02 Nov, 2020
A brief survey of artistic archives makes clear the ancient relationship between art and nature. Great impressionist artists like Claude Monet, Camille Pissaro, and Eugène Boudin were deeply inspired by natural landscapes to compose some of their best-known works. But the relationship between art and nature does not stop there.
The impact of human development on nature and the increase in sustainable development debates brought the need for all social sectors to mobilize. Soon, artists also looked for ways to contribute to constructing new alternatives for a balanced coexistence with the environment.
From artistic movements such as Environmental Art, land art, and art-in-nature, artists have found ways to use their talents to alert society to urgent ecological issues. They proposed solutions for consumption dynamics and the inappropriate disposal of materials, innovating in the production and exhibition processes of artworks.
Very interesting, isn't it? That is why we prepared a list of 5 of these incredible moments in which talented artists used their works to draw attention to environmental debates. We'll get there soon, but first, let's think a little more about the conversations we've been having on the environment.
The social debate around the environment
It may sound cliché, but one of the crucial factors in solving the alarming global issues is dialogue. But this conversation is not always easy. There are still a series of challenges, such as conflicts of interest, limitations in access to information, and popular distancing from causes that hinder an overall adherence to widespread participation in these debates.
When it comes to the environment, this conversation becomes more fluid with the concept of sustainable development, which combines the solution of environmental problems to social and economic advances. This movement shows that each individual and social segment must give in at some point and participate in this debate.
Therefore, environmental activists and cultural producers have organized events and placements that make it possible to mobilize people and make sustainability talks more accessible. Some exciting examples of events that promoted environmental debates are the Pallet Fest in the United States and Virada Sustentável in Brazil.
Every year, many pallets are used only once before being discarded by the industrial sector at an early stage. Pallet Fest used these materials to build a festival that combines entertainment with an important message about upcycling.
At this two-day festival that took place in Denver in 2014, pallets were reused in many ways. They were used to build labyrinths, obstacles for parkour, and a stage for upcycling shows and fashion shows. Can you imagine how much fun it must have been?
Virada Sustentável is a mobilization movement for sustainability that organizes the largest festival on the theme in Brazil. It started in 2011 in São Paulo and has already held editions in several other cities involving direct participation by civil society organizations, public agencies, companies, schools, and universities.
During the festival days, the movement promotes debates, lectures, urban interventions, and cultural presentations to present a positive and inspiring view of sustainability and its different themes.
Did you notice something important that these events have in common? Both used art and culture as a means of communicating messages about environmental awareness. It demonstrates the power of using art as a tool of social impact. Let's think about this a little more.
Art as a social impact resource
Art is capable of subtly transforming subjects that can scare people. Appealing more to sensitivity and interpretation, art surpasses rationality and simplifies understanding challenging or complicated messages. Often art can even entertain and educate at the same time.
For example, in education, art is an essential tool for interdisciplinary work that allows students to learn in a sensory way and develop their interpretation skills. In health, art has been used over the last decades as an alternative to several functional treatments. More and more professionals are dedicated to understanding the relationship between art and our well-being.
This ability to communicate messages is also heavily used by artists who wish to build a more conscious and sustainable world. Check out these examples below.
5 great moments when art debated environmental issues
We have finally gotten to our list. Here are 5 of our favorite examples of times when art has raised debate about the environment. You are about to know a little more about the work of artists Eduardo Srur, Agnes Denes, Néle Azevedo, Patricia Johanson, and Anne-Katrin Spiess.
Pay attention mainly to how each of these artists used material, techniques and exhibited their works to alert society of their times to urgent environmental issues.
Brazilian artist Eduardo Srur is famous for his urban interventions that use public space to draw attention to environmental issues and everyday life in metropolises. Its goal is to expand the presence of art in society and bring it closer to people's lives.
In some of his most famous interventions, Srur drew attention to the pollution of the rivers of the city of São Paulo by placing kayaks with mannequins on the bed of Pinheiros River and giant sculptures in the form of plastic soft drink bottles on the polluted concrete margins of Tietê River.
Hungarian artist Adnes Denes is recognized as one of the precursors of Land Art. Wheatfield - A Confrontation (1982), her best-known work, is a powerful symbol of public art and environmental activism of her time. The intervention came from a project commissioned by the Public Art Fund, in which Denes was to produce a sculpture for a square.
Then, reinforcing the educational role of art, Denes decided to criticize the impact of technological advances on the destruction of the environment. She planted two acres of wheat in Manhattan, close to three major trade and globalization symbols: Wall Street, World Trade Center, and the Statue of Liberty.
The Brazilian slogan Néle Azevedo is responsible for the urban intervening Minimum Monument. The intervention consists of numerous ice sculptures in the shape of human beings placed to melt in public spaces and has been happening in several countries since its first exhibition in São Paulo in 2001.
Minimum Monument was initially conceived as a critical reading of monuments in contemporary cities, but the relationship between sustainability and environment happened more precisely from September 2009.
That year the intervention was carried out in Berlin with WWF as a work directly linked to global warming, at the same time as the 3rd. World Climate Conference in Geneva.
The installations of the North American artist Patricia Johanson consist of infrastructures intended to recover impacted ecosystems. Some striking features in his designs are unusual trails, landscaping, and reintroducing animal species.
In his first project at Leonhardt Lagoon, Dallas (1981-1986), Johanson solved problems such as eroded shoreline, murky water, and algal bloom, devising large sculptural forms that broke up wave action and selecting indigenous plantings as microhabitats for wildlife.
The place became a habitual ecosystem for local species again, and sculptures increased human interaction possibilities in that space. Soon, with the help of scientists and engineers, Johanson's interventions become places of restoration, education, and recreation.
Anne-Katrin Spiess is a Swiss artist who makes conceptual installations with reflections on the environment. Its temporary installations in nature show sensitivity to the reconnection of men with the environment.
In the 2000 series of photographs Elements, Spiess began documenting various natural elements of a remote area in the Canyonlands of Utah by photographing plants and rocks inside clear containers that functioned as framing devices.
Surprisingly, besides the “natural” materials, she encountered many discarded industrially manufactured objects such as beer bottles and cans. She felt it was necessary to document the dichotomy of man and nature and, in doing so, began what would become a series of “Trash Collection Projects.”
We increasingly note the importance of debate and dialogue between different social sectors to advance in the fight for global causes such as the environment.
Exploring works of art like the ones we mentioned in this article highlights the power of art to disseminate education and information in an accessible way and mobilize more people to participate in these conversations. Besides being interesting, it is extremely simple to follow these artists’ work through social networks, blogs, and digital galleries.
Another way to learn more about art and culture, understanding its correlation with historical events, are the timelines available here on Timelinefy. You can check out some of them right now. Remember: education is the first step in transforming the world.