To Life! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet

To Life! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet

To Life! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet

To Life! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet


To Life! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet documents the burgeoning eco art movement from A to Z, presenting a panorama of artistic responses to environmental concerns, from Ant Farm's anti-consumer antics in the 1970s to Marina Zurkow's 2007 animation that anticipates the havoc wreaked upon the planet by global warming. This text is the first international survey of twentieth and twenty-first-century artists who are transforming the global challenges facing humanity and the Earth's diverse living systems. Their pioneering explorations are situated at today's cultural, scientific, economic, spiritual, and ethical frontiers. The text guides students of art, design, environmental studies, and interdisciplinary studies to integrate environmental awareness, responsibility, and activism into their professional and personal lives.


The urge to give visual form to personal sentiments, communal purport, economic conditions, spiritual beliefs, aesthetic values, and institutionalized agendas originated approximately forty thousand years ago. Humans have been creating art ever since, inventing countless devices to manifest their cultures’ identity. These impulses are being expressed with a mixture of exuberance and vengeance by today’s eco artists. The following chapters chart an advancing course of art today, identifying the contributions of new recruits eager for environmental reform. They also provide examples of the progenitors of today’s eco art movement. This exploration begins with the 1960s because those were watershed years when the elements that distinguish eco art in the twenty-first century become palpable. In the 1960s, European and American cultures split into two contrasting camps: “counterculture” and “culture.”

“Counterculture” was unified by its opposition to the stultifying conformity and spiritual vacuity of mainstream culture. Otherwise it was a mélange of specialized oppositions to diverse concentrations of authority. White society was attacked by the civil rights movement, commercialism by a new spirituality, universities by student protestors, rationality by psychedelic drugs, patriarchal power by the women’s movement, and sexual restraint by the availability of birth control pills.

“Culture” was represented by escalation of the industrial sector, resulting in the rapid expansion of affluence. The word revolution, which is often affixed to these changes, was primarily engendered by technology, investment, and engineering. The term is misleading because it conjures images of abrupt and violent overthrows of a system that quickly crumbles, being replaced by an alternative that is so unprecedented it shatters expectations and demands radical adjustments. Twentieth-century technological “revolutions” altered the gadgets, making them bigger, faster, lighter, tougher, and more powerful, but the game remained the same. None challenged the assumption that it was good to amass power over the environment and exercise it to expand the population, longevity, and ease of humans.

The Green Revolution that emerged in this era and that is currently emerging in human societies across the globe may actually warrant the term revolution because it reverses this relentless drive. Zero population growth, voluntary simplicity, back-to-the-land movements, organic farming, vegans, birders, solar energy users, recyclers, alternative architectural practices, sustainable land development, community-supported agriculture are all indicators of a wholly new paradigm. These trends acknowledge ecological laws as the basic operants of the planet. They are instigating a profound shift in consciousness that really does seem revolutionary because they reverse the age-old course of human chauvinism. It is replaced with recognition that humans are merely a type of mammal sharing space on the planet with all other species . . .

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