Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Art Attack

The age old debate of what constitutes art has yet another nexus to explore, art for art's sake vs. activist art, where the latter is a kind of intervention that carries with it ethics not normally associated with fine art. While this is only one definition of sustainable art, we at The Groovy Mind see sustainability as a tool that is multi-faceted. Art that is activist, art that transforms excess into functionality, art that consists of recycled materials normally discarded in the creative process...
Take artist/interventionist Michael Rakowitz whose work can now be found at After studying Bedouin culture in Jordan, he returned to Boston to develop paraSITES, structures that “exploit the energy of its host.” Using elastic attachments he created inflatable ‘housing’ for the homeless that captures waste heat from outdoor vents in small, collapsible shelters. At first he relied on black garbage bags, an off the shelf solution that offered privacy but he eventually discovered that opacity didn’t matter because for all intents and purposes the homeless are invisible to the world around them.
SMART MUSEUM Curator of Contemporary Art Stephanie Smith forged this relatively new frontier several years ago with a travelling show called “Beyond Green: Toward Sustainable Art.” The art in this exhibition was a call to action in a profession all too often isolationist and elitist, housed within the confines of the hermetically sealed museum. As one participant Wochen Klausur explained, “In activist art, sociopolitical relationships take the place of material substances.” Again the privileged and the underprivileged form a network to upcycle materials discarded from exhibitions and transformed into functional works.
In another vein, artist/photographer Nicke Gorney never digitally manipulates her still narratives or black prints, which leads to excess experimental prints which she transforms through a creative process evident in her large abstract paintings. Using mixed media, brushstrokes, color and texture, she creates luminous, layered works called Photo Rehabs by painting over discarded photographic prints. Figurative and non-representational elements are both revealed and concealed, some infused with political and cultural innuendos while others are pure abstractions.
Just a few intriguing examples of the ever evolving movement of sustainable art. We leave off with the question of how to sustain the artist in a world that marginalizes creativity for the more profitable approach of turning a common denominator into a celebrity?
--Melanie Mitzner