Deadline for proposals 20 February 2015
A wide ranging article on sustainability in the context of artist residencies by Laura Kenisns published in the Canadian art journal C Magazine in autumn 2013 and entitled ‘Escapists and Jet-Setters: Residencies and Sustainability’:
The idea of the artist colony emerged in the early 19th century alongside Romanticism, and the idea of artists going into the wilderness or to a place free from societal restraints persists in today’s residencies, whether they be urban or rural…These early artist colonies were established as utopias of sorts, a place where experiencing natural beauty and creating work could be artists’ primary concerns. In these spaces, artists could be free from many of the usual restraints of everyday life and everyday behaviour. Much like these colonies, today’s residency centre is a sort of permanent temporary community where individual members may change, but one can always find a community of artists.
For the whole text see the online issue of C Magazine:
Reading the announcement for artist Heath Bunting’s ‘festival of not-surviving’ (see below), which highlights the crisis in energy, economy and ecology and suggests that since c.2007 we’ve been living in a strangely different post-peak world, it might be worth mentioning that there are also implications here for contemporary art, which in a way also ‘ended’ at the same time as cheap oil production peaked, with a tempering of enthusiasm about the global and the bursting of the unsustainable art-hype bubble.
festival of not surviving
2012 nov dec 2013 jan
the meaning of life for individual human beings can be defined as:
‘compulsory individual survival, with optional social reproduction’
currently, humanity is faced with three simultaneous challenges, each of which alone is enough to end life as we know it:
1. energy crisis
since 1950’s, our societies have been based on cheap oil
this oil took 120 million years to create and 60 years to deplete
we reached peak cheap oil production in 2007 and (with careful management) will now return towards 1900 energy consumption levels (a contraction of a factor of 20)
careful management doesn’t appear to be in action though
since the 1950’s, our societies have been based on cheap money
this money took thousands of years to create and 60 years to debase
we reached peak money value in 2007 and (with careful management) will now return towards 1960’s money value levels (a contraction of a factor of 25)
careful management doesn’t appear to be in action though
since 1950’s, our societies have been based on unsustainable resource extraction
if we ignore climate change, for us to return to sustainable relationship with nature (with careful management), the extinction rate should drop from 50,000 species to 5,000 species (a contraction of a factor of 10)
careful management doesn’t appear to be in action though
if we consider climate change, then we are facing an species extinction event (a contraction of a factor of at minimum 6)
extinction events occur in factors of roughly 60 million years
with these challenges combined, we are facing the extinction of the human species and any land mammal larger than a squirrel
individually, we generally die alone, but we are now facing the prospect of dieing with our species
the death of our species should be a moment of reflection and peace instead of delusion and panic
without a firm link to nature, our descent will be far from graceful
festival of not surviving intends to equip participants with the knowledge and skills to fully experience the death of themselves and their species
An interview with Maja and Reuben Fowkes published in the Turkish magazine ECOIQ in June 2012:
As in all areas, wind blows towards sustainability in art also. Thus a new concept was born: Sustainable Art. This concept consists of social justice, direct democracy and antiviolence in addition to environmental issues. We discussed the history, present and tomorrow of Sustainable Art with contemporary art historian and curator couple: Maja-Reuben Fowkes.
For the Turkish version click here, or for English follow the link below:
Art and Ecology related symposium at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague on Friday 30 March:
In many ways, the artistic debates prevalent in the 1970s are recurring in our time: the relation between art and ecology, the position of the artist within a information and media society and the crisis of (neo)liberalism. Although the societal context and diameters of these discussions have changed profoundly, their basis can be found in the period from 1965 to 1975, considered a paradigmatic shift in art and society. But how well do we actually know our immediate past and what can we learn from it? Smithson’s artistic heritage provides an interesting and relevant case study in this respect. Rethinking Robert Smithson aims to open up a discussion about current concerns in art and theory at the intersection of art historical debate and contemporary art practice. Along the line of two thematic approaches related to Smithson’s work, Art and Ecology and The Cinematic Condition, topical concerns in artistic practice are reconsidered by internationally renowned theorists and artists.
For more details see:
Rethinking Smithson Symposium
The COAL Art & Environment prize was launched in 2010 by the French association COAL, the coalition for art and sustainable development, to reward a project about the environment by a contemporary artist.
For more details see:
Talk at Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz on 2 September 2010
The pattern of world environmental summits has been one of raised hopes for global action in tackling ecological crisis, followed by disillusionment as dominant political and economic interests reassert themselves to block radical change. Contemporary art’s recent enthusiasm for environmental questions, which peaked during the media hype preceding the Copenhagen Summit, has an instructive prehistory in the interconnection of art and ecology in the 1970s, with the 1972 Stockholm conference slogan ‘only one earth’ a powerful rallying call for artistic collaborations. In their talk at Muzeum Sztuki, art and sustainability theorists Maja and Reuben Fowkes explore the lessons of art’s engagement with ecology, from the first understanding of the crisis of human environment in the early 70s, to the global perspective ushered in by the end of the Cold War, with the popularisation of the idea of sustainable development at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and the crystallisation of the debate between technocratic and radical approaches at the ill-fated Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009.
Special issue on issues of art and ecology in contemporary art in the Spanish art journal Artecontexto, including a feature article by Maja and Reuben Fowkes entited Reclaim Happiness: Art and Ecology Unbound. Available to read online in both English and Spanish here
VERGE no.1 (February 2010)
Sustainability has become a buzzword of politics and commerce, and with its spread from the field of environmentalism into society there has been some dilution of its radical implications. Ecological sustainability is also mentioned with increasing frequency in discussions of contemporary art and there is a parallel lack of awareness of the history of environmental thought, which in many accounts begins and ends with the early 60s classic of poetic, anti-pollution literature, The Silent Spring. If we begin with an understanding of sustainability derived from green capitalism, then the widespread belief amongst critical theorists that sustainability was invented by big corporations to create new markets for environmentally-friendly products seems a logical conclusion. Unravelling the confusion between ecological sustainability and greenwash, in other words between the solution and part of the problem, requires revisiting theoretical debates within the field of ecology, in order to open up our understanding of sustainability and its relevance for both society and contemporary art (full text here).
Sustainability and Contemporary Art:
Art, Post-Fordism and Eco-Critique
International Symposium at Central European University Budapest
19-20 March 2010
This symposium focuses on the intersections between globalisation, ecology and contemporary art and examines the relevance of post-Fordist theory for both environmentalism and artistic practice.
The symposium is organised as a series of critical conversations between speakers from the fields of art, philosophy and environmental science that respond to urgent questions such as:
What is the way forward after the failure of the Copenhagen Summit and in the face of growing public scepticism about the science of climate change?
How has the spread of flexible post-Fordist practices effected the way artists, cultural producers, academics and environmentalists work?
How might artists develop ways to critique capitalism with an awareness of ecology and the complexity of globalisation?
With Stephen Wright (art theorist, Paris), Igor Stokfiszewski (curator/critic/playwright, Warsaw), Branka Cvjeticanin (multimedia artist, Zagreb), Ralo Mayer (artist, Vienna), Maja and Reuben Fowkes (Translocal.org), Ruben Mnatsakanian and Alan Watt (CEU Department of Environmental Science and Policy).
For more information see: www.translocal.org/sustainability
International Symposium at CEU Budapest 19-20 March 2010
The 2010 Symposium on Sustainability and Contemporary Art brings together artists, philosophers, environmental scientists and activists to explore the conundrum of capitalism’s remarkable ability to absorb criticism and adapt to new circumstances. According to post-Fordist theory, in the wake of the social upheaval of May 1968 capitalism was able to recuperate radical desires for freedom, creativity and personal liberation through the adoption of the principles of flexibility, horizontality and autonomy, and the shift from industrialism to immaterial labour.
Today, the energy and idealism of the environmental movement is arguably in a similar danger of being transformed into the motor of a green capitalist resurgence that threatens to rescue neo-liberal globalisation from the economic downturn. This symposium asks whether environmentalism is in fact now facing its own ‘post-Fordist moment’, in which the language and values of ecology are at risk of being turned into an ideology of bureaucratic control and a technocratic justification for sustainable growth. It also raises the question of whether the environmental movement has anything to learn from the strategies of resistance proposed by the theorists of immaterial labour and the exploration of these issues by contemporary artists.
In the wake of the debacle of the Copenhagen Climate Summit, the question arises whether there might be more to ecological crisis than mitigating the threat posed by climate change to the current global economic system, and whether the danger posed by the depletion of natural resources and the destruction of bio-diversity deserves to be a greater priority. The symposium will try to locate a sense of eco-criticality in the approaches of contemporary artists, and also consider the implications of an ecologically-nuanced, post-Fordist critique for the international art world.
The symposium on Art, Post-Fordism and Ecological Critique is the fifth in an annual series of events organised at Central European University by Maja and Reuben Fowkes of Translocal.org, the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, and the Centre for Arts and Culture at CEU. This year’s programme will include an afternoon of presentations and critical conversations in the main auditorium of Central European University on Friday 19 March, and a workshop event with symposium participants on the following day.
A small number of additional places are available for the workshop upon application.
Confirmed speakers include: Stephen Wright (art theorist, Paris), Igor Stokfiszewski (curator/critic/playwright, Warsaw), Branka Cvjeticanin (multimedia artist, Zagreb), Petra Feriancova (contemporary artist, Bratislava) and Ralo Mayer (artist, Vienna).
For more details see:
Symposium on Sustainability and Contemporary Art: Art, Post-Fordism and Eco-Critique
An irresistible new machine of resistance will be launched during the COP15 UN summit protests in Copenhagen. Made from hundreds of old bicycles and thousands of activists’ bodies ‘Put the fun between your legs: Operation Bike Bloc’ is a collaboration between Climate Camp (www.climatecamp.org.uk) and art activist collective The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination (www.labofii.net).
Infamous for touring the UK recruiting a rebel clown army, running courses in postcapitalist culture, throwing snowballs at bankers and launching a rebel raft regatta, the Lab of ii’s creative visions will combine with the Climate Camp’s logistical genius, radical politics and capacity for mass mobilization to engineer an entirely new form of civil disobedience.
Bike hackers, welders, activists, artists and engineers will team up to design the resistance machine in Bristol, UK. It will then be built and launched in Copenhagen as part of the Climate Justice Action mobilizations. The Bike Bloc will merge device of mass transportation and pedal powered resistance tool, postcapitalist bike gang and art bike carnival. We invite you to put the fun between your legs and become the bike bloc.
On the 16th of December the Bike Bloc will swarm through the streets during the Reclaim Power action for climate justice.
RSA Art and Ecology’s William Shaw asks on his blog:
‘As the debt bubble bursts, does the art world share some of that blame for joining in the party?’
Did art help add the sheen to Dubai?.
Perhaps this will start a trend towards participants in biennials thinking more about sustainability and the wider structures to which their event is systemically connected?
Here is a recent take on a problem that was first identified in the early 70s, the steady increase in the stockpile of art objects and what to do with them.
We are weighed down by works of art! "Their present-day number, which is practically infinite, already greatly exceeds our capacity for assimilation. Regardless, new ones are created everyday. How can we avoid contributing to this proliferation, without relinquishing the possibility of producing effects on the real? How can we progress without increasing?" Jean-Baptiste Farkas 1 685 740 works of art are produced per day in the world. 19.51 works of art are produced per second in the world. These statistics are available online at http://jbf.biennaledeparis.org Statistics produced by Caroline Keppi. E-mail : caroline.keppi[AT]biennaledeparis.org
Since the last symposium on Sustainability and Contemporary Art held at CEU in February 2008, which took as its subject the Operaist dilemma of ‘Exit or Activism?’ and examined Paulo Virno’s idea of ‘exit’ as the ultimate form of resistance, the world has witnessed an intensifying fight for resources under the Arctic, the rocketing of food and oil prices, the Russian gas crisis, and the systemic failure of international financial institutions. These ‘hard realities’ have caused a switch from concerns of immaterial labour to recognition of the ‘new materiality’ of current circumstances.
This recent turn has been addressed by theorist Slavoj Žižek, who notes that while in the last decades it was ‘trendy to talk about the dominant role of intellectual labour in our post-industrial societies, today materiality appears in an almost vengeful way in all its aspects, from a future struggle for ever-diminishing resources (food, water, energy, minerals) to the degradation of the environment.’ The 2009 edition of Sustainability and Contemporary Art therefore brings together artists, theorists and environmental activists to investigate the implications of ‘hard realities’ and ‘new materiality’ for political action, artistic theory and practice, and sustainable living in the 21st century.
Speakers at the symposium included Slovenian artist-theorist Marina Grzinic, who together with her colleague Sebastjan Leban gave a forceful presentation examining the roots of ecological crisis in the capitalist system. Their argument that the notion of ‘sustainability’ was an invention of big business was a cause for some debate, with environmentalists pointing out its origins in ecological thought, as well as the UN Brundlandt Report of 1987, including Alan Watt from CEU, who himself gave a very precisely positioned paper about the stakes of sustainability today. The discussion did though suceed in drawing attention to the way in which the idea of sustainability have become increasingly associated with business-speak and risks losing its critical force if not distinguished from greenwash.
A slightly different approach was taken by Tadzio Muller, a Berlin-based environmental theorist, editor of Turbulence-Ideas for Movement and activist, whose presentation was entitled ‘It’s economic growth, stupid! On climate change, mad-eyed moderates and realistic radicals’, and according to his bio text, ‘after many years of being a counterglobalist summit-groupie, in the emerging climate action movement’ he managed to ‘escape the clutches of (academic) wage labour.’ His charismatic talk seemed designed to get people to stand up and join the struggle, and very much conveyed the urgency of the situation, and clearly stating that since the Rio Summit of 92 nothing governments have done has reduced greenhouse emissions, which continue to rise.
Polish artist Janek Simon explained ‘How to make a digital handwatch at home’, and talked about several of his works which although he doesn’t necessarily think about them in that way, certainly seemed to contribute to the discussion about sustainability and contemporary art, and the contribution of artistic knowledge.
The other artist contribution was from Tamás St.Auby, who agreed to talk about his ‘Subsistence Level Standard Project 1984 W.’, and ended up giving a provocative and interesting demonstration of the subversive possibilities of ‘E-Cumenism Tele-Education‘, which led a number of participants to leave the auditorium, perhaps missing the point of his conceptual intervention involving the the projection of a film of an earlier lecture on the same topic, which luckily was also recorded on video, potentially adding another layer to his highly relevant argument about the sustainability of international conferences and formal education as a whole.
Our presentation was on ‘The Environmental Impact of Contemporary Art’ and took the example of the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall from the point of view of the impact of works of art on the environment and showed some of the problems involved in developing a model for analysing the environmental impact of contemporary art.
We also organised a tour of the exhibition Arctic Hysteria at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, and held an impromtu conversation with some of the speakers, that was recorded and will be available soon.
Full details of the symposium, including abstracts and biographies, can be found on Translocal.org
The Exit or Activism? Symposium on Sustainability and Contemporary Art at Central European University on 29 February and related exhibition REHAB at Labor Gallery Budapest were very successful, and there’s been a lot of response, through emails, conversations, as well as on the web and even Hungarian television.
Here are some photos sent by Danish artists Leinchen & Jon Micke and an extract from their email:
‘We walked the context in a pre or extended exhibition space; a scattered and deconstructed REHAB prologue & epilogue, so to speak, from the VI-district to Labor: Was it by accident the opening of REHAB matched the Budapest’s Open Air & Night Show of Ready-Made & Trash in the Streets? Mass consumption really stands out in accumulated urban forms, when interior are dropped as exterior garbage and collides with the tableau of purchasable commodities (and trademarks.) on display, framed and behind glass in shopping streets, and each accumulation possess its own individual character from the voluptuous and demanding over the unorganized and chaotic to the solitude and deserted.’
REHAB Lomtalanitased: 10 ready-made accumulations installed and prospectively framed in mixed light and on low tech cell phone by Jon Micke under a slight influence of vernissage wine