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:

Peak Oil, Peak Art

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

2. economy

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

3. ecology

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

Not “Sustainable Art”, Sustainability of Art (interview)

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:


Atmospheres of Protest Symposium

Symposium on Sustainability and Contemporary Art

Noah Fischer and Maria Byck (Occupy Museums, New York)

SPEAKERS: Noah Fischer and Maria Byck (Occupy Museums, New York), Matteo Pasquinelli and Wietske Maas (urbanibalists, Berlin and Amsterdam), Emma Dowling (theorist and activist, London), Gabriella Csoszó (photographer/artist, Budapest), Tomas Rafa (filmmaker/artist, Bratislava), Tamara Steger (researcher, CEU Budapest) and Maja and Reuben Fowkes (

GabriellaCsoszo, Occupy Wall Street, 2011

The upsurge of new popular movements from Egypt to Greece and Bucharest to New York has engendered an atmosphere of defiance and social creativity that has captured the global imagination. Beyond the ebb and flow of individual protest movements, this symposium asks whether global solidarity has really taken hold this time and considers the variety of ways in which contemporary art is embroiled through practices of dialogue and collaboration in the emergence of a common horizon and the imagining of a sustainable future. Providing a trans-disciplinary forum for discussion of the vital issues bridging the fields of art and environmental thought, the symposium sheds light on our understanding of the multifarious notion of sustainability, which appears by turns as a radical concept in global ecological thinking, can be recruited as a corporate strategy for green capitalism, and may act as a spur to new forms of social activism.

Speakers include artist-activists Noah Fischer and Maria Byck, who are members of the Occupy Museums Collective that protests against the domination of the interests of the 1% in the running of New York art institutions, as well as Berlin and Amsterdam-based urbanibalists Matteo Pasquinelli and Wietske Maas, who will present a radical manifesto of urban cannibalism that seeks to recover the spontaneous living matter of the city. Curators Maja and Reuben Fowkes explore the creation of liberated zones and the relevance of ecological thought to new protest movements, while activist and writer on affective labour Emma Dowling will reflect on the sustainability of the protest movement in the light of the spread of locally-organised occupations of public and private space. Tomas Rafa’s video archive of marches and counter-demonstrations illuminates the spectrum of contemporary protest, while researcher Tamara Steger and artist Gabriella Csoszó debate the representation of activism.

The symposium is organised by curators Maja and Reuben Fowkes ( in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Science and Policy and the Centre for Arts and Culture at Central European University (CEU).

For more information see:

Symposium: Rethinking Robert Smithson

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