Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art
September 11, 2008
Exploring intersections of art and sustainability
Balancing environmental, social, economic, and aesthetic concerns, sustainable design has the potential to transform everyday life and is reshaping the fields of architecture and product design. Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art explores the influence of this design philosophy on artists who combine a fresh aesthetic sensibility with a constructively critical approach to the production, dissemination, and display of art. The exhibition includes existing works, commissions, and previously presented work that has been “recycled,” spotlighting ways in which artists are building paths to new forms of practice. Many of the artists work collaboratively and leaven serious social aims with playful, off-the-grid spark. Their approaches range from the metaphorical to the pragmatic, sometimes serving as models for audience activism.
The art of environment: Object, structure and process
The artists included in Beyond Green all came of age during the late 1980s and 1990s, and their work draws to varying degrees on two key strands of recent art: the productive overlap between art and design, and the development of new modes of critical art practice. So, whereas many of their predecessors worked within specific sites or imagined massively-scaled interventions, the artists in Beyond Green draw on the visual languages of design and on new relational, process-based modes of art-making to create portable, human-scaled works of art that emphasize the ways that environmental concerns are inextricably linked to other social relationships. Some adapt proven principles of “green” design; others propose small-scale alternative modes of living. Still others highlight the problems and contradictions in the very nature of sustainability.
Highlights from the exhibition include:
Jump Off, created by American duo Jane Palmer and Marianne Fairbanks, takes sustainable design to a new level. Their creation of solar-powered bags have the ability to charge electric devices such as cell phones and iPods, allowing users to stay connected while stepping free of “the electrical grid.”
Michael Rakowitz’s ParaSITES provide the homeless with an unconventional living space. Using inflatable plastic structures, Rakowitz has created shelters that are inflated and heated with vented air from city buildings. Each ParaSITE is built in collaboration with an individual homeless person and calls attention to the “lack of affordable housing” with their unique designs.
Urban planning group Free Soil’s installation F.R.U.I.T. brings to light the cost of importing fruit from farms to urban markets. Using recycled crates, Free Soil has created a fruit stand with interactive components, such as documentary images and various computer graphics, to educate the public on the processes of everyday consumption.
Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art is co-organized by the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, and by iCI (Independent Curators International), New York, and circulated by iCI. The exhibition is curated by Stephanie Smith. The presentation of Beyond Green at the Hoffman Gallery was made possible in part by Regional Arts & Culture Council, Hoffman Construction, and Thomas Hacker Architects in Portland, Oregon.