by Valentina Bonomonte.)

    This is my way of being an activist, an Ecosystem-Activist. I work to activate communities, perform participatory science, encourage artistic expression and infect with ideas,  and to concretely push back against habitat degradation, protect the remaining biodiversity and give means for it to regenerate.

    Your statement of intent is a call for collaboration between disciplines especially in the arts and sciences. Have your experiences of interdisciplinary collaboration been fruitful? And what are some important things for collaborators between the artistic and scientific disciplines to keep in mind? What is are the important differences between multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary in your opinion?
     
    No single discipline can ‘fix’ the milieu of challenges we currently face. My work with Louisiana communities over the past decade has taught me that art can be an important icebreaker for meeting residents and act as an olive branch with fisherfolk and oil workers, many of whom remain resistant to the concept of human caused environmental impact. At the same time, they are among those facing the greatest threat to their culture and livelihoods from climate change. Through pop-up exhibitions and participatory citizen science, I have been able to meet and recruit potential project participants, communicate my environmental concerns and learn about their perspectives, while brainstorming creative ideas towards survival.
     
    This way of working involves both the utilization of artistic and scientific techniques. The art is often an expression derived from scientific research experiences with animals in natural or artificial conditions and often inspires new ideas for scientific studies. While conducting primary biological research, scientific methods and standards are rigorously followed, however new ideas for art often happens. All inspire and inform further conservation actions.


    (Still from North Troy Eco-Action with Brandon Ballengée, 2014)

    Through public programs, my Eco-Actions, I share both science and art methods with participants. This is my way of being an activist, an Ecosystem-Activist. I work to activate communities, perform participatory science, encourage artistic expression and infect with ideas,  and to concretely push back against habitat degradation, protect the remaining biodiversity and give means for it to regenerate. This mixed method begins as interdisciplinary, becomes multidisciplinary and perhaps moves towards transdisciplinarity where art, science and activism grow with a community into something else.
     
    I think many people can relate to the Age of Loss and Loneliness. Perhaps the last year can lead to more awareness and respect for other species. What can the audience do to stop so many species from being endangered or does the issue lie in necessary changes to big industry?
     
    We are the change. The actions we take every day shape the environments around us, the ecosystems around us, the species around us. What we're choosing to consume, how we're transporting ourselves to different places, what we're doing in our back yard or on our rooftop, or not doing - all of these actions have an impact, and they can be very positive. By using the creative side of art, science, and just being individual human beings working together, we have this remarkable ability to restore environments and help them and other species. Life wants to persist if we let it. Which in turn helps us, too.
     
    Following this concept, my family (my wife Aurore Ballengée and our children Victor and Lilith) and I began the Atelier de la Nature. In 2016, we purchased heavily farmed land in rural south Louisiana and have worked to regenerate the ecosystems from a GMO monoculture into a nature reserve and outdoor education center.
     
    Through sculpting the lands with specialized native species (helping to break-down pesticide residue and deter erosion), we are working to reestablish ‘Cajun’ prairie (ecosystems found here prior to modernity), planted over 1300 regional native trees (to regrow a forest), created wetlands (habitats for declining amphibians and rare fishes), created pollinator habitats from native hibiscus, swamp milkweed, and many more regional plants (to aid declining butterflies, like the Monarch which is in on the verge of endangered, native bees and others) and traditionally grow food without pesticides using permaculture, Creole and other indigenous methods.

     

    Atelier de la Nature is also a community space, whereby we offer combined environmental education, sustainable food and art events open to all ages. We hold nature summer camp for youth, art and nature festivals for families and have started an artist, and/ or scientist residency program.
     
    Atelier de la Nature project has already yielded results in the ecological sense with many dozens of species of birds and mammals returning (and breeding), amphibians and reptiles currently occupying the property, countless insects, all coming back to once barren land. In the human communal sense, hundreds of youth have helped with restoration of the lands youth or participated in our programs, a thousands have attended our festivals!
     
    I am interested in honoring, remembering, creating an emotional connection with lost species to inspire actions that help to restore ecosystems and save species.


    (Love Motel for Insects: Anax Junius Variation. Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington DC, USA. Summer 2012. Outdoor installation and Eco-Actions (public field-trips) with: Black Ultra-violet lights, steel, fabric, native plants, invited insects. Overall dimensions 5.5 by 9 meter. Photographs by Lindsay Wallace and Brandon Ballengée.)

    That’s beautiful! So many species are affected by human-made constructions (like monocultures in agriculture), and, as you rightfully say, the potential for change lies in our hands. In much of your work you document species passing, and you seem to give voice and representation to the lost species. How much of your goal is to create a “haunting” awareness of the destruction, and how much of your goal is honoring and preserving the evidence of human-caused environmental effects?
     
    The work is not about preserving or documenting destruction. Instead, I am interested in honoring, remembering, creating an emotional connection with lost species to inspire actions that help to restore ecosystems and save species. I just see myself as a human being existing in a time of dire socio-environmental crisis, who tries to do something about it, by any means available to me. In ecosystem terms, we are all hearing Nero’s fiddle as our planetary home burns and species diversity rapidly dwindles. I navigate and try to make sense of this enigmatic traumatic terrain utilizing the analytical methods of a scientist while also trying to understand and express this reality in visual terms as an artist.

    (RIP Hare-Indian Dog: After John Woodhouse Audubon. 1949/2014. Artist cut and burnt print hand-colored stone lithograph, etched glass urn, and ashes. 13 5/8 x 16 inches. Species last observed 1800s. Photo by Casey Dorobek.)

    That makes sense and I think it is working. Let’s talk about your practice. Do you have any rituals you perform honor the lost species during your process?
     
    Ritual is at the core of my series, Frameworks of Absence. With the Frameworks, I acquire original historic prints picturing now vanished animals and printed at the period when the depicted species became extinct (ranging from the 16th to 21st Century). These original artifacts are then altered by physically cutting the image of the animal from the print. For example, in RIP Labrador Duck: After John James Audubon (1856/2007), the image of the birds was removed from an original Audubon 1856 Royal Octavo (hand-colored by one of Audubon’s sons) printed at the same point in history as the actual species disappeared.
     
    Another, recently completed work RIP Antioquia Beaked Frog: After Paula Andrea (2011/2014), responded to the loss of this amphibian over the past decade and was cut from a signed artist proof published in Columbia in 2011 (cut with the artists consent). Such altered prints are then framed with a glass backing, so that the wall is seen through the absence of the depicted animal, which gives form to the void left by these lost species. The process of researching the extinct animals, finding and acquiring historic depictions in an ongoing ritual for me. 

    For this second component of the project, the cut animals from the prints are burned and placed in glass vessels etched with the species name. Participants are then asked to scatter these “remains” through their own private cremation ceremonies- a personal ritual of sorts, what I call Actions of Mourning. My intention here is to create an embodied transformative event, like the loss of a loved one and the scattering of their ashes, changes an individual for the duration of their life. In the case of these actions, my hope is to connect individuals to a lost species in the hope that this grief inspires them to help protect the biodiversity that remains.

     
     
    (RIP Parrot Fish. 2014. Giclée print on handmade Japanese rice paper in an edition of 13. 18 by 24 inches each.)

    Much of my work attempts to connect viewers with loss, and over the past two decades, through numerous trials using varied media.

    These are such touching themes that have really come to the forefront this past year. Due to the pandemic, the human species has been confronted with death like it has not for generations. In your work, “Dying Tree” you amplify the sound of an ill tree dying for a museum audience. What do you think is a healthy relationship with death? And how can the empathy that death creates become a bridge between species?
     
    The death of our friends, family, and ourselves is very hard for us to comprehend. Even further, the permanent loss of a group of organisms is an almost abstract idea. At a larger scale, occidental culture increasingly attempts to “buy” death away. I mean this in two ways, firstly through the preternatural extension of life for those that can afford such “medicine”. Secondly, under postwar capitalism we have been relentlessly trained to consume and accumulate to material goods. The idea that such possessions provide us with happier lives is a widely accepted illusion. Recent studies have shown evidence that individuals thinking about death often respond by going shopping. The COVID over-buying of last year is further evidence. However, if we do not think about loss, how do we grieve, accept or learn from it?


    Dying Tree. Domaine de Chamarande, France. Summer 2012.

    Much of my work attempts to connect viewers with loss, and over the past two decades, through numerous trials using varied media (such as empty specimen jars to represent changes in marine food-webs, drawn silhouettes of vanished animals, amplifying the sounds coming from a slowly dying tree, and others). I found that the cut artifacts in the Frameworks has a visceral quality that invokes an emotive response in viewers, sometimes anger but most often confusion followed by grief, it has been my successful attempt in translating species loss to others, translate the with the message of species loss. At another level the works question what we value and protect, our beloved depictions of nature or actual species and ecosystems. As conservationist Aldo Leopold once said, “We stand guard over works of art, but species representing the work of aeons are stolen from under our noses.”
     
    From endangered sea turtles, to marine mammals, to plankton, deep-water alga, corals to birds to us- the spill reached the many tiers of the complex Gulf web and way of life.

    (MIA Highfin Blenny. 2020. 22.5 by 32 inches. Mixed media with Deepwater Horizon source crude oil, Taylor/ MC20 source crude, contaminated marshland sediment with oil, anaerobic bacteria and iron oxide, and COREXIT 9500A (dispersant) on Arches hot press watercolor paper. Depicting United States National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) at the Smithsonian specimen USNM 164017 Highfin Blenny (male), Lupinoblennius nicholsi. *Species last reported in 2000.)

    And, last but definitely on least, congratulations on your recent Guggenheim Fellowship! How does it feel and what do you have in store for the fellowship?
     
    Thank you. I am very grateful. The Guggenheim Fellowship will support my continued project Searching for Ghosts of the Gulf, which responds to missing Gulf of Mexico species through visual artworks and actions with coastal Louisiana communities that are themselves culturally endangered.
     
    For many of us, and over ten thousand other species, the Gulf of Mexico is a special place, our sanctuary, our home, our mother, provider and sometimes destroyer. As an artist I find her to be an inspirational source of color, form, intrigue, tranquility and fear. From the science side, the Gulf is among the most important and biologically diverse marine environments in the world. She is resilient, powerful, seductive but also dangerous, damaged and suffocating in her own sang noir (a regional term describing crude oil).
    Land in coastal Louisiana is being lost at the fastest rate on Earth and, in recent decades, several Gulf species have gone missing. As habitats and biodiversity disappear, so do the cultures that rely on them. The fate of the Gulf’s children remains precarious.

    Since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, much of my work has focused on the perilous environmental state of the Gulf of Mexico. So much so that my family and I moved to south Louisiana from NYC in 2015, to be at the front lines so to speak.
     
    DWH was the largest industrial petrochemical accident in modern history and its long-term impact on fishes, other biota and Gulf ecosystems is still not well understood. Additionally, there have been 2000+ smaller spills since DWH and, before then, the Taylor or MC20 oil spill began in 2004 and continues uninterrupted today. Through my installations, photographs, crude paintings and programs, I want to give visual form to loss from these environmental insults and inspire individual actions towards systemic change.


    The Nature of Art (PBS) 2019

  • Wednesday, May 12, 2021 8:14 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    My work explores lens-based practice as a mode of representation allowing for poetic and critical  engagement with culturally charged sites of significance, as well as those presumed to be neutral.  The resulting imagery is at once metaphoric and banal, emphasizing the arbitrary relevance of the  distinct forms pictured. Combining a documentary approach with direct intervention, my process  incorporates multiple reproductive methods including digital imaging, film, and video. Sensitive to  the role of the camera in contributing to the proliferation of familiar, constructed images of  landscape, I made a deliberate decision in recent years to incorporate (potentially) less mediated  photographic processes including cyanotype prints and other UV-based contact exposure  methods. 

    Working between and within the still and moving image, my projects examine the role of these  media in shaping personal and social understandings of our environment through site-responsive  engagement. Drawing on conventions of photography and cinema as emblematic of archived  experience, the premise of evidentiary authenticity is deliberately probed via found and fabricated  situations that are traced, replicated and transformed. Expansive presentation modes place  sequential and composite imagery in relation as imperfectly contiguous screen-based and print  forms, stressing the fragmentary nature of perceptual response. The ephemeral state implied by  the time-based recording of physical elements is distinct from the printed reproduction – a stable  frame that persists, suggesting all matter is sound enough to endure inevitable and relentless  shifts, however benign or catastrophic. This approach purposefully unravels our collective  understanding of the perceived world – and by extension, our struggle to orient ourselves within  a shared global space that is rapidly transforming.

    -Dawn Roe


    Mineral House Media: What is your history as an artist? Where did you first find your passion or inspiration to create? What brought to you where you are now?

    Dawn Roe: Hmm…such a tough one. I didn’t necessarily grow up thinking I wanted to be an artist, but was always just pretty curious about the world, generally - lots of looking and thinking, and questioning from a young age, I guess. From my late teenage years to mid-twenties I took a pretty meandering path that eventually led me away from my home state of Michigan to Portland, Oregon where I would live for 10 years in the 1990s and end up completing my undergraduate degree in art at a small college with a really strong BFA program just outside Portland called Marylhurst. I found my way to Marylhurst via the Northwest Film Center where I was initially studying experimental cinema. They had a cooperative program with Marylhust, which worked out great for me. The faculty in both of these programs had a profound impact on me and remain mentors and friends.

    That decade in Portland was a transformative time for me, and certainly shaped my ideas around art and artmaking. My formal education was juxtaposed with the DIY culture embedded in my shared community of punk and indie musicians, writers, zine makers - artists of every variety really. There was fantastic energy and joy, but there was a flipside as well. Many of us struggled with mental health and substance abuse issues, and there was loss along the way. During my final year of undergraduate study, I made the decision to leave Portland and began applying to grad school. As I was already 30 years old at the time, going right into grad school made sense for me, as I was eager to work with a new group of faculty and fellow artists and just really needed to leave Portland. This decision turned out to be the right one, as my three years in the Studio Art MFA program at Illinois State University were equally pivotal, bringing me to a healthier mental and physical space. It was here my focus shifted from working with photography in a more traditional, documentary style to a more expansive mode that led me to begin staging works and considering working with the moving image again.

    MHM: What sort of music do you like to listen to? Does it directly inform the vocal sound components of some of your work?

    DR: Like most people, it’s a pretty wide variety, but I do tend to veer between extremes - from intensely bombastic and scream-y to more somber, melancholy and melodic sorts. I worked in a somewhat infamous club in Portland for years called Satyricon, known for hosting punk and garage acts as well as indie singer/songwriters. A lot of what I listen to would have been played there, either live or on the jukebox - too many bands/people to list, really. But I’ve always listened to a lot of old soul music as well. And yes, all these things directly inform the vocal components of my work for sure. Portland musician and artist Rachel Blumberg contributed her beautiful voice to one of my video works, The Sunshine Bores | The Daylights, and a group of Portland musician friends (Jerry (A.) Lang; Jillian Wieseneck; Dan Eccles; Jennifer Shepard; Dean Miles) produced the audio components to my most recent project, Wretched Yew. Jen Shepard’s vocal track is a hugely vital piece to that video, including a blood curdling scream that gives me chills in the very best way every time I hear it.


    To continue reading go HERE

    Mineral House Media was founded in 2017 as an online curatorial collective focused on the enrichment of personal practice through the elevation of working contemporary artists. We strive to connect artists across the Southeast and beyond through a series of online residencies, interviews, podcasts, mini-documentaries, and annual exhibitions.



  • Tuesday, May 04, 2021 9:06 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    CAA 2021: 89 Panels Focused on the Climate Crisis

    Submitted by Sue Spaid

    According to the official conference schedule, CAA 2021 hosted 89 panels over 4 days that featured nearly 325 presenters addressing issues “including but going beyond eco-art and eco-criticism, with a special focus on climate justice and intersectional thinking as priorities.” I have attended conferences where it was imperative to read presenters’ papers in advance, but this was my first conference where I was expected to watch three to four 15-20 minute videotaped presentations in advance of each 30-minute panel discussion in order to intelligently discuss presenters’ talks. Crazier still, pre-recorded presentations came online less than a week before the first day, leaving those attendees particularly interested in the climate crisis just 168 hours to watch 108 hours of pre-recorded content to prepare for 89 half-hour sessions. For good, several climate crisis panels were booked simultaneously, so one need only prepare for the favored theme. Luckily, the pre-recorded talks and recorded discussions remained available through March 15, which meant that if one devoted five hours a day for the remaining 30 days, one could still catch 153 hours of recorded content. I did my best to view as much content as possible. According to CAA’s post-conference survey, the average attendee checked out the recorded talks associated with two panels.

    Elsewhere I’ve characterized how centuries of colonialism aggravated species extinction, vulnerable essential workers, and the negligence that spurred the Black Lives Movement. Not only did numerous panels tie climate justice to the legacy of colonialism, in particular the violence harnessed to sustain environmentally-insensitive extractive industries; while others credit climate change with instigating radical pedagogies, cultural sustainability, multispecies co-authorship, intersectional approaches to ecology, geo-trauma, and mourning as a means of coping with ecological grief. Given the role played by place in shaping local cultures, beliefs, and values, it’s imperative that societies recognize how degraded environments destabilize cultural identities. Such a diverse range of panels painted climate justice as both product and a cause of widespread social ills.

    Land acknowledgment statements typically honor indigenous peoples’ territories related to the in-person conference’s location. The first CAA 2021 panel I attended encouraged listeners to post the names of Indian tribes whose unceded lands they occupied, which truthfully inspired me for the first time in my life to investigate the Native Americans inhabiting Houston, my parental home since 1977. I eagerly typed in “Akokisa, a tribe associated with the Atakapa Indians,” known as the Atakapa-Ishak Nation. This was the first indication that a zoom meeting could prompt locals to discover local lore.


    This conference provided an opportunity to explore the wealth of contemporary art being created by artists of Native American descent, such as David Boxley’s Tsimshian imagery, Dyani White Hawk’s paintings and beadwork inspired by Lakota quillwork, Oscar Howe’s dynamic casein and tempera paintings, James Johnson’s Tlingit carvings and dynamic skateboards, Courtney Leonard’s ongoing Breach project inspired by the Shinnecock Nation’s ancestral lands near Montauk, and Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie’s digital art. Participating art historians/curators researching indigenous artistic practices included Yve Chavez, Eva Mayhabal Davis, Kendra Greendeer, Frances Holmes, Madison Treece, and Stephanie Sparling Williams. Participants in Aram Han Sifuentes’ workshops have created over 2500 banners that she routinely lends to protesters marching to protect Native American ancestral lands.

    Of special interest was a panel entitled “Artworks of the Future/Artworks for Jellyfish,” during which artists Ted Hiebert and Ryuta Nakijima, artist/ornithologist Silas Fischer, and art historian Amanda Boetzkes discussed bird wellbeing, songbird “consent,” planetary flesh-relations, co-embodiment, the loss of the other vs. extinction, and artworks created by cephalopods (cuttlefish, octopuses, and squids), whose “adaptive coloration” capacities enable them to blend in with computer-generated images of artworks. Another artist who mixes science and art is Xiaojing Yan, who uses a diverse range of natural materials, including pine needles, freshwater pearls, lingzhi mushrooms, and cicada exoskeletons. To create her living sculptures, she puts wood chips and lingzhi spore mixtures into a mold and then removes the mold so the mushrooms can continue growing in a greenhouse.


    One of the sessions whose artworks especially addressed climate change was “During the “From Wheatfields to Ecosophy: A Consideration of Women Artists in the History of Climate Change” session, which Cynthia Veloric who invited me to be the discussant organized. Diane Burko surveyed her paintings that characterize climate change’s effects over a century. Christina Catanese introduced “The Tempestry Project” for which dozens of knitters registered daily temperature fluctuations in colored yarn, while Bonnie Peterson presented her elaborate embroideries that depict environmental data. Jenny Kendler discussed Birds Watching (2018-2019), which captures the eyes of 100 U.S. climate-threatened species, while Daniela Naomi Molnar shared her watercolor paintings that map climate change reshaping our planet.      

    The panel “Aviva Rahmani: From Ecofeminism to Climate Justice” highlighted Rahmani’s oeuvre beginning with her carrying/caring for an object for a week as an undergraduate up through The Blued Tree Symphony (2015-present). MOCA Los Angeles curator Rebecca Skafsgaard Lowery highlighted her early performances, such as The Pocket Book Piece (1969), during which participants described their association to purse items; Smelling (1972), for which blindfolded Cal Arts students sniffed one another to try to identify each other by scent, and the collaborative activist performance Ablutions (1972), which took place in Laddie John Dill’s studio. For this feminist artwork, Judy Chicago, Suzanne Lacy, Sandy Orgel, and Rahmani choreographed performers seated in metal bathtubs, filled with eggs, animal blood, and clay; while the audience heard various speakers personal accounts of rape. Curator Monika Fabijanska remarked that Rahmani was among the first to connect the rape/assault of women to routine violations/abuses of nature. Chava Maeve Krivchenia discussed the results of Rahmani’s having painted boulders alongside a public causeway blue to draw attention to the stagnant water below. Despite having been officially invited by a curator to create this public artwork, an islander subpoenaed her to wash off the paint. With help from the local Garden Club, her “wash-in” became a “teach-in” for passersby. Thanks to her actions, the causeway was opened enough to allow for tidal flushing, thus restoring 27 acres of coastal wetlands. Finally, copyright lawyer Gale Elston explained the significance of Rahmani’s exploration of the limits of VARA, the law protecting artists against artwork damage/removal. To protect forests from fossil fuel development, she painted blue sine waves on trees and copyrighted hundreds of “tree-notes” in an aerial score in the paths of natural gas pipelines as art.


    The rare speaker focused on surface water, Omar Olivares Sandoval’s “Critical Geologies: Contemporary Geoaesthetic Research of Mexico City Lakes” addressed the idealization of Mexico City as a lake. TFAP Ecofeminisms 4, one of several affiliated panels, featured a “Waterways” session, during which Gina McDaniel Tarver discussed Alicia Barney Caldas’ installation Río Cauca (1981-1982), which featured 3 transparent tanks of river water embedded with 15 test tube samples. During the “Art and Ecology in the Middle East and West Asia” panel, Nat Muller discussed Jumana Manna’s Wild Relatives (2018). This “sci-fi” documentary captures the efforts of farmers inhabiting Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley to replicate Aleppo’s seed bank, which had closed in 2012 as a result of the Syrian Civil War, with heirloom seeds acquired from Svalbard’s Global Seed Vault.

    No discussion of climate justice would be complete without remarking on ways to overhaul the capitalocene, which many consider the underlying source of all our ecological ills. Keynote speaker Salah Hassan spoke persuasively of the need for art history to reposition the global south to the center to shift the very paradigms that sustain inequalities stemming from capitalism’s history of racism and slavery. Acting as the discussant for “Art and Ecology in the Middle East and West Asia,” T. J. Demos noted the transition from “petro-affectivity,” such that petrodollars that once greased the Iranian art world, affording artists distinct advantages; now exhibit “necro-affectivity.” For Demos, Muller’s paper muses on “interrogations of precarity and terminal endings visited upon refugee seeds as much as refugee people as investigated in Manna’s slow cinema of slow violence with its somber meditations on the sepulchral afterlife of a culture’s biogenetic heritage as it sits in the seed vault that is itself threatened by the catastrophic climate breakdown and melting permafrost resulting from that earlier fossil capital modernity.” 

    Note: ecoartspace members noted in bold

  • Saturday, May 01, 2021 1:26 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    The ecoartspace May 2021 e-Newsletter is HERE

  • Tuesday, April 13, 2021 10:38 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    (Apis/Homo)

    Connection/Collaboration 1:
    An Interview about interspecies experiences with Dana Michele Hemes
    by Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein 


    Dana Michele Hemes collaborates with humans, insects, microbiomes and bees (to name just a few) in her interspecies experiences. Converging the artistic with the scientific, her work is all about accentuating already existing (but often unnoticeable) interactions in the world around us. Often her work involves highly perceptive technologies that create incredible interactions and sensory spaces. Dana speaks about the importance of connectedness with the environment and between people, her collaborative mindset (with all sizes and beings) and the limits of perception in this interview.  

    It's so great to speak with you, Dana! Let’s jump right in. Your work often involves interactive sculptures to encourage interspecies communication. Where did your inspiration for this work come from?

    I’m interested in the entanglements or connections in the world around us, so I set up scenarios to explore this connectedness. One way I do this is by creating interactive spaces where humans and nonhumans can share a sensory experience. I’m curious as to what we can learn by being present and aware of our shared, intersecting existences… For me, exploring these interspecies relationships is a way to better understand my place in the world.

    I think a lot about the limits of our perception of our environments.

    (Homo/Homo 2 Phase 2)


    That’s beautiful! You seem to highlight these small, often unseen interactions. How do you decide what to magnify?

    When designing interactive spaces, I try to organize them in ways where both species (human and nonhuman) can affect and be affected. In doing so, I think a lot about the limits of our perception of our environments. I start by researching the nonhuman species to learn about how they sense the world; and oftentimes, I build the workaround senses that we share. For example, Ariadna/Homo 1 (which is about corolla spiders) and Pogonomyrmex/Homo 8 (harvester ants) are installations that explore methods of hearing. Humans, corolla spiders, and harvester ants detect and respond to sound in their environments.

    Sometimes the sensory stimuli are imperceptible to humans-- like sounds that are too small or high-pitched for our ears, or light beyond the visible spectrum. In these cases, I use tools to amplify or adapt the stimuli so we are better able to perceive and engage with one another. I also find magnification and shifting scales useful when working with small or microscopic creatures, as a way to bring the human and nonhuman together.

    Exploring these interspecies relationships is a way to better understand my own place in the world.

    (Ariadna/Homo 1)

    By magnifying aspects of foraging behavior or listening strategies, you seem to be helping insects, microbiomes, spiders etc., express their voices. What are the results of these conversations?

    That’s a great question-- and one of the drivers behind the work itself. I’m particularly interested in what emerges as these interspecies conversations take place… and it varies. I don’t have a specific message that I want people to take away from the work; instead, I’m aiming to invite people to try a new or different way of seeing or listening or feeling or being.

    I don’t have a specific message that I want people to take away from the work; instead, I’m aiming to invite people to try a new or different way of seeing or listening or feeling or being.

    (Apis/Homo 1)

    For example, Apis/Homo 1 is a simple, wearable device that creates an opportunity for humans and bees to share an intimate space. Bees can enter and exit the headpiece freely, but the partially closed helmet contains and concentrates the buzzing sounds and flower smells, etc. Here I’m not aiming to make a statement about bees; instead, I’m building a scenario that encourages bee/human conversation and focused observation. The result or takeaway of that shared experience is left for the bees and humans to explore if they want.

    I hope that people take away a greater sense of connectedness to the world, and/or a willingness or interest in trying to think beyond themselves or the human. Perhaps it’s a new lens to have in your back pocket that invites a broadened perspective, empathy, or flexibility of the self.

    It seems like your work process is also part of the exploration. Do you consider your subjects interspecies collaborators or actors in your vision?


    I think it’s important to note that the subject of the work is the whole experience-- the interaction that takes place between humans, nonhumans, and the constructed space. The ants, bacteria, humans, tech, corn, birds, sunlight, air, etc. are all components that shape the interaction. For example, Homo[+]/Homo 2, Phase 2 is a work that connects humans to their bacterial microbiomes through vegetable fiber candies.  It was first shown at a one-night event in an indoor gallery at Pioneer Works. I used the feedback on candy flavors to tweak recipes and addressed questions by reorganizing the components of the work. Homo[+]/Homo 2, Phase 3 is the updated version, which was then activated at an outdoor festival at the Wassaic Project. 

    With this in mind, I consider all of the active participant's collaborators-- living and nonliving. But this collaborative connectedness doesn’t only occur in my built environments; it happens all the time. I’m using art as a method to illuminate these connections and to facilitate broader perspectives beyond the human.

    I consider all of the active participant's collaborators… this collaborative connectedness doesn’t only occur in my built environments; it happens all the time.

    (Homo/Homo 2 Phase 2)

    It all seems very scientific and you name your works in the Latin or in traditional scientific classifications. What role do the traditions of science play in your work?

    My work is interdisciplinary-- integrating science, philosophy, and art into the making and thinking. So science is an essential part of my practice. I love that curiosity is baked into its core, and that scientists ask big questions and have specific methods and tools for searching for answers. I’m also fascinated by taxonomy or the systems we use to order and categorize information-- particularly the limitations of these systems, like when we discover something that doesn’t quite fit into any of our categories. Scientific classification changes, which highlights the fluid nature of our knowledge about the world. Originally, Linnaeus’ taxonomy only had 2 kingdoms-- plants and animals. For a while, there were 8 kingdoms, which were later reduced to 6, and as of 2015 there are 7… and there is still plenty of room for debate around outliers-- like viruses.

    For something that seems so neat and orderly, it’s actually a messy, malleable, slippery and sometimes contentious process. I think that’s why I’m drawn to using them in my titles… Plus, naming things feels like a very human thing to do.

    Collaboration is an important part of my process-- whether it’s working with scientists, programmers, the public, or other species-- it helps the work grow into something bigger and more interesting.

    (Homo/Homo 3 Phase 2)

    And you often include human technologies to create your works including specialized engineering and sensorial technology. How do you approach scientific and engineering problems as an artist?

    I’d say that I approach engineering problems with naive enthusiasm. There is so much I don’t know about computer science and electrical engineering; so, I blindly assume that if I have a specific question or tech need, there must be an answer in a forum in some corner of the internet.

    Also, I ask for help from people who know more than me. Collaboration is an important part of my process-- whether it’s working with scientists, programmers, the public, or other species-- it helps the work grow into something bigger and more interesting.

    My work is about shifting perspectives and revealing a thing that’s already there…

    (Pogo/Homo)

    There was this lovely description in your artist statement, where you write “Each moment is an event: an active, participatory state where all parts of a system affect and are affected”, how can art accentuate or add to this participation? Do you consider your work a form of performance art?

    Art is a medium that can set a framework that intentionally requests an open mind. It’s stuff that’s about other stuff. It sets people up for looking deeply and feeling their way through an unknown. My work is about shifting perspectives and revealing a thing that’s already there-- so while people are always active participants in the world, I think it might be easier to engage meaningfully when the environment requests and directs focus.

    I consider my work interactive rather than performance, only because I don’t want to risk implying that there’s a distinction between the actor(s) and the audience. I think that the term “interactive” helps to frame the experience as one where you cause change and can be changed... all parts affect and are affected.

    And lastly, how have your projects adapted to Covid-19 times given that there is now less possibility for live experiences?

    The lack of physical interactions with people has definitely been a challenge. That said, I’ve been able to continue collaborating with artists and scientists through virtual means. I’m currently working on a project that is exploring our connection to the octopus, which is supported by the Ocean Memory Project. The Ocean Memory community is a cross-disciplinary, far-reaching network of people who come from different backgrounds and areas of expertise (and geographic locations). With video-based virtual meeting technologies becoming so commonplace, it has made these long-distance conversations easier. One thing that this pandemic has illustrated is the connectedness of the world; and how these connections shape our lives and behaviors in real and sometimes painful ways.

    But things are starting to reopen; and I’m excited to be starting a studio residency at Cornerstone STUDIOS. I optimistically look forward to future gatherings... humans, nonhumans, and all.

    danamichelehemes.com


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software