Representing Nature: Art and Climate Change (Academic Journal Article Summary)

by gregpdesrosiers on March 30, 2014 - 11:11am

"Representing Nature: Art and Climate Change" is a journal article written by Malcolm Miles from the University of Plymouth in United Kingdom, and was published in SAGE Publication's 'Cultual Geographies' journal in 2010. It explores the effectiveness of using artwork, related to the environment, to shift our conscious thinking into the environment. Several examples are presented over here, but the question the article answers is whether or not it's possible to use art as a way of conveying the message on global warming.

As much as art has affected the philosophy of habitants in powerful countries in the 19th century, it does not affect much for us anymore. Nevertheless, some artists decided to do artwork regarding environmental concerns. It started with sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, who was interviewed by David Matless and George Revill for a study the author notes. Goldsworthy has made "temporary sculptures from twigs, stones and leaves." Miles states that the sculptures are technically antidotes to how land is not treated properly by the expansion of industrialized agriculture. To convey his strong natural message without having to worry about the natural effects of the material he used to build these sculptures, he took colored photographs and shared them with spectators. Some permanent works Goldsworthy had done involve building sheepfolds out of local stone.

A few climate change art projects have been done; the author describes three different projects: Natural Reality in Aachen, Germany; Groundworks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Climate Change Cultural Change in Northwest England.

Natural Reality was conducted by Los Angeles artist Eve Andrée Laramée, who made a series of small gardens mounted on truck trailers to be seen by people as it roamed around cities. There was usually a banner with the theme that says "Reality must take precedence over public relations for Nature cannot be fooled." Some potential influence came from the result of this project; one case was where Wolfgang Becker, Director of the Ludwig Forum (from where the project was presented), stated that this can stay as is in mass media. But for it to be effective, it, and all other kinds of artwork of environment, must go beyond it. The project included several visuals of the work done by German artist Herman Prigann. For instance, he did Yellow Ramp, consisting of disused concrete slabs now decaying; it now stands as a ruins. There is more information about the significance of the project the author explains as well.

Groundworks was an international and multicultural project. Some of the involvement included a group from Argentina, where in 1995, they restored a vulnerable coastal zone on the La Plata river near Punta Lara, Spain. There was also the Huit Facettes-Interaction, a collective that handled one village from 1996 to 2002 in Segal for building in mud and imagery. Ichi Ikeda, a Japanese artist, did the Water Ekiden-Manosogewa River Art Project contributed to daily water management by building different reed structures. Climate Change and Cultural Change involved the initiative to having a carbon neutral city. They distributed information regarding how to become carbon neutral based on carbon footprint calculations, educational projects for schools and colleges, several multimedia such as Climate Change Explorer, and David Buckland's Water Mist Wall.

The author not only brings information about the project, but also some of the theories behind the environmental concern those projects were intended to show as well as the connections with society.

In summary, even though there exists multiple works regarding the environment for the crisis of climate change, there isn't that much effect. We tend to underestimate both its beauty and the richness the environment can provide, but it is also dangerous and tedious to live in, as we humans don't really want to be. More importantly, we are not taking the issue seriously enough because we want to keep the same kind of hobbies that we have been doing ever since the introduction of the modern world. Malcolm Miles doesn't make any future directions or expectations of environmental art, but he does anticipate a couple of difficulties that do point out the weakness in presenting environmental art: "art distances its context," and usually eco-artists tend to forget the isolation that exists between them and the public they're trying to exhibit their environmental message to.



Miles, Malcolm. "Representing Nature: Art And Climate Change." Cultural Geographies 17.1 (2010): 19-35. Academic Search Premier. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.


About the author

English college student in Computer Science and Mathematics.