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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Are Mother Nature's 15 Minutes Really Over?

I was aghast to encounter this snippet in a thought-provoking "Art in America" article about environmentally conscious artist Mary Miss, who has striven for decades to challenge viewers to look beyond the landscape or landmark they think they see at first glance.

The NSF is the National Science Foundation.
The grant for Miss’s “Broadway” hub was the first artist-initiated project to be supported by the NSF. The award suggests how far afield scientists feel they need to reach at a time when public interest in environmental issues (and many forms of biological research) is diminishing at an alarming rate.
This prompts questions. Chief among them is whether it's true. Is there really declining interest in environmental issues? This is an art publication we're talking about, and the next several sentences are indeed filled with left-wing rage against the conservative machine.

And if so, is this blowback from the blink of an eye that English-language media has granted to climate warming, greenhouse gases, ocean acidification, the Plastics Problem, and myriad other exigencies that no one seems interested in any longer? Have people really experienced a surfeit of frequently toothless headlines, links, and TV spots about the descent into ecocide?

Say it ain't so. Or say it is. It really makes no difference to most people, I suppose.

But the following excerpt from the concluding paragraph comforted me, for some reason:
As with any kind of activist art, the difficulty is engaging the unconvinced—or, even harder, the uninterested. Miss, who approaches that challenge armed above all with an unerring formal sense, says she favors informing over advocating. Like most worthy art, her projects make viewers both more alert and more self-conscious. During a lecture at the IMA, she referred to the famous Borges parable of a map the size of the territory it charts; FLOW, she noted, is similarly a point-by-point, real-size mapping of a water system. She also cited something said to her by one of her scientific collaborators: “All property is riverfront property—the river starts at your front door.”

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