23 Oct, 2020
For a long time, society has been trying to find answers to what art's function would actually be. Scholars, philosophers, and artists have already suggested several possible answers. But what we do know is that, regardless of definitions, art is for many a way of documenting events, expressing feelings, opinions and impacting the world around them.
A brief look at history allows us to perceive several moments that have been immortalized by works or artistic movements. The sensitive eyes of artists like Leonard Da Vinci in art pieces such as Monalisa, for example, are incredible sources of knowledge about historical periods like the Renaissance Period, in this case,
In addition to history, art, mainly as a form of entertainment, is responsible for moving an important part of the world economy. In 2019, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimated that the cultural sector was responsible for generating around 30 million jobs and munching $ 4.3 trillion, about 6% of the global economy.
Art can play a fundamental social role in alerting us to social, economic, political, and cultural ills. Questioning artists from different artistic movements have left their fingerprints in history by using their talent to highlight their historical periods’ major issues through their artworks. So it was with Pablo Picasso portraying the Spanish Civil War in his famous painting Guernica.
As a means of alerting society to issues that need to be resolved, art has also made significant contributions in spreading the message of sustainability to change the environment degradation scenario.
From the period of the industrial revolution to the present day, the natural resources’ exploitation, the inadequate disposal of waste, and the use of non-renewable energy sources have left terrible human marks on nature. You have undoubtedly heard of global warming problems, holes in the ozone layer, and environmental disasters.
The forecasts for the future point to even more alarming scenarios than those we live in today. The sixth Global Environmental Panorama (GEO-6), the central periodic assessment of the United Nations (UN) on the state of the environment published in 2019, highlighted the urgency of changing attitudes towards environmental problems.
According to the report, if this change of attitude does not happen, in a few years, the agreements aimed at improving the planet’s conditions will not be fulfilled and, more than that, survival on Earth will become unsustainable.
From this discussion, the world watched the rise of the concept of sustainability and a joint effort by different social segments in the search for alternatives that reduce their negative impacts on the environment.
In a simplified way, sustainability can be defined as human actions that aim to meet the present’s needs without compromising future generations. Its three fundamental pillars are environment, economy, and social impact.
Thus, as governments, companies, institutions, and civil society seek alternatives to less negatively impact the environment, artists also come to see art as a possibility to bring change in this scenario. That’s the birth of Environmental Art.
Environmental art is a generic term that refers to a wide range of artistic movements that seek to improve our relationship with the natural world. It brings awareness to environmental problems and proposes ecological activism through its techniques, reusing materials, and reconnecting men to nature.
We are sure you want to know more about this subject, so we have prepared you a list of environmental art curiosities. But first, it is important to think more carefully about some essential aspects of the relationship between art, social movements, and environmental issues. Let's do it?
How art relates to social issues
One of the most potent characteristics of art is its ability to appeal to our emotional side, sensibly transmitting messages and information that can often be difficult to absorb rationally. Also, art consumption is one of our favorite sources of entertainment.
Combining these elements makes art a secret weapon in the fight for a more just and socially responsible world. Think about how many times you learned something relevant about our society from a movie, a song, a play, or a book. And how many cases do you know of people and communities that have been deeply impacted by art? We can show you even more examples.
In the health area, a highlight of the possible positive impacts of art as an alternative to mental illness treatments was the Brazilian psychiatrist Nise Silveira. In the 1950s, dissatisfied with inadequate treatment practices that violated human dignity, Nise had surprising results using art therapy to treat patients in psychiatric hospitals. She realized that from art, patients could express unconscious emotions.
When it comes to the urban experience, we can notice the transformative power of art in lives of communities in projects as The Favela Painting, a result of the union of Dutch artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn. The first Favela Painting project took place in 2005, when the artists painted a large artwork with members of the local community in Rio de Janeiro.
Both the local and global impact of this project inspired them to continue creating large-scale community art projects across the world. By now, Favela Painting has become an institution with a fast growing international group of participants on many levels, spreading the message: community art for social change.
As you can see, art is related to everything we produce as a society, and its impact on each of these segments is undeniable. This impact would not be different in its relationship with the environment. Let's think a little more about this connection between art and nature.
Art and environment: understand better this relation
Throughout history, many artists have found their source of inspiration in art. For example, Monet revolutionized art as a forerunner of the Impressionist movement with paintings that, with his curious look and techniques for the time, beautifully portrayed natural views and landscapes.
But the starting point for a deeper relationship between art and the environment took place around the 1960s, during the counterculture movement. In this period of political, economic, and cultural effervescence, people sought to question unrestrained consumption and major global conflicts by proposing other ways of relating to people and the environment through art.
This was the beginning of what we understand today as Environmental Art. This movement continued to expand and continues to this day. Some of its most recognized artists are Nils Udo, Chris Jordan, and Andy Goldsworthy.
How curious are you to read our list of facts about environmental art? You will see how important this series of concepts we’ve been through will help you understand this much-needed artistic movement. Now let’s jump right into the list!
5 things you didn’t know about environmental art
We finally arrived at the long-awaited list of the five facts that I didn't know about environmental art. We brought some curiosities about elements and essential characteristics of this movement.
Besides, we also separated a great tip as the fifth topic on the list! We are sure you will like it!
Ready? Here we go! Some things you may not know about Environmental Art are that...
It’s an umbrella term for a group of artistic movements
Environmental Art is a broad term for a series of cultural activities that propose a different interaction between men, art, and nature. Since the emergence of Environmental Art in the 1960s, these movements have emerged and been updated with each context’s new technologies and social demands.
Examples of artistic movements in Environmental Art include Land Art, Art in Nature, and Closed-Loop Fashion.
It can be found indoors and outdoors
Environmental Art uses all the elements that make up a work of art to point out issues and suggest new perspectives and interactions between man and nature, even displaying their artwork.
Although many Environmental Art artists produce pieces that may be present in galleries and museums, others choose to bring their artwork outside those walls.
Outdoor artworks are very common in Land Art. Among the artists who used this resource are Jeanne-Claude and her husband Christo Javacheff, Walter de Maria, and James Turrell.
It works with the coolest materials
One of the leading environmental issues under debate in society is the exploitation of natural resources to obtain raw materials to produce the most different items. One of the disruptive ways environmental art tries to point new paths on sustainability is choosing ecologically friendly materials.
Art Povera artists, for example, use unconventional materials, such as sand, wood, bags, newspapers, ropes, felt, earth and rags, to "impoverish" the work of art, reducing its artifices and eliminating barriers between Art and the daily life of societies.
It has been nominated for an Oscar
And Oscar goes to… Nominated in the Best Documentary category in the 2011 Oscar ceremony, the film Waste Land portrays the work of Brazilian plastic artist Vik Muniz, who produced portraits from garbage found at Gramacho landfill in the city of Duque de Caxias (RJ). Closed in 2012, it was air the time the most massive open-air dump in the world.
The highlight of the story, which brought the film to prominence, is how Muniz's artistic work transcended the limits of art and impacted the life and work reality of the garbage collectors met by the artist during his experience at the dump.
It can be produced by you
Sustainability depends on all of us. And with small day-to-day actions, we can contribute enormously to generate even more social mobilization.
After so much information about environmental art, we are sure that you must be feeling inspired to get your hands dirty and produce art that is both beautiful and sustainable.
So pay attention the next time you consider discarding something. Maybe that object could be the raw material for your first work of art. An excellent place to start is by looking for references on Upcycling.
It's always good to learn new things, isn't it? Especially when this knowledge, when put into practice, allows us to transform the world into a more just and sustainable place.
If you enjoyed educating yourself about Environmental Art here you will find a series of other interesting contents about art and culture and history that will change the way you are used to thinking about the time and history!
What new things will you learn today?