This week celebrates the publication by Aalto University of a ground-breaking Environmental Art book. Edited by my friend and comrade in art, Markku Hakuri, Place or Space (Paikka vai tila) tells the story of places, spaces and situations that the contributing writers encounter when reflecting on the potential of art as a provider of social commentary, and as a shaper or a challenger of the visual appearance of our environment.
Having instructed Environmental Art workshops for university students in Finland, I was asked last year by Markku to write about my experiences there and offer some thoughts on the process of making art in the environment.
My essay for Place or Space includes this observation- “Nature is full of edges, hard and soft, but we hardly notice the transitions. Along every edge, conductivity is taking place. Conductivity is the most active force of nature. In microcosms and macrocosms, alike, where there’s an abundance of differences the differences disappear through shared border lines.”
Place or Space deals with the diversity of methods in teaching Environmental Art – learning by doing, experiential knowledge – set against the background of the student’s individual world view, and the interaction with other arts and sciences.
In my essay I implore students to “Explore. Examine. Extract. Take it all in, including the chaotic and the fractured. To ignore incongruities only perpetuates ignorance. Accepting confusion is the first step toward clarity. Stand up to preconceptions, and at the same time, stand up for intuition.”
The art I make is in nature, for people. It relies on human participation (interactive experiences) to create its content. That content, in turn, relies on the environment for context. Each of the contributors to Place or Space has his or her own approach to environmental art making. The writers are Jan-Erik Andersson, Polly Balitro, Scott Elliott, Tristan Hamel, Martti Hyvönen, Ossi Naukkarinen, Kurt Vanbelleghem, Laura Uimonen, Jan Kenneth Weckmann, Markku Hakuri and myself. These international artists and teachers possess diverse experience in the field of Environmental Art. The book is a panopticon for gaining a broad view of a growing art movement through eleven, unique, individual viewpoints.
Publisher: Aalto University, Aalto ARTS Books. It can be ordered in e-commerce books.aalto.fi.