Ecological art

Ecological art

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Ecological art Ruth Wallen and cultural activism
Birchler, Susan
Place of Publication:
[Tampa, Fla.]
University of South Florida
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Art history
Radical art
Land art
Earth art
Postmodern art
Deep ecology
Cultural politics
Social movements
New social movements
Environmental movement
Direct action
Winnie Brienes
Noël Sturgeon
Prefigurative politics
Direct theory
Dissertations, Academic -- Liberal Studies -- Masters -- USF ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: Twentieth century modernity has provoked multiple problems ranging from environmental degradation to human rights violations. Globally, diverse communities of people have organized to promote, not just reactive reforms, but a fundamental alteration of the foundational worldview underlying these issues. Radical activists committed their work to promoting an alternative ethos based on egalitarian, democratic, and ecologically-wise concepts. An array of methodologies emerged from these endeavors. More radical political groups focused on cultural tools to engage people in the construction of an alternative worldview. Radical activists utilized two forms of cultural politics: prefigurative politics, the physical presentation of an envisioned future and direct theory, the constant interaction between theory and practice. Within the artistic community, Ecological Artists centered their practice on cultural activism, creating publicly accessible, site-specific collaborative pieces that illuminate and utilize ecosystem principles to promote an eco-wise worldview. The concept of utilizing cultural production as a method for achieving social transformation has only recently been analyzed within the social movement discipline. Artists rarely utilize social movement vocabulary, or the term "activism" to describe their practices. To date, no correlation between artistic production and social movement strategies has been made. I argue in this thesis that Ecological Artists are cultural activists who simultaneously developed strategies and methods similar to those being worked out by radical social movement activists. While prefigurative politics and direct theory are terms defined within social movement discipline, the cultural activities are similar. Political activists' internal organization and external political work, prefigurative of an envisioned future and the result of constant interaction between theory and practice, correlates to the necessary collaborative organizations of Eco-Art and the physical presence of the work, a manifestation of the constant interaction between ecosystem theory and artistic practice. In this thesis I analyze the work of Ecological Artist Ruth Wallen as a form of cultural activism. I argue that the intention, execution, and content of her work are forms of prefigurative politics and direct theory. Ruth Wallen has been practicing Eco-Art for twenty years. Her work is focused on the heart of Eco-Art, its intention to produce an eco-wise future through artistic practice.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
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Title from PDF of title page.
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Document formatted into pages; contains 102 pages.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Susan Birchler.

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University of South Florida
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E14-SFE0001969 ( USFLDC DOI )
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Ecological art :
b Ruth Wallen and cultural activism
h [electronic resource] /
by Susan Birchler.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
3 520
ABSTRACT: Twentieth century modernity has provoked multiple problems ranging from environmental degradation to human rights violations. Globally, diverse communities of people have organized to promote, not just reactive reforms, but a fundamental alteration of the foundational worldview underlying these issues. Radical activists committed their work to promoting an alternative ethos based on egalitarian, democratic, and ecologically-wise concepts. An array of methodologies emerged from these endeavors. More radical political groups focused on cultural tools to engage people in the construction of an alternative worldview. Radical activists utilized two forms of cultural politics: prefigurative politics, the physical presentation of an envisioned future and direct theory, the constant interaction between theory and practice. Within the artistic community, Ecological Artists centered their practice on cultural activism, creating publicly accessible, site-specific collaborative pieces that illuminate and utilize ecosystem principles to promote an eco-wise worldview. The concept of utilizing cultural production as a method for achieving social transformation has only recently been analyzed within the social movement discipline. Artists rarely utilize social movement vocabulary, or the term "activism" to describe their practices. To date, no correlation between artistic production and social movement strategies has been made. I argue in this thesis that Ecological Artists are cultural activists who simultaneously developed strategies and methods similar to those being worked out by radical social movement activists. While prefigurative politics and direct theory are terms defined within social movement discipline, the cultural activities are similar. Political activists' internal organization and external political work, prefigurative of an envisioned future and the result of constant interaction between theory and practice, correlates to the necessary collaborative organizations of Eco-Art and the physical presence of the work, a manifestation of the constant interaction between ecosystem theory and artistic practice. In this thesis I analyze the work of Ecological Artist Ruth Wallen as a form of cultural activism. I argue that the intention, execution, and content of her work are forms of prefigurative politics and direct theory. Ruth Wallen has been practicing Eco-Art for twenty years. Her work is focused on the heart of Eco-Art, its intention to produce an eco-wise future through artistic practice.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 102 pages.
Advisor: Andrew Berish, Ph.D.
Art history.
Radical art.
Land art.
Earth art.
Postmodern art.
Deep ecology.
Cultural politics.
Social movements.
New social movements.
Environmental movement.
Direct action.
Winnie Brienes.
No¥l Sturgeon.
Prefigurative politics.
Direct theory.
Dissertations, Academic
x Liberal Studies
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856


Ecological Art: Ruth Wallen and Cultural Activism by Susan Birchler A thesis submittedinpartial fulfillmentofthe requirement for the degreeofMasterofLiberal Arts DepartmentofHumanities and American Studies CollegeofArts and Sciences UniversityofSouth Florida Major Professor: Andrew Berish, Ph.D. Priscilla Brewer, Ph.D. Stacy Holman Jones, Ph.D. DateofApproval: May 15, 2007 Keywords: art history, radical art, land art, earth art, postmodern art, ecology, deep ecology, ecofeminism, anarcha-feminist, feminism, cultural politics, social movements, New Social Movements, Environmental Movement, Direct Action, Nonviolence, Winnie Brienes, Noel Sturgeon, prefigurative politics, direct theoryCopyright 2007, Susan Birchler


Dedication I would like to dedicate this work to my mother Mary Ann and her namesake Mary, my beautiful, generous, patient, sister. Without her comprehension, her courage and her unstinting support, this paper would never have materialized.


Acknowledgement No creative production emerges without the assistanceofa groupofpeople willing to knock around half-formed ideas, suggest sources, laugh at the follyofit all and keep each other centered and sane. This thesis would never have seen the lightofday without the helpofpeople who enthusiastically stood behind me and my work. I would like to thankDr.Andy Berish for his wholehearted support, his amazing ability to articulate different viewpoints, consistently astute observations and editing skills. Special thanks to Dr. Priscilla Brewer for adding another layerofpolished and in-depth editing. I would like to thankDr.Daniel Belgrad,Dr.Maria Cizmic andDr.Mario Ortiz for generously devoting time and energyinsharing information, and providing direction. I would especially like to thank my colleagues, Walter Danielak, Damon Lazzarra, Niki Kantzios, Jeanna Whiting, and Jennifer Melko, for their wonderful support. No setofthank yous would be complete without talking about my family. My sister Mary threw herself into this endeavor as if she herself was going to school. Despite a personal mantra about not being deep, she immediately grasped the concepts I was talking about and willingly engagedinobtuse academic discussions. My two brothers, John and Donald, didn't blink an eyelash either, but dove into multiple conversations about what I was doing and provided me with a running dialogue on the ins and outsofattaining a degree. My father, John Birchler, and my Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Bob, all rallied behind the effort, providing loving encouragement. Thanks to everyone.


TableofContents Abstract.iiChapter One -Introduction: Cultural Activism 1 Ruth Wallen 5 Ecological Artists 7 Ecological Art 8 Changing a Worldview 9 Eco-Wisdom11Direct Theory and Prefigurative Politics 14 Cultural Activism 17 Chapter Two Social Movements21Characteristics 22 History 24 Cultural Politics 28 Prefigurative Politics and Direct Theory 34 Chapter Three Ecological Art44The CurrentWorldview47Cultural Politics49The Ecologyofa World view 50 Ecological Art 58 Cultural Activism64Chapter Four Ruth Wallen 66 ReflectionsonArroyo Seco 67 History 70 Cultural Stories 75 Cultural Activism 78 Viewpoints 79 Chapter Five Conclusion 92 Endnotes 971


Ecological Art: Ruth Wallen and Cultural Activism Susan Ann Birchler ABSTRACT Twentieth century modernity has provoked multiple problems ranging from environmental degradation to human rights violations. Globally, diverse communitiesofpeople haveorganized to promote, not just reactive reforms, but a fundamental alterationofthe foundational worldview underlying these issues. Radical activists committed their work to promoting an alternative ethos basedonegalitarian, democratic, and ecologically-wise concepts. An arrayofmethodologies emerged from these endeavors. More radical political groups focusedoncultural tools to engage peopleinthe constructionofan alternative world view. Radical activists utilized two formsofcultural politics: prefigurative politics, the physical presentationofan envisioned future and direct theory, the constant interaction between theory and practice. Within the artistic community, Ecological Artists centered their practice on cultural activism, creating publicly accessible, site-specific collaborative pieces that illuminate and utilize ecosystem principles to promote an eco-wise worldview.11


The conceptofutilizing cultural production as a method for achieving social transformation has only recently been analyzed within the social movement discipline. Artists rarely utilize social movement vocabulary,orthe term "activism" to describe their practices. To date, no correlation between artistic production and social movement strategies has been made. I argueinthis thesis that Ecological Artists are cultural activists who simultaneously developed strategies and methods similar to those being worked out by radical social movement activists. While prefigurative politics and direct theory are terms defined within social movement discipline, the cultural activities are similar. Political activists' internal organization and external political work, prefigurativeofan envisioned future and the resultofconstant interaction between theory and practice, correlates to the necessary collaborative organizationsofEco-Art and the physical presenceofthe work, a manifestationofthe constant interaction between ecosystem theory and artistic practice.Inthis thesis I analyze the workofEcological Artist Ruth Wallen as a formofcultural activism. I argue that the intention, execution, and contentofher work are formsofprefigurative politics and direct theory. Ruth Wallen has been practicing Eco-Art for twenty years. Her work is focusedonthe heartofEco-Art, its intention to produce an eco-wise future through artistic practice.III


Chapter One Introduction Imagine going to the moviesindowntown Los Angeles,settling into a seatina darkened theatre with some popcorn, and insteadofthe barrageofadvertisements which usually precedes a film, a short seriesofslides about environmental issues is shown. Ruth Wallen's slide show, "If Frogs Sicken and Die, What Will Happen to the Princes?", a setofnineteen images, was showninthe Laemmle Grande Fourplex Theatrein1999. The slides explore the frog as an indicatorofhuman interference with environmental processes and uses questions, irony, and story-telling to coax the viewer into becoming awareoftheir relationship with environmental issues. Visitors attending a campfire talkinChaco Canyon National Park, sat down and, insteadofthe usual stories, they were treated to a multi-image slide lecture/performance that showed them the ecological dynamicsinthe park. Ruth Wallen photographed particular sitesinthe canyon over time, recording the minute changes that gradually occur due to insects, animals, wind, rain, sun, cold, and heat. "Intimate Details" gave temporary visitors the opportunity to see themselves as operating within the long-term, ecosystemic processesofthe park. The aesthetically rich photographs that drew people into the viewing process, combined with informationonthe relationships that sustain the1


ecosystemsofthe park, allowed park employees the opportunity to raise visitor awareness and to provide a richer, more involved experience for them. Ruth Wallen is oneofa growing numberofartistscreating what has come to be defined as Ecological Art. These widely accessible, public artworks don't just present a seriesofunrelated facts, such as names and categoriesofplants and animals. The artists are purposively presentingintheir works the relationships between all the elements, including humans,inan ecosystem, that work togetherinmutual dependency and competitiontosustain themselves within that ecosystem, or through certain activities, change the ecosystem. "The focusofa workofart can range from elucidating the complex structureofan ecosystem, examining a particular issue ... interacting with a given locale, or engagingina restorative or remediative function" (Wallen Toward). Their works are about the totalitiesofecosystems and the ultimate purpose is to create social transformation. Ecological Artists are attemptingtoreplace the current dominator/instrumental worldview with an ecologically wise one. "Ecological art ... is groundedinan ethos that focuses on communities and interrelationships. These relationships include not only physical and biological pathways, but also the cultural, political and historical aspectsofcommunities or ecological systems" (Wallen Toward). Ecological artists share the goalofcreating social transformation with activists, engaged in the political arena, within certain social2


movement groups. Eco-artists have chosen to work within the cultural milieu to disseminate an eco-wise consciousness. Certain radical social movement activists have also turned toward cultural productions, although still centeredonpolitical action, to achieve similar goals. The people workinginsocial movements claim the word activist and activism without hesitation. Except for feminist artists, the words activist and activism are not regularly utilized by artists, critics, or academics, to explain, define, or speak about artistic production. I argueinthis thesis that EcologicalArtis a formofcultural activism and Ecological Artists are cultural activists. I am also arguing that Ecological Artists and certain radical social movement activists have been simultaneously developing, since the seventies, similar cultural methods to achieve social transformation. I am making a correlation between the New Social Movement activities, defined as direct theory and prefigurative politics, and the cultural workofEcological Artists. I believe that Ecological Art, the physical, cultural presence in mainstream cultureofanalternative radical ethos, eco-wisdom, contains possibilities to rework culture from the inside out and in doing so promote the social transformation Eco-Artists are looking for. Both direct theory and prefigurative politics are formsofwhat social movement scholars call cultural politics, methodsofachieving social transformation by modeling an alternative ethos through a cultural presence. For political activists, this cultural work presents itself within the internal3


organizational structures and relationships and also in the external political work. Winnie Brienes, a social movement scholar, coined the term prefigurative politicsin1989,inorder to analyze and explain how radical activists were always attempting to create and model,inthe present, characteristicsofan envisioned future culture (Brienes xiv). Nearly ten years later Noel Sturgeon coined the term direct theoryasa method to analyze and explain the predilectionofradical New Social Movement activists to utilize a constant interaction between theory and practice. She claims that this modelingofa behavior, informed by a certain ethos, and presented through the internal organizational culture and the external cultural frameworkofpolitical activity, contains multiple possibilities for promoting social change (Sturgeon 37). I argueinthis thesis that Ecological Art presents characteristicsofdirect theory and prefigurative politics. Ecological Art is the publicly accessible, physical presenceofecological theoryonmultiple levels. The work models a future world in which all cultural, social and political activity would be informed byeco-wisdom.Inpresenting what an envisioned future might be like, it is a formofprefigurative politics. Eco-Art usually presents ecosystemic properties on two additional levels. It often is both a functioning ecosystem itself and it is the physical presenceofecosystem theory, the resultofthe interaction between theory and practice. It is a formofdirect theory. By presenting ecosystemic theory, or eco-wisdom,onso many levels, Ecological Art presents multiple opportunities for visitor/participants to construct4


an understandingofecological principles andinthe process perhaps alter their belief systems. EcologicalArtcontains possibilities to change the culture from the inside, altering the fundamental assumptions through which people choose certain activities and assent to political and economic choices. It is a formofcultural activism, and Eco-Artists are cultural activists, two terms I have coined to analyze and explain the characteristicsofany work that utilizes cultural modesofexpression to create social change. This thesis examines the confluence be tween characteristic practices of radical social movement activists and Ecological Artists. I will be analyzing the worksofEco-Artist, Ruth Wallen, through the lensofprefigurative politics and direct theoryasa formofcultural activism. Ruth Wallen In 1979 Eco-Artist Ruth Wallen completed The Sea As Sculptress, an artwork focusedonthe generativity and diversityofthe San Francisco Bay's ecosystems. Wallen built three, eight-by-two foot wooden frames with six blocksofwood strunginthe middle and submerged them at different sitesinthe San Francisco Bay. Over a year's time, the human impactonthe three Bay ecosystems was revealed through differencesinthe diversity and complexityofthe marine life settling on the wood. Wallen utilized macrophotography to document the temporal lifecycles and interdependenciesofthe species over the year. The most polluted areaofthe bay yielded sparse aquatic life throughout the entire year. The most generative site was situated furthest offshore, near the coastofthe old Alcatraz prison. Marine lifeontwoofthe frames evolved, over the months, from simple layersofalgae to complex communitiesofalgae,5


mussels, barnacles, tunicates, bryzoans, crustaceans, crabs and seaweed (Wallen 180 StOry). Wallen created"aseriesofmulti-image lecture/performances that integrated scientific information with storytelling" (Wallen Toward). The work revealed an additional cultural storyofthe human impactonthe San Francisco Bay's ecosystems. Describing her artpiece, Wallen states: "Accompanied by images that dissolved in a continuous multi-image slide show, I presented storiesofworking on the project, descriptive scientific information and periodsofsilence" (Wallen 180 StOry). A major elementinthe performance piece was the ending discussion during which the audience was encouraged and empowered to collectively create a deeper comprehensionofthe issues presented. Her work drew attention toboth the scientific and aesthetic elegance and beautyofthe Bay's marine life-forms and their ecosystemic properties the intertwined relationships, both healthy and degraded,ofthe Bay's various biota, including human beings. Presenting this artistic work at various venues, including the Exploratorium, espace dbd (a galleryinLos Angeles) and various educational settings, Wallen "hoped that after viewing the work the audience would have a better appreciationofthe richnessofthe marine lifeofthe San Francisco Bay" (Wallen Toward). Wallen utilized the educational experienceofTheSeaasSculptressnot only to provide a venue for her audience to become intimate with sea-life, but also to raise awarenessofan upcoming referendum for a canal that would have, had it passed, seriously damaged the ecosystemofthe Bay and put marine lifeatrisk.6


I argue that Wallen's workisa confluenceofscientific observation, artistic creation, ecological theory, and cultural activism.Itis simultaneously a formofactivism, an aesthetic performance piece, an academic cultural study, and a science lecture. The artwork functions as an experiential bridge between the encapsulated elite vocabulary and practicesofmultiple disciplines: art, science, cultural studies and social activism. Ecological art is privileged as an art form,inits capability to communicate the complexitiesofdifferent disciplinesinelegant, uniquely holistic ways. While revealing through an artistic experience the cultural and ecological historyofthe bay and the intimate relationship between the water and human beings, the work also provided an opportunity for consciousness raising, and for political and social activism.Inmy opinion, Ruth Wallen pushed the boundariesofconventional artistic practice, providing not just a visionofutopian political and cultural change, but a working process with the potential to both educate viewer/participants and assist theminthe formulationofan ecological consciousness that might,inturn, promote the constructionofa different world.Ec%gica/ArtistsWallen's work is partofa complex, ecologically informed, artistic practice: Ecological Art, or Eco-Art. Ecological artists are concerned with environmental issues, not just singular crises such as oil spills or sewage overflow, but with the basic starting points from which those crises emanate -a societal belief system. Eco-Artists are engagedinan attempt, through the cultural production of their artwork, to change the public's attitudestowards, physical engagement with, and7


active choices about their relationship with the non-human natural world. Ecological artists are attempting to create a sea-changeinpublic belief systems, physically prefiguring a working alternative to the current paradigm. As Ruth Wallen statesonher website, "Ecological art existsina social context. While the work may express an individual vision, the work is created to communicate, to stimulate dialogue and to contribute to social transformation" (Wallen Toward).EcologicalArtAccording to Ruth Wallen, the relationships Eco-Artists attempt to develop between the Ecological art piece, the viewers/participants and collaboratorslbuilders is the most important elementofEco-Art. Ecological artists attempt to provide a learning environment, one experienced both through the body and abstractly as a concept. Driving ecological artists' practice is the hopeofproviding a connective spark between people and the art that will assistinthe productionofan ecological understanding or wisdom, the foundation for a positive, pro-active belief system informing social transformation. I perceiveinEcological Art two simultaneously occurring functions. One function is to reveal not only ecological processes, but also how people are always firmly embeddedin,and integralto,the dynamicsofthe ecosystems they inhabit and are engagedin.Ecological Art's other function is to actively model an alternative reality, a cultural and social framework based on ecological theory. I would argue that Ecological Art thus works for change within a cultural venueontwo fronts; it subverts dominant ideology, the dominant/subordinate relationship between humans and the nonhuman world and,atthe same time, creates a8


workingcultural alternative.AsStuart Hall states, "material and cultural practices are all partofthe complex networksofsocial reality that shape our experiences and political potentials" (Kaufman, 263). Eco-Art creates the possibility for consciousness-raising and provides a lived exampleofhow to apply that new awareness to real situations, building a physical culture while at the same time reinforcing, through practical usage and experience, abstract theories, principles and beliefs. Because Eco-Art is a process-oriented practice, always pointing to the natural processesofthe ecosystem, modeling those processes in its own physical presence and presentingthe physical presenceofan ecosystem, it cannot easily be defined by the content it presents, its mediums,orphysical forms. Instead Eco-Artists' praxis occurs within parameters defined by the objectiveofcreating ecological wisdom. The means by which that objective is accomplished is informed by the same ecological ethos. Eco-Artists state that their intent is to promote a different social belief system. I argue that their work promotes that goal by physically manifesting ecological theory and foreshadowing an envisioned, utopian, alternative reality. ChangingaWorldview Whether the physical formofan Eco-Artist's work saves a damaged site, conserves an ecosystem, provides ongoing remediation, or a symbolically draws attention to the intertwined human/nature relationship, the intention to fundamentally replace the dominant worldview with one based on ecological wisdom isofparamount importance to Eco-Art as praxis (Gablik 49 Ecological). 9


For the most part, human activity since the eighteenth century has been informed by assumptions and value systems formulated during the Enlightenment. Harvard Professor, Tu Wie-Ming, speakingofthe impactofworldviews on the current ecological problems, states:'Weare so seasonedinthe Enlightenment mentality that we assume that the reasonablenessofits general ideological thrust is self-evident" (Ming 21). He goes on to define the Enlightenment mentality as, the human desire to become the measure and masterofall things, and notes that it is still the most influential moral discourseinthe political cultureofthe modern age (Ming 21). Eco-feminists, social ecologists, deep ecologists, radical ecologists and systems theorists increasingly place the onusofresponsibility for the degradationofthe world's ecosystems on the Enlightenment worldview. A growing chorusofvoices is pointing out that the fundamental rootsofthe environmental disaster lieinthe attitudes, values, perceptions, and basic worldview that we humansofthe industrial technological global society have come to hold. The age has permitted and driven us to pursue exploitive, destructive, and wasteful applicationsoftechnology (Metzner 164). Some people have perceived the activities informed by thisparticular worldview as being suicidal. The particular formofproduction in modern society-industrial production ... creates accumulating ecological stresses on air, water,10


soil, and biota (including human beings) and on society's ability to maintain and reproduce itself over time (Merchant9).Increasingly people have looked towards the networked, interrelated, communicative processes by which ecosystems function and remain healthy for both inspiration and models for sustainable human cultures. People, who are investedincreating new waysofthinking about and being in the world basedonan ecological ethos, may differintheir subjective viewpoints, definitionsofspirituality, or methodologies and strategies, but they share a common definitionofecological wisdom. Ecological Wisdom Ecological wisdom, as defined by Gregory Bateson, is "the knowledgeofthe larger interactive system that system which, if disturbed, is likely to generate exponential curvesofchange" (Bateson 439). Ecological wisdom insists on a holistic definitionofthe earth, identifying the world as nested communities, operating as self-regulating systems, comprisedoforganic and inorganic entities, continuously engagedina communicative interrelationality, "in a combinationofcompetition and mutual dependency" (Bateson 436). Each ecosystem is nested within larger and larger systems and interconnected networks. A skin cell, for instance, has its own ecosystem and is,inturn, partofthe ecosystemofthe skin, which is an integral partofthe ecosystem of the body, and the body engagesinmultiple ecosystems as it interacts with other people and environments, like a houseorbeach. Every entityinan ecosystem isinconstant communication with the others, each conveying a message of11


difference to which an entitymayormay not respond. No entity is autonomous or ever outofcommunicative relationality with the other entitiesinthe ecosystem in which they are engaged. This creates a community, an ecosystem, each of which is nested within the other and networked together. Ecosystems are always in the processofcommunicative interrelation with each other.1Every ecosystem has a builtinsetofrecursive, self-corrective feedback loops, bringing information back into the system, that function to maintain and sustain the system.2Most systems are "self-corrective against disturbance" (Bateson, 435).Inthe forest environment a feedback loop might be simplistically conceived as the communicative relationship between a bee and a flower.Ifa drought kills a large quantityofflowering bushes, the bee population receives the communicationoftoo little pollen a feedback loopofinformation that provokes a response. Either the bees alter their cultural repertoire, the learned routes to existing flowering bushes, and search for new flowers or they die off. Ecosystems rely on communicative relationality.Ifall entitiesinan ecosystem are engaginginsystemic self regulating processes, they need to be able to communicate difference and to do so they must always be 'in relation' to and dependentonone another. This is an important shift in human self perception, imagining one's subjective self as always beinginrelation and dependent on every other speciesinan ecosystem.3The Enlightenment-based mentality privileges autonomous, non communicative action, emphasizing individuality and self will. A systemic worldview insists on situating people within the ecosystems, both natural and12


social, that they inhabit and are engagedin.Systems theory insists that people are dependentonand always in an entwined, communicative interrelationship with all organic and inorganic entities sharing that system. "Systemic approaches help us shift our focus and attention from 'things' to processes, from static states to dynamics, and from 'parts' to 'wholes'" (Tilbury 81).Inmy opinion, there is such a fundamental difference between the two value systems that a switchinworldviews requires people to literally deconstruct their assumptions and beliefs and then reconstruct a different conceptofreality basedonecological wisdom. I argue that assisting peopleinthis endeavor is the task that both Ecological Artists and environmental activists have set themselves. Both Ecological Artists and activistsinthe Environmental Movement hope that a deeply profound alterationofpeople's belief systems will not only provide a different cognitive and theoretical worldview foundedonecosystem theories, but also provide an impetus for people's active engagementinsocial, political and cultural change. Theoretically, the mannerinwhich people experience their culture will influence the choices they make. As the anthropologist Clifford Geertz stated, "Culture is a model for experience; and cultural symbols reinforce an ethos, making plausible a world-view whichinturn justifies the ethos" (Swidler 278). I am asserting in this thesis that the holistic, process-oriented practices of Eco-Art can promote the creationofdifferent cultural symbols, vocabulary, rituals, assumptions and experiences that contain a robust potential for disrupting dominant ideology. They also assist peopleinreconstructing their worldviews.13


The drive to provoke an alterationina worldview capableofinforming radical social, cultural and political transformation is shared by activists involved in not just the environmental movement but other diverse social change movements: Feminism, Fair Global Trade, Human Rights, Labor, Civil Rights, and Nonviolence. Eachofthese movements often utilizes similar methodologies, strategies and activities to promote the knowledge and awareness necessary for the larger voting public to, not only passively accept, but actively rally behind certain ideas demanding and working for change. Many radical activists rely on cultural work to both present alternative, abstract theories and also to physically manifest them. "Strategies,tactics, and organizational forms are not only means to other ends but are also endsinthemselves, waysofcommunicating something important about those who use or participateinthem" (Polletta 107). Ecological Art, as a vigorous practice, presents characteristics of two current strategies employed by radical, new social movement activists: direct theory and prefigurative politics.Direct Theory and Prefigurative PoliticsNoel Sturgeon coined the term "direct theory" to explain the particularly uniquepracticesofactivists within the Direct Action Movement. Sturgeon "learned to read the movement's practices and structures as a formoftheorizing through practice" (Sturgeon 36). Upon analysis, she concluded that the activitiesofthe Direct Action Movement activists were split between the realizationofa specific goal, such as closing a nuclear plant, and the experimentation with, and constant interplay between, the radical theories they were espousing and the14


cultural, social and political structures they used to achieve those goals.Inorder to break down hierarchical power structures, for example, activists began to practice consensus decision-making with rotating leadership. My analysisofEcological Art revealed that Eco-Artists utilize direct theory, constantly employing and physically experimenting with ecosystem theories and art's intent, content, forms, and processes through the lived experienceoftheir artistic practice. Often this constant interchange between theory and practice resultsinthe physical manifestationoflarger social, cultural, and politicalagendas. Ecological Art presents a physical reality containing characteristics within its design processes, contents and forms,ofa utopian future, based on ecological wisdom with the stated intent by the artists that their work would promote social transformation. The physical manifestionofanenvisioned, future reality with the intentionofcreating societal change has been observed as a normative practice for radical activists within a rangeofNew Social Movements. This praxis has been defined as prefigurative politics. Cynthia Kaufman, in her book on radical social activity, states, "prefigurative politics is based on the belief that we are creating the new world we are advocating as we go, and soweshould try to buildinthe present the institutions and social patternsofthe society we are working towards" (Kaufman 277-78). The physical manifestationofecological theory through Ecological Art prefigures a process-oriented sustainable society informed by an ecological ethos. The physical forms, content, collaborative practice, and organizational15


structureofEcological Art function similarly to the organization structures and political practicesofthe Direct Action Movement: They both serve "as practical frameworks to accomplish immediate and specific movement goals, ...asmethodsofradicalizationofinternal consciousness-raising for participants; as efforts to change public opiniononcertain issues, or external consciousness-raising for participants; as critical commentaries ... and finally,asformsofprefiguring an alternative vision" (Sturgeon 37).Inmy opinion, Eco-Art is the physical manifestationofa constant interaction between theory and practice, resulting in a material reality that makes real a utopian vision. This practice maps onto the New Social Movement discipline's definitionsofdirect theory and prefigurative politics. Ecological Art can be perceived as a setofcultural strategies attempting to re-order people's cognitive awareness by making real a different wayofthinking an ecological wisdom. They conceive, experiment with, and currently practice, methodologies and strategies that were simultaneously being worked out and experimented with by activists within social movement groups. The Social Movement activists' practices of direct theory and prefigurative politics, analyzed and defined through New Social Movement Studies, were also developed and practiced by Ecological Artists. Both New Social Movement Activists and Ecological Artists are practicing a formofcultural activism, relying on lived experience to promote different cultural symbols, and metaphors capableofprovoking people into a heightened awarenessoftheir world, leading16


to a reconsideration and reorderingoftheir belief systems. Both groups are choosing to utilize new nonhierarchical process-oriented, culturally-based methods and strategies to achieve social transformation. Ecological Artist Ruth Wallen's works focus on providing opportunitiesforpeople to reconsider their relationship with nonhuman nature. She has been developing her artistic practice within the postmodern cultural and political milieu. Her workissituated within the contemporary artistic debates about the role of artinthe postmodern world, the artist as integral to the functioningofsociety, art as a communicative medium, and the capabilityofart to transform society. Wallen, heavily influenced by the previous generationofseventies feminist artists, began her artistic career a decade later,inthe early eighties. While her work drew on the theoretical foundationoffeminist artists, her work is engaged in border issues and the environment.CulturalActivismWallen began working for the park service as an environmental specialist when she wasanundergraduate studying anthropology and biology. Her firstjobwith the park service during her junior yearconsistedofassessing environmental impact statements "based on cost-benefit analysis" (Wallen 179 StOry). The workcausedher to wonder "about all the impacts that were not so easily quantifiable. How can one assign value to the preservationofa burial groundofnative peoples who have long since been displaced?" (Wallen 179 StOry). Questioning the limited scopeofher work, she "dreamedofmaking art" (Wallen 179StOry).While initially choosing to work primarily with photography, Wallen's17


later pieces gradually evolved into more complex, multimedia performance/presentations. Wallen's gravitation towards, and active engagement with ecological wisdom, informs muchofher work. Her first pieceofecological art wasThe Sea as Sculptress,followed closely byIntimate Details,a 1981 piece about Chaco Canyon National Historical ParkinNew Mexico. Wallen has produced ecological art covering a wide rangeofenvironmental issues such as the impactofbuilding developmentinher 1988 piece,I Love Del Mar,and the significanceoffrogs as an indicator species in her 1999 piece,IfFrogs Sicken and Die, What Will Happen to the Princes?Wallen states that her work examines the culturally shaped relationships between humans and the ecosystemsinwhich they are engaged and, as well, humans' relationships within social structures. She perceives Eco-Art as "groundedinan ethos that focuses on communities and interrelationships. These relationships include not only physical and biological pathways, but also the cultural, political and historical aspectsofcommunities or ecological systems" (Wallen Toward). Wallen hopes to provide a cognitive learning experience which might open a door to a different understandingofthe ecological processes inherentinthe world. On her website she states:"Ihope that my projects will provoke a similar investigation for the viewer, encouraging them to develop a relationship to placeandlorcontemplate an issue, examine their preconceptions, and envision new possibilities" (Wallen Toward).18


I argue that Ruth Wallen's work, informed by a specific formofexperimentation and a constant interplay between ecological theory and practice, presenting the characteristics of an envisioned future, maps onto the definitionofdirect theory and prefigurative politics. Her intent to create social transformation informs a setofcultural practices which are shared by radical activists within New Social Movements. While Wallen has not utilized New Social Movement vocabulary to defineordiscuss her work, or used the word "activist" to define herself, nonetheless both ecological artists and new social movement activists share a common goal: to create a new world through cultural practices which are capableofboth informing about, and modeling the new cultural, social, and political structures to which they are committed. The strategiesofartists and activists may have evolved within different discourses and venues, but they map onto one another through a common goal to make real, through their practices, a theoretical framework, andindoing so, create a synecdoche, a smaller physical model that standsinfor a larger envisioned future. They share a belief that a goal towards achieving social transformation does "not rest on a privileged social agent, historical teleology, or totalizing social theory; ... (it is) normatively groundedinbroadly shared values" (Hunter, 237). Ecological Art inserts into mainstream culture the physical cultural presenceofan alternative eco-wise worldview. By modeling ecosystems theory, speaking about ecosystemsinthe contentofthe work, and being the physical presenceofeco-wisdom, Eco-Art presents multiple opportunities for visitors/participants to engageinthe constructionofecological comprehension.19


In doing so they can create a feedback loop carrying an alternative cultural repertoire back into mainstream culture and thus changing it from the inside out. I argue here that this cultural method to create change developed simultaneously in the practicesofa particular artistic community and within radical social movement groups and, although the practice has been defined within social movement activity as direct theory and prefigurative politics, the characteristicsofeach practice are very similar. Ruth Wallen's work presents characteristicsofdirect theory and prefigurative politics and is a formofcultural activism. Her eco art is ripe with the potential to achieve social transformation by creating communitiesofpeople who begin to deconstruct their world view and reconstruct their belief systems andindoing change their cultural relationships to nonhuman nature and each other.20


Chapter Two Social Movements Twentieth century social movements have a rich and diverse cultural history. I believe they can be better understood by focusingonthe multiple theories, philosophies, and motivating factorsofinvolved activists, than by generating a timelineofspecific events or charismatic leaders. Social movements are comprisedofindividuals who agree to join a particular kindofcommunityinorder to pursue social and political change and who have the ability to change that community if it does not respond to their needs (Brienes xxi-xxv). Once we acknowledge that social movements areanexpressionofindividual passions and desires, muchofwhat occurred over the past decades snaps into focus. Social Movements have never just been about political and social change; for many people they were also about working towards the creationofan envisioned world. Activists were working to create a culture within which they could live and relate to one anotherina completely different manner, basedona humanitarian ethos. Winnie Brienes statesinher book CommunityandOrganization in the New Left, that for many New Left activists, personal transformation was viewed as an important elementinsocial transformation.Ananalysisofany social movement, right or left, cannot be understood without factoring in this behavior (Brienes xxi-xxv).21


Social movements are defined as "collective efforts by socially and politically subordinated people to challenge the conditions and assumptionsoftheir lives ... the term refers to persistent, patterned, and widely distributed collective challenges to the status quo" (Darnovsky vii). Social movements come into being when individuals feel compelled to instigate a group response to particular political, economic,orsocial circumstances and collectively work to promote an alternative worldview. Movements typically flourish where there are mounting crisesoflegitimacy, where the old systemsofauthority and legitimacy are challenged through broad cultural fermentorsocial upheaval. .. Whether these periodsofconflict give risetoa radical politics depends upon the capacityofdiverse movements to form cohesive social blocs (Boggs 21). Historically, social movements have promoted conservative as well as liberal, and radical ideas. According to Carl Boggs, movements are created to disrupt dominant hegemonic narratives, shape alternative meaning-making systems and forward a new vocabulary based on different belief systems, constituting, through wide-ranging practices, a different world view. CharacteristicsInthe broadest sense, all social movements share common characteristics. The actionsofmovement participants are both spontaneous and diligently orchestrated over time. "Social change occurs through a long, uneven historical process that is governed by no linear or law-like patterns" (Boggs 5).22


They are fluid, dynamic entities, characterized by a disbandingofold groups and the continuous creationofnew ones as well as an ebb and flowofintense, dedicated activity. With a broad enough base and committed members, a social movement can adjust its strategies, goals, and institutional processes to meet new historical circumstances. Simple goal accomplishment is not the only measure by which social movement activists judge their efficacy. Instead, they often recognize the powerofsmall and symbolic successes, as well as the achievementofunstated goals such as community formation. Because social movements are often constituted from an oppositional standpoint challenging the status quo, people in power frequently react violently, even to those demands that seem reasonable to the general public.4The comprehensionofsocial movements has been filtered through value systems for both the participants and academic scholars (Darnosfky vii). The most conservative people have perceived the collective public activitiesofsocial movement participants as evidenceofthe inherent problems with democratic processes, and they often advocate the "need for authoritative control" (Darnosfky vii). The political center has perceived these practices as symptomsofgovernmental and societal failures, revealing areas where reform was needed. Radicals and the left supported a dismissalofthe legitimacyofgovernmental, bureaucratic power-structures altogether. Within some social movements there have always existed profound anti-authoritarian radical strains calling for deep democratic processes and nonhierarchical structuresofpower (Brienes 14-15).23


HistoryAtthe endofthe nineteenth century, social movementsinthe United States were predominantly reactions to the modern, industrialized, capitalist system. Manyofthose struggles were framed by a vocabulary examining the relationship between class, labor, authority, power, and capitalist production, and manyofthem advocated revolution: a complete violent overthrowofone system for another. The more radical social movements during that era were, most notably, the radical pacifists, the Catholic Worker Movement, and anarchists. "Their ethically oriented criticismofcapitalism, emphasis on the activismofmoral witness and distrustofhierarchical organizations distinguished them from the old left parties and organizations proper" (Brienes 14). Although labeled the "New Left", the 1960's social movements actually drew more on these radical strainsofideology than the communistorsocialist theoriesofthe "Old Left". A deep streakofanti-authoritarianism, an embraceofmoral means to reach moral ends, a value system that privileges people over bureaucracy, and an embraceofcultural and personal activities as important elements, are characteristics drawn from the twenties and thirties radical contingent that were utilized by the New Left. The New Left has been defined as the sixties activists involvedinthe Student Movements, the Free Speech Movement and the AntiWarMovement. The New Left layeredinMarxist and postmodern theories concerning culture and hegemony: concepts central for understanding the hold which advanced capitalism had on people'sconsciousness (Brienes 16).24


Before the "New Left" coalesced, there were multiple social movements already organizing grass-roots support for peace, nonviolence, civil rights, the environment, and anti-nuclear issues, as well as the nascent formationsofthe women's and gay rights movements.Inparticular, the peace and anti-nuclear movements had been sustained through WorldWarIIby Quaker groups committed to passive and active nonviolence. According to Barbara Epstein, these groups brought ideasofegalitarianism, nonhierarchical leadership, community and personal empowerment to the New Left (Epstein 32). The sixties and early seventies "New Left" abandoned a strictly Marxist theoretical base as an inadequate response to the global industrialized state. On balance, the early new left and the student movement were not traditionally socialist. They did not believeina working-class revolution, orina Marxist analysisofsocial change andofpolitical organization ... Existentialism and not Marxism was relevant to them and captured their mood (Brienes 16). For many people the capitalist system had createdanunacceptable social culture that gave "preference to property rights over personal rights, technological requirements over human needs, competition over cooperation, violence over sexuality, concentration over distribution, the producer over the consumer, means over ends, secrecy over openness, social forms over personal expression, striving over gratification, Oedipal love over communal love" (Yinger20).25


These ideas were embeddedinthe cultureofAmerica and a response to them could not be articulated onlyinthe political arena. The circumstances required a cultural strategy as well as a political one. Muchofthe activitiesofsixties social movement participants were not just a reaction to the exaggerated economic purposiveness that the post-war society inflictedonthem, but also a collective working outofalternative ideas, structures, relationships and communities. "The deep desire for democratic participation was evident everywhere, particularlyinthe thickofpolitical actions. Yearning for community and for a democracy in which the individual had some influence was profound among new leftists" (Brienes xiv). This experimentation with radical alternatives produced a unique decadeofsocial movement activity, during which there were no set rules accepted by all participants about organizational structures, leadership, or the mannerinwhich a person could be involved. The New Left emerged from the radical pacifismofthe Civil Rights Movement. The first students and young people to become radicalized did so through the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The Civil Rights Movement "was formative for the politics and outlookofthe new left; stylesofwork, ideas and organizational forms were learned directly from SNCC" (Brienes 11). The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was formedin1960 to organizeoncampuses in supportofthe civilrights movement "and other student-oriented political issues" (Brienes 11). Manyofthese activists, as well as the people participating in the 1964 Berkeley Free Speech Movement, were heavily involvedinthe Civil Rights Movement. This gave them direct26


experiencesinnonviolent philosophy, Quaker consensus decision-making, personal empowerment, a commitmenttodeep democratic processes as well as activities informed and shaped by a strong ethical and moral stance. The "New Left" focusedonthe relationships between the military industrial complex and the university. Activists also addressed issuesofcolonialism and systemsofoppression. "In the Berkeley rebellion and repeatedly thereafter students expressed opposition to a faceless and inhumane bureaucracy organized for industry and profit, and the necessityofnon-cooperationinorder to force it to stop" (Brienes 24). There followed a series of struggles between the universities and the students during which the students often spontaneously formed collective actions and used participatory democracy to sustain them and to make decisions. On site, large groupsofpeople, often hundreds, together would hash out each new decision on how to proceed. (Brienes 25) For nearly everyone who has chosen to speak or writeofthe experience, it is described as a transcendental empowerment. Michael Rossman, talking about his experience on the Berkeley campus surrounding a police car said: And the dialogue on topofthe car continues. People are getting up there and talking and people are listening. And people are voting on this and people are voting on that. It's almost enough to make you believe that if it were given a chance, the democratic process might work. I just might work. People quoted books as if books were ifit all meant27


something. And listening to them, I almost believed for the first time in years that it did mean something (Brienes 47). Muchofthe commitment to consensus decision making and egalitarian democratic processes that the New Social Movements adhere to emerged from these kindsofexperiences with empowerment and community formation through radical participatory democratic processes. Itisthese personal formsofalternative social and cultural experiences, the lived experienceofparticipatory democracy, which activated a deep desire to recreate them again (Brienes 27). The process was oneofenergetically, even joyfully, creating and experiencing connectedness and meaning, which often dissipated quickly, only to be recreated and dreamedoflong after, shaping an alternative visionofsociety. These feelings and experiments were among the driving inspirations and goalsofthe movement and new left (Brienes 27).Cultural PoliticsThe goalsofthe New Left pushed past the boundariesofpolitical revolution and embracedsocial,cultural and personal transformation as being equally important. While the activitiesofthe sixties were presented through the media asfocusedon specific goals, such as an end to the war,infact, as a famous 60's Berkeley slogan stated, "The issue is not the issue." The issue was to imagine, and make real through practices, a new modelofreality (Brienes 55). "The activistsofthe sixties tended to gravitate to what seemed more fundamental issuesofhow social life as a whole should be organized, what ideas it should be28


ruled by" (Epstein 38). It is their presentationofand experimentation with radically alternative modesofbeing in the world that was both most representedinthe press and thus widely known, yet at the same time grossly misunderstood. Someofthis misunderstanding stems from the activists' apparent lackofinterestinconventional political arena, while at the same time presenting themselves as working for social change, a radical process few people entrenchedinmainstream ideology were prepared to comprehend. New Left activist Dick Flacks summed up these ideas nicelyina paper written for SDS:IfI understand what we are trying to work on when we say we are building a "movement," I think it has to do with two typesofgoals. One, which we might call "existential humanism,"isexpressed by the desire to change the way we, as individuals, actually live and deal with another people ... Secondly, we say that we seek a radical transformationofthe social order. In short, that we act politically because our values cannot be realizedinany durable sense without a reconstructionofthe political and social system .... 1 think itisinescapable that our movement must encompass both setsoforientation. Itisclear that politics apart from an existential ethic becomes increasingly manipulative, power-oriented, sacrificialofhuman lives andsouls-itis corrupted (Epstein 42). The tension between attempting to create an alternativesociety and conducting practical strategies to achieve political goals became oneofthe major problemsofthe movement. Society is accustomed to a democracy based on29


compromises to achievepolitical goals, not just legislative, but ethical and moral ones. But the activists were unwilling to sacrifice the means to the end, or unnecessarily compromise the philosophical ideas to which they were committed. For some people, especially the larger public, this stance was so far outside the mainstream understandingofhow political systems operated, the mass media rarely even commented onit.How to work out the tensions between thesetwo seemingly disparate goals became the real,ifunstated, workofactivistsinthe following decades (Darnofsky xvi). The internal problemsofhow to prefigure the world they were yearning for by creating empowering, egalitarian, participatory processes while still attaining political goals, was the real issue, as the Berkeley slogan stated,ofthe sixties activists (Brienes 36). This turn to cultural politics, personal transformation, symbolic successes, and creationofcommunity eventually overrode political strategy, as politics based on unethical compromises and reforms began to look less and less appetizing. Many criticsofthe "New Left" and "New Social Movements" blame the lackofpolitical effectiveness on these tendencies, and often rightly so. However;indoing so, they gloss over the fact that bridging the two goals is still foremostinmany people's movement efforts. The methods for achieving both goals are stillinformation (Darnofsky xxvi). The sixties activists' experimental attempts to work out what seemtobe disparate goals, the reliance on cultural rather than political means to create change, as well as the lackofdefinitive authoritarian leadership, was perceived by the general public as an incomprehensible tangleofactivity. From the public 30


viewpoint as well as the academic one, the sixties countercultural movements have been generally labeled a failure. Other than stopping the war, people, in general, fail to comprehend the cultural impact these activities producedinthe American public.Asactivist and scholar Winnie Brienes states: [the] negative evaluationsofthe new left were often made on the basisofinstrumental criteria, which entailed overlooking the movement's radical challengetoexisting society .... lt wasmyview, then and now, that the demonstrations, confrontations, experimentsincollectivity and participatory democracy, questioning, militancy, drugs and counterculture and the radicalizationofindividuals and American culture which accompanied these, were what was accomplished (Brienes xv). Activists brought their experiences, questions, and willingness to experiment and utilize prefigurative politics to the "New Social Movements" (NSM) that appear after the New Left has expended its energiesonthe anti-war movement. While some NSM groups are dedicated to liberal reform politics, investinginthe current political system, radical New Social Movements are smaller networked organizations that, like the marginal pacifist movementsofthe forties and fifties, often work together in coalitions, share the responsibility for strategizing and organizing, and are committed to the creationofan alternative society. These new groups can be broken into five general genres: "Urban social struggles, the ecology movement, women's and gay liberation, the peace31


movement, and the cultural revolt linked primarily to student and youth activism" (Bogg 40). But these groups didn't just continue New Left ideas unexamined. The membersofthese groups began to articulate an alternative visionofboth the structural frameworkoftheir organizations and the culture or setofbelief systems, rituals, and customs which supportedthatframework. They utilized an "innovative theorizing groundedinthe distinct experiences, challenges, and opportunities presented by advanced industrialism" (Boggs 39). New Social Movements have several shared characteristics, some drawn from the sixties New Left, while others are distinctive innovations which speak to the unique particularitiesofthe contemporary globalized, industrialized world. Perhaps their most striking featureisthat they emerge primarily outside the bourgeois public sphere as extra-institutional phe nomena rootedincivil society---which is precisely the senseinwhich they can be understood as social or even prepolitical (Boggs 47). The oppositional stanceofearly labor struggles, attempting to grapple directly with the political system are abandoned, focusing instead on creating large-scale social change through "face-to-face relations, at the levelofpersonal identity and consciousness,inthe household and neighborhood, whetherornot such change is enunciatedinpublic politics and macro-level power relations ... Social transformation is mediated through culture as well as politics narrowlydefinedthat the personal and the cultural are as politically real as, and are not reducible to, power strugglesinthe state and economy" (Darnofsky xiv). 32


New Social Movements are focusedonsubverting the current ideological hegemony and providing multiple opportunities to slowly replace itinpeople's understandings with a different value system basedon"ashiftofcultural values away from instrumentalism and materialism toward an ethicofparticipation, communalism and self-actualization" (Boggs 48). To do so, social movements attempt a repoliticizationofcivil society from the grassroots which involves an "ongoing challenge to hegemonic beliefs, values, attitudes,myths-thestruggle for a new discursive terrain with distinctive rules and language, with new principlesoflegitimacy contesting the old ones" (Boggs 47). On a practical level this involves reaching out to people, offering opportunities to raise consciousness by revealing the inherent contradictions and problemsofthe current economic and social order; providing opportunities for people to empower themselves by changing their perceptionsofthemselves as active social agents; modeling an alternative world and inviting people to partakeofit,and creating opportunities for community formations. This requires grass roots cultural work to create what Raymond Williams calls an "emergent hegemony" (Boggs 47). Activists within NSM's have radically altered the entire scopeofwhat a movement is, how it works and for what purposes. As Carl Boggs states:Ina relatively brief span the new movements have stirred intense debate over the relationship between economic crisis and political change, the viabilityofmass insurrection, the roleoflabor, the33


definitionofdemocracy, and the significance of personal and cultural factorsincreating a new society ... Perhaps most important, they have held out a rangeofnovel and compelling visionsofthe future, inspired by the themesoffeminism, recoveryofcommunity, ecological renewal, and participatory democracy, while rejecting the facileconnection between industrial development and human liberation (Boggs 9). Boggs has the advantageoftime on his side as he looks backward on NSM history. It took quite a lotoftime for people, either academics or the public, to understand this. For many years, these radical practices were viewed with confusion and skepticism. The workofthe New Left and NSM has often been labeled a failure for the inability to create a new world order today.Prefigurative PoliticsandDirect Theory: Cultural ActivismIn1982, Winnie Brienes, an activist and professor, felt compelled to refute the commonly held negative perceptionsofthe sixties and seventies movements and publishedCommunityandOrganization in theNewLeft,1962-1968:The Great Refusal.Inthis book she acknowledged the importance of "New Left" practices not just to American society, but also to the "New Social Movements" that came outofand drew on the experiments and utopian yearningsofthe sixties activists. She challenged the conventional analysisofsixties social movements as disorganized and ineffectual. She chose to focus, not on social movements as large organizational entities with leaders and goals, but rather on the activists who built those social movements and who, learning from their 34


experiments, reconstituted the later New Social Movements based on those belief systems. Foregrounding the unstated utopian goals and aspirationsofpeople participatinginthe sixties social movements broadens the definitionoforganizational success (Brienes xiv). Activists ability to live their value systems, to create possibilities for empowerment, to treat each other with respect, to create communities and utilize deep democratic processes was, in fact, highly important and often constituted a more deeply personal senseofaccomplishment than an instrumental attainmentofstrategic goals, such as stopping the war. Brienes feels that the New Left's expressive and apolitical elements are its central features. Where critics see pathology, she sees "the healthy and vital heartofthe new left, its prefigurative politics" (Brienes 6). Brienes coined the term "prefigurative politics" to describe the qualitative, utopian, cultural characteristicsofthe new left. The cruxofprefigurative politics imposed substantial tasks, the central one being to create and sustain within the live practiceofthe movement, relationships and political forms that "prefigure" and embody the desired society ... attempting to develop the seedsofliberation and the new society prior to andinthe processofrevolution (Brienes 6). From this standpoint, muchofthe previously unintelligible countercultural activities: the reliance on cultural activities to articulate values and create communities, long discussions, consensus decision making, the continual35


presence through symbols incorporated into dress, lifestyles, and acts,ofthe ideasoflove and respect; conceptsofsharing, the insistence on personal radicalization and transformation, can be viewed as partofradical political activity (Brienes 43-45). These activities become elementsofprefiguring an alternative worldview based on communal, egalitarian and participatory values. Brienes perceives their presenceinthe physical cultureofAmerica as a formofcreating new meaning-making symbols as well as sharing that vision with anyone willingtoinvest the time to understand. Mixing a commitment to respect for other people with a commitment to expressing alternative value systems, these activities are powerfully present, but are not intended to force ideas on people through rhetoric or authoritarianorviolent means. They are meant to invite and persuade. The New Left experimentations with prefigurative politics were carried into radical New Social Movements by the New Left activists who reconstituted smaller grass-roots organizations after the large anti-war movement dissipated. Similar to the New Left activities, NSM activists, rather than standing back and writing about their theories, work them out through actual experimentation with organizational structures, processes and actions. Noel Sturgeon, activist and academic, defined this activity as direct theory, "the constant interaction between theory and practice" (Sturgeon 36). She observed that people within the Direct Action Movement analyze, criticize, change, and affirm, both themselves and mainstream culture, through the praxisofdirect theory. Although her analysis was strictly written as a "thick36


description"ofDirect Action, other radical New Social Movements share similar practices and her theory can be applied to them as well. Direct theory is a dynamic process that takes prefigurative politics to another level. From this viewpoint every theory/action has exponential capabilities to build on past experiences, fine tune the present ones, model an alternative reality, create personal and cultural transformation, and at the same time present a critiqueofthe mainstream framework. For Sturgeon, the organization structures, as well as the cultural and political practicesofmovements serve several functions: as practical frameworkstoaccomplish immediate and specific movement goals, such as forcing the closureofa specific military facility; as methodsofradicalizationofinternal consciousness-raising for participants; as efforts to change public opiniononcertain issues, or external consciousness-raising; as critical commentaries on the American traditionofradicalsocial movements; and finally, as formsofprefiguring an alternative political vision (Sturgeon 37). By viewing social movement activities as "direct theory", Sturgeon opens the door for a more holistic understandingofNSM actions. Her analysisofdirect theory "intends to redefine 'effectiveness' away from a limited notionofinstrumentality and toward a more comprehensive understandingofhow movements act as important promulgatorsofnew formsof'commonsense' apprehensionofpolitical realities" (Sturgeon 37). Sturgeon sees37


the praxisofdirect theory as a cultural method to create new meaning-making codes that can be shared outside the immediate "family"ofmovement activists and thus has a potential to impact mainstream culture. Because alternative modesofaction are shared within internal engagementinNSM's organizational structures and the external engagement with the public through practical political activity, the constructionofnew modesofaction can be perceived as a "collective constructionofknowledge" (Sturgeon 41). The concept the constructionofnew waysofviewing the world is a collective endeavor is integral to my argument that public artistic activity contains the possibility to fundamentally transform society. If the viewer/participants, the coalitionofpeople involvedingetting the piece made, and the artistic community are positively involved, that process moves beyond strictly oppositional, confrontational politics towards a methodologyofaltering society from the inside out, through mutual consent. BY engaging diverse peoples, both inside and outside social movement groups, the process might create communities, temporary or permanent, consciously acknowledging shared beliefs. New Social Movement activists do sometimes take an oppositional stance to an issue, but their focus is also on the constructionofa new future, a stance rarely perceiVed or acknowledged. I argue that by physically modeling a pragmatic alternative and inviting others, through public activities, to comprehend and participateinthat alternative, both social movement activists and ecological artists areinthe processofcreating a feedback loop capableofcommunicating difference to the larger eco-social system and in the process change the their culture.38


The abilityofcultural activities to alter mainstream culture was initially articulated within the feminist movement that took the stance, the personal is political. Sturgeon points out that manyofthe characteristicsofnew movements are derived from activists putting into praxis feminist theorieson"changing personal relations as a methodforrevising social relations, the expansionofthe political arena into previously 'private' areas ... the preference for transformational modelsofsocial change, and the supposed expressiveness rather than instrumentalityofnew movements" (Sturgeon 44). She states that manyofthe practicesofnew social movements, such as nonhierarchical power structures are directly derived from the experiments and theoriesofthe early women's movement. Noel Sturgeon, like Winnie Brienes, challenges the mainstream academic analysisofsocial movements, claiming it is too synchronic and fails to comprehendthe holistic, diachronic powerofNew Left and New Social Movement experiments: their prefigurative characteristics and the social movements as "symptomsofsocial strain ... as phenomena needing to be treatedorcontrolled" (Darnosfky viii). This reformist lens was gradually replaced by Marxist analysis. According to Brienes, Darnofsky, Sturgeon and Epstein, the activitiesofthe sixties "New Left" social movements are often misunderstood as people gloss over radical concepts to focus on strictly instrumental oppositional strategies. Academics, employing Marxist analysis, look exclusively for class and economic factors as well as the movement's success at mobilizing large numbersofpeople. Sociologists utilizing the older liberal centrist, reform39


oriented analysis reduce activities "to quantifiable or at least highly specific factors" (Brienes 19). Sociologists evaluate each componentofan incident, the demands made, the institutional response, the historical particularsofthe action, and finally the specific outcome, at face value. In doing so, sociologists, like Marxists scholars, "lost or ignored the radical hopes, experiments and visionofthe students ... This means,ineffect, that the cultural, personal and social implications, the deeper subjective political meaning has often gone unnoticedorunrecorded, and has been excluded from an analysisofthe political significanceofthe movement" (Brienes 19). In the eighties, recognizing that Social Movements in the late twentieth century needed more sophisticated analysis, academics articulated a new empirically based theory, Resource Mobilization orRMfor short.RMis invested in analyzing the opportunities and methods by which goals and revolution are attained. "RM's core assumption was that movements were to be understood not as aberrationalordeviant phenomena, nor as 'symptoms' but as deliberate, patterned frameworksofcollective action" (Darnofsky xii). Resource Mobilization focuses on the studyofthe conditions "that promoted movement growth and political effectiveness" (Darnofsky xii).RMwas instrumental is situating social movements as integral elementsofsociety and revealing the internal machinations and politicsofsocial movement organizations. (Darnofsky xii) Recourse Mobilization, however, was clearly perceived by activists themselves as beinganinadequate model to completely explain practices and40


goals not limited to the completionofspecific political agendas, but including the creationofan alternative ethos (Darnofsky xv). A more comprehensive scholarship has focusedonthe particular and unique activitiesofNew Social Movement activists. "New Social Movement theorists stressed that social transformation is mediated through cultureaswell as politics narrowly defined that the personal and the cultural are as politically real as, and are not reducible to, power strugglesinthe state and economy" (Epstein xiv). Activists and scholars became deeply immersedinevaluating how meaning-making and identities are created through cultural practices as well as how cultural strategies can be an effective meansofaltering hegemonic belief systems. However, New Social Movement theory is stillina nascent formofconception. Scholars are still attempting to bridge the gap between purely empirical, goal-oriented analysis such as Recourse Mobilization, and one that acknowledges and values the cultural, prefigurative and qualitative characteristics. The problemsinanalytically braiding together these two seemingly disparate goals mirrors the processes activists struggle with as they attempt to work out how to accomplish both goals at the same time. "NSM theory has tended to avoid examinationofhow cultural change and the transformationofsocial structures can be brought together. It has all too often evaded issuesofclass, power, and policy rather than rethinking them" (Darnofsky xv). Social Movement theoristsingeneral struggle with a gap between "a dominant, structural approach that emphasized economic resources,41


political structures, formal organizations, and social networks and a cultural or constructionist tradition, drawn partly from symbolic interactions, which focuses on frames, identities, meaning, and emotions" (Goodwin vii). Winnie Brienes's prefigurative politics and Noel Sturgeon's direct theory clearly and unapologetically situate themselvesinthe constructionist, cultural camp; however there are opportunities for a structuralist viewpoint,ifpeople begin to see that "structures are cultural (though not only culture)"(Polietta 97). Francesca Poletta argues that culture is the symbolic dimensionoforganizations, and institutions. "Symbols are signs that have meaning and significance, through their interrelations; the patternofthose relations is culture. Culture is thus patterned and patterning" (Polletta 100). Her argument is that the institutions and culture cannot be forced apart, but that a culture creates opportunities for people to choose certain formsofinstitutions and that a culture is then embeddedin,and continually helps recreate those choices. A disruptioninthe unconscious acceptanceofthat institutional culture, through witnessingorexperiencing another form, opens the door to different institutional choices. Poletta argues for utilizing a cultural/structural lens to analyze the unique, varied practicesofNew Social Movement activists. I draw correlations between this particular viewofutilizing cultural activism to alter an existing culture and ecological artists who, through manifesting a physical realityofecological theory, utilize a cultural tool, to alter the underlying belief systems andinthe process, present opportunities for social transformation (Poletta 100-102).42


When Winnie Brienes describes activists prefiguring an alternative culture and Noel Sturgeon talks about theorizing through practice, they are articulating a process for disrupting the dominant culture by presentingthe physical realityofan alternative belief system a large numberofpeople are engagedincreating, which can be both personally and institutionally transformative. Cultural activism, providing opportunities for the shared constructionofknowledge and meaning making has the potential for subtly transforming a cultural worldview and thus a society over time. I argue that Ecological Art is the physical manifestationofecological theory, prefiguring an envisioned future informed by eco-wisdom, which provides multiple opportunities, through interaction with the piece, for the public to engageincollective constructionofecological comprehension.Understanding the inherent systems processesofthe world, allows people to alter their worldview from a dominator/instrumental model to oneofeco-wisdom. By approaching their daily choices through a new belief system, people have opportunities to participate in the transformationofsociety. Ecological Art can be perceived then as a formofcultural activism. Although Ecological Artists do not use the word activism or activist to describe their work, nonetheless, the characteristicsoftheir work match definitionsofradical New Social Movement's cultural activities. Ecological Art can be perceived as a formofprefigurative politics and direct theory.43


Chapter Three EcologicalArtEcologicalArtis the physical presentationofeco-wisdom. Eco-Artists' intent is to provide a ripe possibility for the visitors to question their assumptions about the human/nature relationship and reconstruct their worldview from the current, dominator model to oneofeco-wisdom. To do so, this particular formofart illuminates, explains and models ecosystemic processes. Eco-Art intimately addresses the visitors, creating a relationship between the site and each person, making them a participant in the constructionofecosystem knowledge. Eco-theory states that the planet earth is comprisedofmultiple nested ecosystems. On earth, a relatively thin, surface layer sustains multitudesofliving creatures, from microscopic single-celled amoebas to massive, one hundred and eighty ton blue whales. This biological plenitude does not exist willy-nilly across the surface, but has settled into ecosystems, manageable groups that exist well together in particular geographical environments. All entities within an ecosystem are networked together by their activities, processesofcommunication, exchange, and feedback loops that together create relationships basedonmutual dependency and competition. To examine an ecosystem is to study the relationships that create communities and how they are maintained within the ecosystem that sustains them. From this vantage point the studyofa44


bee is not just the accumulationoffactual information about size and wingspan, but more importantly, how the bee interacts with, and what kindofcommunicative relationship the bee has with all the other components, flowers, birds, trees, bugs, etc.inits ecosystem. All entitiesinan ecosystem areinconstant communication with each other conveying a messageofdifference to which each can choose to respondornot. This communication places each entity in a necessary relationship to one another. The flower communicates to the bee that it is not a leaf, but a pollen producing entity, creating a mutually beneficial relationship.'Whatis necessary for an organism to know, always concerns a relationship: how the perceiving creature relatestothe outside entity that is being perceived and vice versa" (Small 56). These groupings, or ecosystems, practice patternsofexistence based on"acombinationofcompetition and mutual dependency" (Bateson 436). The bee relies on the flower for sustenance and the flower relies on the bee for propagation and together, along with the related and dependent activitiesofother species, they create and continuously recreate an ecosystem that sustains them.Atthe same time, every flower isincompetition with the others to attract the bee and every beeisincompetition with the other bees to gather as much pollen from every flower as possible. This patternofdependency and competition occurs at every levelofbiological interaction, micro and macro. Every ecosystem is comprisedofnested and interconnected networks. The stronger the ties between all the entities in the 45


ecosystem, the more likely the ecosystem is to sustain the entities well. Without guidance or even a conscious decision to doso,the activitiesofdifferent species interlock to make sure allofthem have what they need and maybe even a little more (Bateson 312-320). Ecosystems theorists define this interlockingphenomenon as feedback loops. Each entity's activities provide feedback loops which either strengthenoralter the existing system. Simplistically, a dropindeer populationina specified area communicates difference, a lossofa food source to the predator, the wolf, who receives the information and either moves into another ecosystem and/or some portionofthe wolf population dies, balancing the relationship between the deer and the wolf such that each sustains the other (Bateson 312-320). Humans also exist within ecosystems, both bio/physical and social, and have an exaggerated capability to create both damaging or, if they choose, sustainable feedback loops. A portionofmy argument that Eco-Art as cultural activism holds the potential to assistinsocial transformation restsonthe idea that the natural processes are the greatest common denominator among all people. Their experienceofthe solar and lunar cycles, weather systems, and the presenceofother life forms create a bond, however tenuous, between people. People may have created deep divisions amongst themselves basedonrace and religion but when precipitation occursinthe air, as snow, sleet, mist, or rain, it sill makes everyone wet. The sun provides warmth and light for everyone's day, however short or long, which is damped down as it disappears below the horizon.46


Nonhuman life skitters, slides, flits, lopes, zooms, glides and meanders across human eye-lines, a constant reminder that non-human nature, eternally, unabashedly and unremittingly resides with people. Even today, with sophisticated technology ready-to-hand, a frost can ruin an orange crop and a flood can decimate fields. People can't get away from the worldinwhich they live, as much as they attempt to distance themselves through encapsulated dwellings and overly protected indoor, public spaces. It is not that people do not feel a connection to the natural ecosystemsinwhich they find themselves engaged, it is how they choose to think about that relationship that shapes how they act within them.The Current WorldviewAny worldview that people employtoexplain their relationship with the naturalworld is "socially organized and culturally conditioned" (Belgrad 3). "We not only study nature and liveinand from it, we also construct the very ideasofnature ...Wenot only ponder, we organize our ponderings into grand narratives that become part and parcelofa wayoflife we live" (Rasmussen 176). The ideologies informing the choices and activities people engageinare framed and constituted through cultural meaning-making systems: stories, music, ritual, visual aesthetics, film, dance, the qualitative and quantitative sciences, and dialogue (Swidler 273). People utilize cultural production to make meaningoftheir experiences and at the same time affirm their value systems. "Culture is a model of, and a model for experience; and cultural symbols reinforce an ethos, making plausible a world-view whichinturn justifies the ethos" (Swidler 278).47


Meaning-making systems are not static, but alwaysindynamic process and therefore open to analysis, reworking, and change. People's perceptionsofthe human/nature relationship have significantly altered over the centuries. The nonhuman naturalworld has been constructed at different periodsoftime as being malicious, beneficent, the siteofromanticized bliss, as godorgoddess incarnate, as alive, dead, a mechanical clock, a victiminneedofsaving, and the siteofcapitalist investment. The modern impulse, starting with the Enlightenment, has turned towards a dominant stance insisting on the abilityofpeople to control, through reason and technology, natural processes. The contemporary worldview has also commodified most elementsofthe natural and human world, refusing to see the connected characteristicsofall entitiesinfavoroffragmentation and assigned monetary value (Merchant11).This particular worldview allows people to thinkofthemselves as outsideofandincontrolofthe ecosystems they inhabit. Growing numbersofpeople around the world have connected these attitudes with contemporary world problems; The assumptionsofthat worldview have led to widespread ecocide, nuclear arms, the globalization of unqualified-growth economies ... lossofmeaning beyond consumerism, lossofcommunity and connectedness with other people, and lossofa secure senseofembedded nessinthe restofthe natural world (Spretnak, 4 States)48


However, the seeming arroganceofa dominator modelofhuman/nature relationships is being challenged by a wide and varied arrayofindividuals and groups: scientists, grass roots political groups, environmentalist organizations and new ecologists (Spretnak 4 Reweaving). But it is not just scientists and social movement activists who are working to alter this particular hegemonic worldview; it is also cultural activists: artists, writers, poets, musicians and filmmakers who utilize their creativity, individually and collectively, to promote a sea-changeinpublic belief systems, from a dominator, mechanisticmodel toanecosystemic worldview.5Cultural PoliticsAssome people work at thecreationofdifferent cultural symbolsofmeaning, informed by ecological wisdom, they search for chances to share these ideas with larger and larger audiences. "Meaning derives from that which every individual is able toproduceand to share with others" (Melucci 295). Each opportunity to promote a different viewpoint with others enhances the abilityofthe cultural meaning to be received and understood by an even larger groupofpeople. I argueinthis thesis that as people are coaxed and persuaded to experience a different viewpoint by the activities of cultural and political activists. People are offered the opportunity to build layers of deeper comprehension, and open themselves up for further opportunities to explore alternatives. By accepting the invitation on any level, people's abilities to alter their expectations, assumptions and belief systems and,inturn, their actions, is strengthened. "Changesinculture do mean changesinmodal typesofcharacter" (Sussman49


285).Aspeople begin to thinkindifferent ways, they begin to see themselvesinrelation to othersindifferent ways and they also begin to utilize a new cultural repertoire.The EcologyofaWorldviewSimilar to the way all the elementsinanecosystem work to sustainandlortransform each other I believe that all the elementsofhuman existence, abstract thought, metaphorical thought processes, physical experiences, empathy, passion, and group interactions promote the formation and continuationofa culture. Allofthese elements behave like feedback loops, affecting the othersinloopsofmeaning-creation. People's activities, physical and abstract, work and rework culture. The efficacyofeach individual feedback loop is linked or situatedinrelation to the abilityofthe others to strengthen a certain cultural worldview. Each time an activity models a new wayofthinking, through a physical presence, a dialogue, a scholarly examination, emotional responses and bodily activity, it also presents an opportunitytoprovide alternative tools from which certain kindsofactivities can be created and recreated. The tools and the activity function together as feedback loops capableofstrengthening and adding new waysofdoing things. "Indeed, a culture has enduring effects on those who holdit,not by shaping the ends they pursue, but by providing the characteristic repertoire from which they build linesofactions" (Swidler 284). A bee may stray from the areainwhich he normally finds food and in his flight find a new source, a collectionofflowering bushes. When the bee returns to the hive and communicates a new location, he models a new flight plan and 50


creates a new toolinthe bees' cultural repertoire, a new flight pattern for the other bees. When other bees utilizeit,they create strengthening feedback loops which insert the new flight plan into the cultureofthe hive as a normal routine. What was new, becomes normal. Pertinent to my argument about cultural transformation is my assertion that people also have similar processesintheir acceptance or dismissalofnew ideas. People discover new waysofdoing things by watching others model a new wayofbeingorexperimenting themselves with new waysoflivinginthe world. The old ways are known and known well; the new require effort. New practices become easier through consistent use acting as feedback loops. "The frequencyofuseofa given idea becomes a determinantofits survivalinthat ecologyofideas which we call mind; and beyond that the survivaloffrequently used idea is further promoted by the fact that habit formation tends to remove the idea from the fieldofcritical inspection" (Bateson 509). The efficacyofEcological Art as cultural activism restsonmy assertion that a worldview and the cultural habits it generates can be perceived as an ecosystem, sustained through the feedback loopsofpeople's belief systems articulated through written and spoken thoughts, creative productions such as rituals, art and music, as well as daily lived behavior. Like an ecosystem, a worldview cannot be controlled from the outside.Inno ecosystem "can any part have unilateral control over the whole" (Bateson 316 steps). Reason alone cannot change people's minds, precisely because people are also always attending to their passionate and emotional desires as well. Laws, one part of51


our culture, can constrain behavior but do not inherently change people's minds without cultural persuasion. It is only when people utilize every element within a culture-laws,reason, literature, scholarly dialogue, art, music, rituals, etc, that a robust feedback' loop, capableofpromoting a change in belief systems is slowly developed. "Culture has independent causal influence...because it makes possible new strategiesofaction...constructing entities that can act (selves, families, corporations), shaping the styles and skills with which they act, and modeling formsofauthority and cooperation. It is however, the concrete situationsinwhich these cultural modes are enacted that determine which take root and thrive, and which wither and die" (Swidler 280). From this viewpoint, I assert that creative productions like art, music, poetry and literature cannot be separated out from the internal workingsofa cultural system and are indeed integraltoany attempts to create significant, lasting changeinpeople's worldviews. Gregory Bateson articulates this ideainhis book Steps to an EcologyofMind. He states that quantitative fragmentationofknowledge, the categorization and adding upofentities, neglects the relational propertiesofall living things organized into ecosystems. He calls this kindofactivity overly purposive and states that this kindofknowledge actually doesn't say verymUCh.For Bateson, mere knowledge, usedina purposive way, can only create runaway conditions.6For Bateson these runaway conditions continue to create exponentially larger problems. He calls this formofthinking unaided consciousness and states it is52


the creative venueofthe arts that makes the relationships, the patterns that connect, visible, intimately knowable, and thus available to be acted upon. Ecological Artist Mel Chin also perceives artistic production as integral to the workingsofsociety. My goal for art is to create a condition where one can see the pos sibilityofchange. Art is not static, it is catalytic. Art is notjusta language, it is useful, it makes things function.Ithas a critical rela tionshipinsociety. Artists are essential partsofsociety, not membersofan elite.Wehave our functioninsociety (Weintraub 50 Art). Bateson, who was not an artist, stated, "Art ... has a positive functioninmaintaining what I call 'wisdom', Le.,incorrecting a too purposive viewoflife and making the view more systemic" (Bateson 147). Bateson defines ecological wisdom as the "knowledgeofthe larger interactive system-that system which,ifdisturbed, is likelytogenerate exponential curvesofchange" (Bateson 439). For Bateson and other systems theorists, there is a great dealofdifference between knowledge, the categorization and numberingofelements, and wisdom. The bee may have innate knowledgeofhow to fly, and learned knowledgeofits immediate surroundingsinthe formoffacts, but unless the bee learns how to communicate and be communicated to, to beinrelation to the other entitiesinhis environment, the bee will not understand, holistically, how to survive and where to find another flowering bush if the one he was going to dies. The bee also hastoknow how to communicate to the other bees where the new bush is because he is dependent53


on them for survival. The same systemic and communicative wisdom the bee exhibits, humans also must understand and utilize,inorder to compile wise waysofbeinginthe world that sustain humans within their ecosystems. "Artistic creation is a wayofknowing the experiential worldofrelationshipsinall their complexity andinknowingit,we learn how to live wellinit" (Small 50).Itisthis formofecological wisdom, the knowledge constituted through all human endeavors, rational, creative, and mundane,ofthe systemic natureofthe world, that some groupsofpeople would like to present as an alternative to the contemporary dominator model andinthe process transform people's belief systems into a more sustainable ethos? The work involvedingenerating this new worldview, based on ecological wisdom, has been the focusofan ecosystemofactivists who approach their work through engagement with social movements or scientific communities, and others, through their creative endeavors. Scientific, social and cultural activists hope to change the current worldview, which they believe has caused exponential, runaway conditions threatening the sustainabilityofthe human race. On a large scale, allofthese groups want to achieve a society informed by ecological wisdom. They share a commitment to utilizing cultural activism as a means to social transformation. Both cultural and social movement activists have, over the last forty years, developed unique strategiesofaction intended to help promote and ultimately achieve an ecologically wise society. The academic analysisofsocial movement structures, methods and strategies has examined, recognized and given definitions to multiple formsof54


praxis. Two unique practices, prefigurative politics and direct theory, germinatedinthe New Left practicesofthe sixties and seventies, became a major partofthe Radical New Social Movements that followed (Sturgeon 37). While the word activist is more generally understood within the disciplineofsocial movements, artists were also actively pursuing social transformation through cultural practices and as early as the seventies defined themselves as cultural activists, especiallyinthe feminist arena. It was women, creating art meant to promote a feminist consciousness, who first referred to themselves as activists and articulated the idea that their work was a formofactivist intervention (Lacy 27-28 Mapping). Many artists using art to promote social change learned from and built on feminist artists' methods and practices. "By the endofthe seventies feminists had formulated precise activist strategies and aesthetic criteria for their art" (Lacy 27 Mapping). Other artists, emulating the feminists, began to consolidate artistic production with activism for a varietyofissues such as race, community, and ecological issues, working towards a "redesignofthe world" (Beaumont 162). These early experimentations, trying to reach large audiences, naturally gravitated towards public and community-based art projects where the work would beanimportant contribution to the community and could also have a greater impact on larger numbersofpeople. "Becauseoftheir activist base, early feminist artists were concerned with questionsofeffectiveness, stimulating what is today a fairly sophisticated conceptionof55


the natureofan expanded audience and an understandingofhow to reach it" (Lacy 65 Name). Audienceinvolvement became an integral partofpublic art.Inaddition, it was within public art practice murals, community art centers, publicly sited works, and publicly accessible theater that marginal artists such as women, denied accesstoestablished male-dominated galleries and museums, could gain a foothold as artists. Public art developed along two trajectoriesofartistic thought. One, the more dominant for several decades, was focusedonthe cannon-in-the-park syndrome; placing large sculpturesonpublicly accessible sites. These sculptures often had little to do with the particular history or cultureofthe space itself. A large bodyofwork was developed along this trajectory, including Claus Oldenberg's oversized sculpturesofmundane objects like screws and stamps and the wind sculpturesofAlexander Calder (Lacy 33-36 Mapping). From this conceptionofpublic art, particular formsofEarth or Land Art emerged that emphasized manipulating the land itself to create sculptural elements. Digging into the land, building the land up, moving earth or stones around from one place to another, and manipulating natural elements liketwigs or stones, were the primary characteristicsofthis formofearth art, which often failed to acknowledge the relationships between their work and the biota that livedinand utilized their manipulated spaces.8EarthorLand Art is indexical to the artists and their emotional experience with the land. They are a presentation56


of"reportsofexperience andoftraces and documentationsofevents in which the artist has beeninsome way purposively involved" (Gooding 20). The second trajectoryofEarth or Land art developed after it became evident that inattention to site and community members had led to an artistic practice that often inappropriately forced its presence onto the public. Startinginthe late seventies "some artists and administrators in the field began to differentiate between 'public art' -a sculptureina public space and 'artinpublic places', a focus on the location of space for the art" (Lacy 23 Mapping). The confluenceofthought between feminist activist art, focused on public involvement and therefore often placed or performedinpublic spaces and the new bureaucratically approved concept that artinpublic spaces should engage the community in some way, created an auraofrespectability and acceptance as well as public funding for audience-engaged art. Artists attempting to make a statement, empower communities, communicate about valuesorinsert an alternative viewpoint into public spaces had tentative access to public acceptance and, more importantly, funding. The agendaofpublic officials usually focused on community building and restorationofabandoned downtowns, often overlapped with activist artists' purposes without acknowledging the possibilityofthe artists' potentially subversive goals to change the structureofsociety (Lacy 24-26).57


EcologicalArtEcologicalArtemerged as separate and distinct from the more traditional Earth Art, although most often critics have mistakenly situated it within that practice.9While an engagement with topography is a connecting feature, the intent and goalsofEarth Artists and Eco-Artists are often significantly different and it is this difference which has been proved difficult for critics to articulate, immersed as they often are in the ideaofart as a solitary, individual expressionofa subjective experience. Through that lens critics were hard pressed to see an artwork that was primarily indexical to the site, the community, and the ecosystem, rather than being about the artist. According to Ruth Wallen, artists deliberately separate Ecological Art,orEco-Art as an artistic practice from Land or Earth Art, precisely because it is not just about an artist's subjective interpretationofa landscape's features. EcologicalArtis deliberately created to explain the systemic natureofthe world. My analysisofEcologicalArtrevealed that most pieces function on three levels: they explain ecosystems, they model ecosystemic processes and the works are themselves ecosystems. Integral tomyargument is the assertion that Ecological Art has the potential to act as a strong feedback loop, creating eco wisdom consciousness by utilizing multiple human experiences, desire, emotional and bodily experiences, abstract and metaphorical thought patterns and intellectual engagement, to present eco-wisdom.Inthat Ecological Artists must use an interdisciplinary coalitionofpeople to assist theminthe creationoftheir58


works, it also functions as an eco-social system. Ecological Artistrying at all times to present a viewofthe world through the lensofeco-wisdom. It is always prefigurativeofa world informed by eco-wisdom and at the same time it is the physical working out or manifestationofecosystem theory.Itis a formofcultural activism intended to change the public's worldview. Ecological Art fits the definitionofstrategies defined within Social Movement practices: prefigurative politics and direct theory. Ecological art has been defined, through practice and dialogue, by the artists themselves, who are more centered on intent than strict rules about medium, sizeortheme. "The artists' missionisto re-envision the human/nature relationship and to communicate, to stimulate dialogue, and to contribute to social transformation" (Wallen Toward). Eco-art seeks to create for the public a more complex understandingofecological systems and processes by situating humans as functional and integral entities existing within the ecosystems they inhabit. Ecological Art addresses both the heart and the mind. Ecological art work can help engender an intuitive appreciationofthe environment, address core values, advocate political action and broaden intellectual understanding (Wallen Toward). Throughmyanalysis it became clear that EcologicalArthas to be defined from multiple positionsinorder to fully comprehend what it is and how it works. Ecological Art, to be effective, has to be publicly accessible. The physical formations themselves can be highly varied, ranging from large parklands that remediate or restore some partofthe ecosystem to a setofecologically oriented59


bus posters. The physical presenceofecological art cannot be only understood through the eye's enjoymentofan aesthetic object, but rather as a piece that also provides an experiential learning experience, aimed at promoting eco-wisdom. Throughmyanalysis I perceived that the contentofecological art usually provides an opportunity for the visitor/participant to start perceiving the eco-systemic relationships inherent in the site, as well as the subject matter and/or issue itisaddressing. The physical piece is usuallyanecosystem itself, either literally a constructed ecosystem,ora pieceinwhich all the elements behave as an ecosystem, establishing a relationship between the parts which create and sustain the whole. I assert that Ecological Art presentsinits internal and external organization, ecosystemic properties that emphasize processes, time, relationships, and communication. The works are always reminding people that they are embedded within the ecosystems they inhabit andinwhich they are engaged. The physical presenceofEcological Art prefigures a culture informed by eco-wisdom, and at the same time, the physical formation isanactive working out, through creative cultural productionofecological theory. Eco-Art is a formofprefigurative politics and direct theory. The physical siteofEcologicalArtcan function as an ecosystem. The works often utilize their own internal ecosystemic properties to model alternative solutions to environmental problems. A remediative ecosystem is usually a total environment, often utilizing a large pieceofland that can60


be walked through, functioning either to heal an ecosystem, reclaim some pieceofland that has been neglected or abused or provide alternative solutions to local ecosystem problems. Oneofthe first examplesofthis kindofart was constructedin1969 by artist Patricia Johanson. She transformed a "water sewage treatment plant into a park. As water passed through a seriesofnatural filtering systems, each would form a lake, increasingly accessible for human consumption" (Tilbury 16).In1990, artist Mel Chin worked with RufusL.Chaney, a Senior Research Scientist at the U.S. DepartmentofAgriculture, to develop plans for the 'green remediation'oftoxic waste from the Pig's Eye landfill. Chaney developed "hyperaccumulator plants for extracting toxic substances from the soil through the plant's vascular system. The goalofthe artist was to eventually restore the area for plants, animals, and humans" (Greenmuseum). Like Chin and Johanson, other Eco-Artists have created public remedial and restorative landscapes. These creative endeavors include recreational parks with natural water cleaning systems, reforesting clear-cut or badly damaged woodlands, and reclaiming chemical landfills through biological systems. This typeofEcological Art, a physical remedial ecosystem itself, presents alternative methods for dealing with environmental problems. A too purposeful approach might attempt to control waste through chemicals or technology alone, which could create problematic, exponential runaway conditions. An ecological approach, using natural systems, contains the solution within sustainable61


feedback loops. The artworks are cultural activism, providing a new cultural repertoire by prefiguring a futureinwhich solutions to problems are informed by eco-wisdom. They are also the physical functioning presenceofeco-theory. While examining many worksofEco-Art I perceived that some ecological art is not remediative, but guides the visitor/participant through a setofelements that are about ecological issues, but more importantly, behave as an ecosystem themselves. The various partsofthis particular formofEco-Art have a pronounced relationship to one another, each dependentonthe other for the whole to sustain itself as a complete piece. The relationships between the various elements provides an experiential learning experience that both illuminates ecosystem theory and embeds the person within an ecosystemic experience at the same time. In 1993 Michael Singer and Linnea Glatt helped design the Phoenix Arizona Recycling Plant. It is not remediative or restorative, but the plant itself is an eco-social system, designed to guide visitor/participants through a site that always speaks to them about their recycling efforts, displays the process through which their bottles, cans, and paper are brought onto the site and recycled, and honors their involvement in recycling. "The conceptsofrenewal and transformation areintegral to all elementsofthe design: buildings, roads, landscape, water, and wildlife habitat" (Singer Selected). A person must walk through the multiple elementsofthe site in order to fully experience the total, recycling process. There is a public amphitheatre, viewing platforms and parklands. The least likely site for visitors, a garbage62


recycling plant, was designed to invite the community into an experiential understandingofthe recycling process. It is a highly popular site, functioning as a publicly accessible community center, and a tourist destination as well. Speaking aboutit,Michael Singer stated; "People come to the Phoenix project and say 'Well, where is the art?' It's really not there. It's within the design, it's within the questioning, its raising new issues." (Singer 77 Land/Nature). My analysisofthe site revealed that all the elements within it actinrelationship to one another. To understand the entire garbage recycling process, a visitor must view the various procedures from all the platforms and the amphitheatre window. The site embeds peopleinrelationship with their waste. It is an eco-social system itself, relying on multiple elements,inrelation to one another, to communicate effectively and it illuminates and utilizes ecological theory. The Phoenix recycling plant is prototypicalofa cultureinwhich people acknowledge and honor their place within the ecosystemic processes they are a part of.Asa formofcultural activism, it inserts an alternative eco-wise model into the dominant culture creating a feedback loop, the opportunity for people to alter their perceptionsofthemselves in relationtothe ecosystems that sustain them. Because EcologicalArtis site and community specific, multidisciplinary and often requires governmental permission and funding, artists are always creating and utilizing coalitionsofpeople to get their work built and displayed. The multidisciplinary aspectofecological art, drawing on botanists, biologists, carpenters, builders, welders,63


environmental scientists, community organizers, and many others, resembles an ecosystemofelements. On a deeper level, the internal organization necessarytoget an ecological art completed requires a working eco-social system. For people willing to think aboutit,this adds another layerofeco-wisdom to the primary physical characteristics. This layeringofecosystem processes, utilized in every aspectofecological art, the intent, planning, content and execution, can present to the public a piece with few contradictionsordivided claims. An ecosystemic means is utilized to produce eco-wise ends, an Ecological Artwork which often models, both physically and abstractly, the eco knowledge necessary to createit.By modeling alternative methods based on eco-wisdom and presenting,inthe entiretyofthe artwork, eco-wisdom, EcologicalArthas potential to alter peoples' perceptions of their relationships to the ecosystems which sustain them. Ecological Art can model an eco-wise future, matching the definitionofprefigurative politics. Physically manifesting in the intent, content, and executionofthe artwork the principlesofecosystem theory, Ecological Art also matches the definitionofdirect theory. The practiceofEcological Art becomes a formofcultural activism. Cultural Activism Cultural activists such as Ecological Artists and social movement activists have been attempting for several decades to create a new worldview based on sustainable, egalitarian, democratic principles. Despite their efforts, the attempt 64


toinfuse subversive culture practices into the dominant society by engaging multiple groupsofpeople has rarelybeen acknowledged as a politically effective tool by society. Only rarely have these kindsofpractices been recognized within mainstream social movement analysis as a method for creating alternative desires, changing people's worldviews or helping to create new waysofbeinginthe world. It is only within the radical fringes, often misunderstood by the larger public, that these impulses to break down binary oppositions have been articulated. Feminists, Direct Action and global justice groups claim that coalition building, inclusive groups and publicly accessible cultural productions contain an inherent possibility to transform society from the inside out. Both prefigurative politics and direct theory, as practiced by both cultural and social movement activists, utilize similar methodstoconnect to the humannessofpeople, their desires, emotional and physical experiences, as awayto draw them into an alternative visionofthe world. I acknowledge that cultural change takes time and even if it seems like there is no more time and very few chances to enact change, every time a cultural feedback loopisestablished, it creates a stronger opportunity for the next one to not only be created, but also to promote change within the ecosystem. Ecological Art presents possibilities precisely because ecological problems seem so urgent and they are the greatest common denominator between people, the issue where the most people might be drawn into exploring and comprehending eco-wisdom.65


Chapter FourRuth WallenRuth Wallen created her first pieceofEco-Art,The Sea as Sculptress,in1979. Since she has been committed to creating artwork that assists the visitor/participantinthe constructionofeco-wisdom which she hopes will promote social transformation. Wallen has never utilized the words "activist" or "activism" to describe herself or her work. Nonetheless,intheir intent, design, content and execution, Wallen's Eco-Art functions as a formofcultural activism. The design elementsinWallen's works' promote eco-wisdom. Her works are comprisedofmultiple components. Visitor/participants are invited to engage their time and energyinunderstanding themasa set. Her works function as eco-social systems, allowing people to experience systemic principlesonseveral levels. The experience creates relationships between the work and the visitor/participant and the work itself talks about the systemic relationships within the ecosystems sheisexamining. These components offer multiple layered opportunities for people to engageinthe constructionofeco-wisdom. Wallen admits she attempts to create small modelsoflarger ecosystems to assist the visitor/participantincomprehending systemic principles (Wallen Toward). Wallen states she uses stories to talk about ecological principles. I believe she is actually telling what I define as cultural stories, a story about a culture that has a66


cultural outlook embedded withininit.Her works present alternative cultural stories, creating feedback loops capableofreturning information back into mainstream culture, possibly providing opportunities for societal change.Reflections on Arroyo SeeoIn 2001, Wallen participatedin"Trailmarkers", a weekend festivalofoutdoor art.Ina neglected riparian pond area, under a highway overpass, she created a minimally intrusive piece,Reflections on Arroyo Seeo.Her installation invited people to walk into the space, sit with it over a periodoftime and experience an embodied intimacy with the pond, through being still and aware. The installation was designed to promote communication, understanding and relationship between two cultures: the human industrially developed culture and the rich, complex riparian ecosystem. Wallen's intent was to create optimum conditions for guiding people into an alignment with the temporal rhythmsofthe biological entities livinginand around the pond space. She hoped this experience might promote the visitors' perceptionofthemselves as being intimately connected to the plants, animals, bugs, and biota that made their permanent homeinthat ecosystem. The visitor's emotional response, whether spiritually transcendent, intellectually informed, artistically excitedorzen like, was less important to Wallen than the possibilityofthe visitor leaving with more pronounced ecosystemic consciousness (Wallen Toward). Physically, the artwork was fairly minimal. Wallen used macrophotography to take photosofthe smaller biota, bacteria, snails, and worms inhabiting the pond that the naked eye might miss. She inserted the67


slides into the small, colorful, plastic viewers that photographers use and hung them from the bushes and treesinthe site. The space was cleanedoftrash, making it more accessible to sitting and observing. She left a statement hanging from a tree, inviting people to ask questions about the site,tothink about the relationshipofthe pond to the highway andtotheir useofboth. I invite you to have your own experience at the site. What does the water hide and what does it reveal? The site provides a contrasting vision -a riparian pond nestled next to stark concrete, under majestic bridges designed to provide a park-like atmosphere for motorists. You may need to look closely to find animal lifeinthe viewers. As I sat, I noticed more and more small details, but I no longer heard the dinofthe traffic overhead. What do you choose to perceive and what do you choose to ignore? (Wallen Toward). Wallen also hung a blank book, inviting people to respond to the experience, which was full by the endofthe festival.Ina telephone interview, Wallen recalled: There was a small text panel that explained someofthe things I thought about when I was contemplating the space and the contradictionsofthe space and I found that people ... looked through the viewers and then they started to just lookatthe pond itself... That was what I wanted, what I hoped for ... They told me all kindsofthings ... Some...drew pictures...and someofthem wrote aboutmy68


piece, someofthem gave me quotes, like someone quoted Thoreau ( Wallen Interview). Based on the entriesinthe diary, Wallen had achieved some measureofwhat she had intended. People had become awareofthe multiple biota livinginthis small wet area. Visitors had taken the time to sit with the place, begin the processofintimate knowing, thinking about the relationships between themselves and the pond (Wallen Interview). The embodied interaction between the visitor, the slide viewers and the pond, coupled with a pointed setofquestions aimed at unveiling the connecting ties between them, provided the potential for people, individually and collectively, to begin constructing knowledge about eco-wisdom. The piece functions as an eco-social system, relying on all the elements arrangedinthe area, working together as a set, to provide a cognitive and bodily learning experience. I assert that by providing a new cultural tool, the visitor/participant's ritualofsitting quiet, observing and being awareofthemselves as partofthe riparian ecosystem, the work subverts mainstream cultural assumptions, promotes consciousness-raising and cultural awareness.Itcan be perceived then as a formofcultural activism.Asan ecological artist, Wallen designed the piece to promote ecological wisdom, the comprehensionofconnecting relationships. The designofReflections on Arroyo Seeo reflects twenty yearsofworking out, through practice, the particularsofpromoting eco-wisdom through art. I would argue that this constant interaction between practice and theory makes her work a formofdirect theory.69


History Ruth Wallen is a faculty memberinthe MFA programininterdisciplinary arts at Goddard College and a lecturer at the UniversityofCalifornia, San Diego. In a phone interview she explained the historyofher artistic career: I worked for the park service when I was an undergraduate, as an environmental specialist,myundergraduate training wasinanthropology and biology and actuallymyfirst job with the park service was when I was an intern,myjunior yearincollege and I worked for a summer writing environmental impact statements...Myinitial relationships with them (the park service) was not as anartisLMyfirst invitation to do Chac010was because I knew someoneinthe park service who had actually been a professorofmineincollege...He saw the work I had done at the Exploratorium and said this is gorgeous, let's do somethinginChaco. When I got there and did the piece the local superintendentofChaco lovediLbutwhen the piece was sent to Harper's Ferry which is a natural interpretation center, it was like this doesn't meet the missionofthe parks...Atthe time I did that I wasinmymid-twenties and it was kindofscary because I knew how to be an interpretative specialist.l1I mean there were rules on how to do that. But there were no rules on howtobe an artist and at the time ... the whole public art movement wasinits infancy and so I was just doing what made sense to me on a gut level (Wallen Interview).70


Wallen, dissatisfied with producing environmental impact statements, turned to art "to shape the values that inform ecological decision-making" (Wallen 3 Enacting). Wallen spent time over the next decades developing a unique practice that, although addressing multiple themes and presenting different physical appearances, nonetheless was informed by a deep commitment to promoting ecological wisdom. Her work is situated within Ecological Art history as a significant presence during the nascent formationsofthe praxis and as following older artists, like Helen and Newton Harrison and Mel Chin, whose initial trials and experimentations were instrumental in working out the parametersofEcological Art. The Sea as Sculptress, Wallen's first major Ecological Artwork, was first shownin1979, Reflections on Arroyo Seco, was designedin2001. In the two decades between the works, andinthe five years since Reflections, Wallen has produced five nature walks, three pieces about housing developmentinSan Diego, and one piece about the health and environmental standingoffrogs, a major indicator species for environmental degradation (Wallen Storv). The Nature walks, Intimate DetailsinChaco Canyon National Park (1980), The Children's Forest Trail in San Bernadino National Forest (1995), Viewpoints in the Tijuana River Estuary Park (1995), and the Carmel Mountain Interpretative Panels (2005), were created as interactive learning sites. "Including the observer in the processofdeveloping knowledge becomes most significant tomywork" (Wallen181Storv). Wallen admits her intention to coax the visitor/participant into an engaging cognitive, activity, (questions mixed with bodily involvement),71


promoting the collective constructionofecological knowledge. I would argue that her works also function as a catalystforthe temporary formationoftwo communities: one established among the visitor/participants as active agents and another formed between the people and the ecosystemsinwhich they are engaged. Greetings From San Diego (1989), I LoveDelMar, The MerchandisingofSuburbia (1986), and Legends (1990), examine housing development. These works address the aggressive split between people's intimate knowledgeofa place its history, unique ecosystems and cultural practices juxtaposed against the fantasized promisesofnew housing developers who strip away the "place"ofa place and overlay romanticized simulacraofItalian Villas, the French Riviera, medieval communities, or Spanish exoticism, as a replacement. She situates her examination of thistendency within a cultural story about disruption, disappearance and trauma, advocating healing through "making relationship, reestablishing connections" (Wallen 3 Enacting). She states:"Isaw the potentialofEcological Art as connective examining, restoring and re-envisioning ecological relationships between various componentsofanecosystem, from the biophysicaltothe socio-cultural" (Wallen 3 Enacting). Wallen makes useofcultural stories once againinIfFrogs SickenandDie, What will Happen to the Princes? A switchinmedium, this piece consistsofnineteen bus posters posing questions based on the relationship between the ubiquitous cultural useoffrogsinhuman stories, and the actual declineoffrog species due to the environmental degradation caused by human activity. Wallen72


states: "Inmyproject, consistingofdigital montages that trace the historical importanceofthe frog to human cultures, I extend the metaphorofindicatory species, using the frog as an indicatorofthe human relationship to nature" (Wallen 184 Leonardo). Oneofthe most interesting and unique elements often found in Wallen's work is a focus on the temporal natureofecosystems, how they continuously reconstitute themselves over time and cannot be understood without that knowledge.The Sea as Sculptressis an intimate lookatthe growthofaquatic life over a periodoftime and the impactofhuman activity on that growth. Wallen wanted to give the aquatic life a presence, create an opportunity for the ecosystems processes they generate to talk with the visitor/viewer through her work. "Without any pretenseofobjectivity, I envisioned a reciprocity between the observer and observed" (Wallen 2 Enacting).TheSea as Sculptressinsists on understanding aquatic systems as occurring over time. This work also subverts the scientific concept that knowing is about naming, cataloging and counting. "Inmyperformances I suggested that there was more to see, that there was more to understanding a complex system than simply knowing the namesofthe components" (Wallen180 Storv). Wallen suggests with thisworkthat ecosystems can only be understood through the storyofrelationships through time.Reflections on Arroyo Secois about inviting peopletosit and closely observe themselves and other species within an ecosystem that has a different temporal rhythm than the fast-paced human cycle. By slowing down and taking the time to comprehend these temporal processes, the visitor/participant is73


coaxed into an understandingofthe larger temporal rhythmsofecosystems and in doing so, begins the processofconstructing larger eco-wisdom through an understandingofthe smaller one. Wallen writes in her artist statement I carefully defined small systems that were representativeoflarge scale environmental dynamics. Through repeated observationofthe tiny changesinthese systems, by conflating time and scale, I attempted to provideanintimate view and deep appreciationoflong term, larger scale environmental processes (Wallen Toward). Wallen has focused her work on revealing the relational propertiesofall ecosystems, whether they are social, only between human beings, or between the biological and physical elementsofa particular place. I would argue that Wallen's works are an opportunity to illuminate the fundamental pattern that connects people to one another and the naturalworldinwhich they are embedded, the communicative relationships based on mutual dependency and competition that through continuous use and feedback loops, constitute functioning ecosystems. Her works are the physical presenceofthe interaction between ecosystems theory and artistic practice. I suggest that Wallen's work can be perceived as a bridge between the contemporary hegemonic belief in the autonomous, separate individual, viewing the nonhuman naturalworld as a collectionofcommodified, controllable elements and anewethos based on comprehensionofthe ecosystemie,relational propertiesofthe entire world. Her work becomes connective on many levels, both between the old and new belief systems, and also illuminating74


people's ties to each other and to the physical sites they inhabit andinwhich they are engaged. The different elements that Wallen frequently utilizes, contribute to this connective tendency. These components assistinthe formationofan interactive piece that both talks about and models ecosystemic processes. Her works rely on visitor/participants constructing eco-wisdom through interaction with the multiple componentsofthat piece and she asks questions which usually require time, energy, commitment and engagementinthe process. The works hold potential for subverting the dominant cultural story and gradually replacing it with an alternative story based on Eco-Wisdom. Cultural Stories Telling an alternative cultural story is an important elementinWallen's work. A story told by a culture can inform certain kindsofbehavior. The abilitytochange the cultural story contains the opportunityofchanging behavior as well (Swidler 273). Her works often focus on the stories or myths, constructed through human action that justifies.orexplains how people interact with each other and how people interact with the other biota within ecosystems. My analysisofWallens' works revealed that she is focusedonthe influenceofcultureonthe developmentofstrategiesofactions. While she has never referred to the sociologist Ann Swidler in her writings, Wallen's work follows the pattern Swidler laid outin,"CultureinAction: Symbols and Strategies". Swidler describes culture as "a 'tool kit'ofsymbols, stories, rituals and world-views, which people may useinvarying configurations to solve75


different kindsofproblems ... [and] to construct strategiesofaction" (Swidler 273). I argue that Wallen's works illuminate the cultural outlook created by human stories told about a place and provide an alternative tale capableofproviding different strategiesofaction informed byeco-wisdom. Wallen's works also reveal the internal cultureofa site created by the communicative relationships between all the bio/physical elementsinan ecosystem.TheSea asSculptresspresented the temporal storyofthe relationships between sea, biota and human beings at three different locations. Her work subverted the industrialist's cultural story that the Bay was not polluted, the environmentalists story that the Bay wassopolluted that little life could be sustained anywhere, and the commonly held associationofAlcatraz prison with barrenness, insisting that nothing could live there. Wallen's year-long work blurred the seemingly airtight boundaries between those stories, proving all three to be flawed and inserting an alternative story. While not adhering to strict scientific, quantitative observations, nonetheless the work provided a wealth of information about marine lifeinpolluted and non-polluted waters by showing the relationships between the various formsofaquatic life. The work showed clearly how human activity, informed by certain reinforcing stories about domination and control, can create runaway conditions that severely alter ecosystems. I suggest that the insertionofa different cultural story, valuing the relationships among different species within aquatic ecosystems, might alter human belief systems. A change in worldview might be capableofaltering human activityinrelation to decisions about the Bay.76


The elementsinWallen's works relationships, temporal awareness, and cultural stories contain possibilities to promote a deep, intimate comprehensionofEco-Wisdom. Most importantly, Wallen's works provoke and promote a social transformation through concentrated activities, constructing an alternative cultural story about human relationships with each other and with the nonhuman natural world. This alternative cultural story, embodied and modeled within an interactive piece, always situates people within ecosystemic processes. This frameofmind insists on an understandingofhuman activity as feedback loops that are either sustainable for all life, humans being intimately connected to the healthy life processesofother biota, or over time destructiveofit.An acceptanceofthis ecological ethos informs the cultural constructionofa new human story, continuously returning that information back into mainstream society, helping to continuously reinforce the idea. For Ecological Artists social transformation occurs through cultural activity. Their work attempts coaxing, persuading and provoking people, through embodied interactions with a site that speaks about and models ecosystemic properties, to comprehend their embedded ness within ecosystems and ecosystemic processes. "Publicly available meanings facilitate certain patternsofaction, making them readily available, while discouraging others" (Swidler 283). A readily available comprehensionofecological principles through Eco-Art potentially could promote eco-wise choices.77


Cultural Activism This intentiontoalter the world through cultural interventions that might prove capableofchanging people's belief systems parallels the objectivesofradical New Social Movement activists. Ruth Wallen, like many Ecological Artists, may not use the word activism to describe her work, nonetheless her work is a form what I describe as cultural activism. I am arguing that certain characteristicsofher work share commonalities with the activitiesofsocial movement activists. Her works both discuss ecological theory and at the same time model the theory through a working physical manifestationofeco-wisdom. Her works exemplify human behaviors that are prefigurativeofan envisioned future when eco-wise activities can be taken for granted. They also present, through intent, planning, content and execution, a constant interaction between ecosystem theory and artistic practice. As discussedinchapters two and three the physical manifestationofdirect theory is different for social movement activists and Ecological Artists. Analyzing social movement activities, Noel Sturgeon divided direct theory into internal organization structures and political practices (Sturgeon 37-40).ForEcological Artists, the radical activists' internal organizational structures translate into external organizational working patterns: coalitionsofpeople workingforgovernmental and nonprofit agencies, the community members for whom the art is intended, and the interdisciplinary groupsofartists, botanists, biologists scientists, and workers necessary to design and build the piece. Social Movement activists' political practices translate for Ecological Artists into the78


actual physical characteristicsofthe public artwork, presenting a constant interaction between theory and practice.ViewpointsA close readingofWallen'sViewpoints,the nature walk at TheTijuana River Estuary Park, illuminates how Ruth Wallen's artwork utilizes what has been defined within the Social Movement discipline as prefigurative politics and direct theory. The Tijuana River Estuary is an intertidal coastal area which straddles the border between the United States and Mexico. The estuaries' high and low tides provide a generative environment for multiple, diverse species. The Tijuana River Estuary was once a much larger water system, but approximately 90% of it was lost to developmentinthe last halfofthe twentieth century. Suburbs sit on landfill where once there were marshes, wetlands and a water systeminwhich water was once captured and diverted into the underground aquifer and cleaned on its route out to the Pacific Ocean. Before long-term, human intervention the estuary was the environmental jewelofthe coastline (Saldana Tijuana). Fed by the rivers and streamsofnorthern Mexico, the water once moved from the Mexican hills down through wetlands and to protected reef areas before finally emptying into the Pacific Ocean. For centuries a generative sourceoffood and basic materials for coastal Indians, the river and estuary system was revered. Currently, although significantly smaller, the Tijuana River estuary is still "an essential breeding, feeding, and nesting ground and key stopover point on the Pacific Flyway for over 370 speciesofmigratory and native birds,79


including six endangered species" (Tijuana River). The estuary system affects the health and sustainabilityofinland and ocean species and human habitats for milesupand down the coast line. In 1971, 396 acres was set aside to create Border Field State Park.InDecemberof1980, the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge was created, takingin505 acres, which was enlarged in 1982 to the current 2,531 acresofland named the Tijuana National Estuarine Research Reserve, and officially designated a national wildlife sanctuary. The land is mutually owned by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the City and CountyofSan Diego, the US Navy, the California DepartmentofParks and Recreation and several private owners (Tijuana River). From the sixties on, the Mexican sideofthe border area became industrialized. Fueled by trade and labor agreements, Tijuana was rapidly developed by business owners seeking cheap labor and a release from the pollution controlsinplaceinthe United States. InvestmentinMexican industry was compressed within several decades and the Mexican government paid little attention to the environmental concerns growinginthe United States. The Tijuana rivers and streams moving from Mexico to the United States soon bubbled and frothed with a curiously lethal stewofindustrial chemicals and human effluent. The wetlands ecosystems became highly contaminated. Wildlife began to die off. The sand became encrusted with dried chemical waste and sewage. Fish caughtinthe region could not and still cannot be consumed. Silting continuously closed off the mouthofthe estuary, preventing the water80


from exiting the system, creating brackish, algae-ridden water, rather than the clear clean water that for centuries sank into the aquifer and flowed out to sea.Inaddition, the parkland had become a major passageway for illegal immigrants attempting to pass undetected into the United States. At night, the border patrol lights up the landscape and chases immigrants through the brush and marsh, disrupting the nocturnal ecosystem. This situation has become so bad that the Imperial and Coronado Beach areas, once thriving seaside tourist spots, have to continuously close their beaches due to severe water pollution. The Navy seals moved their training headquarters much farther north and Border Patrol guards receive hazardous pay for exposure to toxic waste. Within fifty years the ecosystem had been drastically altered, endangering all speciesoflife including human beings (Saldana Tijuana). In 1995, ecological artist Ruth Wallen received a grant from the city and help from park employees who did the heavy work, to install a nature walk, Viewpoints,inthe park.Itwas a temporary. "The piece at the Tijuana River Estuary was onlyupfor about a month, because they already had this whole interpretative plan that they were going to spend about ninety thousand dollars on" (Wallen Interview). Wallen "was directed by park officials to avoid controversy and focusonthe biological resources" (Wallen 182 Story). Her challenge was to "frame ecosytemic concepts in a way that included human beingsinthe natural environment" (Wallen 182 Story). She also wanted to produce a walk that created "an embodied relationship to place" (Wallen 183 Storv).81


Wallen chose twelve sites alonganalready established park trail to place viewing stations. Each station consistedofa unique viewing scope and an interpretive panel. The visitor/participant is asked to "see" the landscape differently through each viewing scope and answer the questions posedonthe adjacent panel. I assert that the questions askedonthe initial panel are difficult to resolve until the person has walked further and experienced several more stations. This activity promotes atemporal, interactive relationship between all the stations. Eachofthe twelve viewing scopes was constructed differently. They either frame, telescopeinon, or deform the view. The distorting scopes were meant to provoke the viewer/participants into questioning how they perceive or view a landscape. Wallen was inspired by the "metaphorofthe Claude glass. In the 18th century, Europeansoncountry walks would stand with their backs to the landscape and use this concave glass mirror to frame an idealized view" (Wallen 182StOry).Claude glasses cameindifferent colors so the viewer could imagine the scene at different timesofthe day. Wallen created her viewing scopes with this distortioninmind. "One was a spotting scope, which means if you look really closely, you can see all the birds, ... in one case the colors might be changed and one was a polarizing filter, so there was alwayssomething that I think invited people to look and think about how they were looking" (Wallen Interview). The distortioninthe glass at each station matched the questiononthe interpretive panel placed next toit.82


The panels, rather than focusingonplant and animal identification asina traditional nature walk, ... refer to ecological concepts, such as 'niche,''diversity'or'endangered species,' as well as to historical occurrences such a proposed sewage treatment plant or the relianceofthe endangered, clapper rail population on periodic dredging to keep the mouthofthe estuary open.Toencourage further thought, each panel includes a challenging question that relates the human to the nonhuman environments (Wallen 183StOry).Each panel asked different questions that correlated to the distortionofthe vista through the viewing scope. The visitor/participant became involvedinthe constructionofecological wisdom as they moved from viewpoint to viewpoint answering the questions. The first panel provides a foundationofinformation about the site and asks the overarching question that can only be examined by contemplating the questions askedinthe other panels. What is the ideal viewofthe estuary?Atone time wetlands were viewed as wastelands. Later they glittered with dollar signs and were filledinto make prime shoreline real estate. By the seventies scientists sounded the alarm, claiming that coastal wetlands were among the most productive habitatsinthe world. This work is a proposalina dozen questions: Insteadofanswers it offers a suggestion to think ecologically, to examine83


relationships. The viewing stations point to phenomena from all partsofthe estuary. Viewing scopes both frame and deliberately distort the view.Dowe, like the usersofthe Claude glass, turn our back on nature in searchofpreconceived or idealized views? (Wallen story 183). This introductory panel is paired with a convex viewing scope, with three smaller views around the edges that seriously fragment the view, deepening the suggestion that humans can have multiple viewpoints about a particular place. Another panel explains how human presenceinthe area has increased sedimentationinthe rivers, which eventually buildsupand blocks the mouthofthe estuary, seriously altering the make-upofthe ecosystem. This panel asks the question: How might aquatic habitats change when the river no longer flows into the sea? What life forms perish when a boundary no longer permits exchange? (Wallen Toward) ''The corresponding viewing scope has a divided lens, half clear, half covered with a red filter" (Wallen 9 Enacting). The division within the scope, creating an artificial boundary for the viewer's perception, is a metaphor for the artificial boundary, the shutting offofthe estuary's mouth created by sedimentation. The color red suggests danger. The manmade, constructed view, created by a human-made scope, suggests that a person could tear down or alter that artificial boundaryinthe same manner that it was constructed, by first thinking about it and then engaginginan empowered activity. 84


One scope which fragmented the view into five sections was placed next to a panel that poses a question about the wisdomofintroducing foreign plant and animal species into an environment. The designerofthe aquaculture park proposed using the water hyacinths to clean sewage effluent. These beautiful flowering plants are not indigenous to California and might quickly choke native species. How many species have been imported without fully considering the consequencesoftheir introduction? (Wallen Toward). The fragmented landscape seen through the scope is a metaphor for the fragmentationofthe ecosystem which occurs when nonnative plants and animals alter particular ecosystems, often resultinginrunaway conditions. The viewing stations engaged the visitor/participantsinan embodied or cognitive learning experience, requiring them to use their bodies to engage with the scopes and their minds to interpret the questions asked. The learning system was a process which required effort, concentration, thought, time and involvement. I would argue that the efficacy of the work was based on the combined experienceofall the viewing scopes and interpretative panels together.Itrested on the fact that each wasinrelation to the other, communicated something about the previous and the next question and in turn, created a relationship between the people engaged with them and the partofthe estuary that was framed for them by the viewing scopes.Asa group they also held out the possibilityof85


creating a temporary communityofvisitor/participants. The entire pieceoftwelve viewing stations prefigured an envisioned futureinwhich, rather than engaging in an activity informed by cultural stories about domination and control, people would instead wish to intimately comprehend and be awareofthe entire system, and the relationships between biological and physical elements within the ecosystem.Inthis prefigured world, people, possessing a worldview informed by eco-wisdom, will hopefully engage in activities that are informed by that understanding. Insteadofdividing, counting and categorizing static entities, people will look for the temporal relationships that create ecosystems and attemptto view them as being always tied to each other and themselves.Viewpointsis prefigurativeofa future where the larger percentageofpeople, informed by eco-wisdom, would expect to come to any public place and be informed, notofindividual namesofbirds and plants, but the ecologic relationships between them and the temporal ecosystem storyofa place. The presenceofa prefigurative model, physically manifested through an ecological artwork, coaxed people toward listening to alternative cultural stories concerning their relationship to ecosystems and provided a context for examining a deeper, richer understandingofhuman roles within these ecosystems. Wallen's artworks are not just a modeloffuture activity, they are also a formofdirect theory. Her public physical installations are the resultofconstant interaction between ecological theory and practice. The piece not only models86


ecosystemic ideas, but it also,inintent, planning, organization, content and execution, acts as an eco-social system, providing layersofnested ecological modeling. The work as a whole contains possibilitiestoassistpeopleinthe constructionofeco-wisdom.Inutilizing an ecological process to create eco-wisdom, there are no contradictions or divided claims. The means is the end: doing equals constant being. The organizational methodofdesigning and producing the work model ecosystem processes and the physical piece itself functions and communicates bestiforganized as a functioning ecological system. Wallen, along with most Ecological Artists, reliesoncertain formsofexternal organizational working patterns that are collaborative and interdisciplinary to design and produce her works.Asa public artwork, situated on state and federally funded land, Viewpoints required a coalitionofgovernment, city and state officials, and the assistanceofpark employees. To produce Viewpoints, Wallen herself had to draw on academic, artistic, scientific, and ecological knowledge and she had to relyonother people's research concerning the Estuary's historic cultural storiesinorder to formulate appropriate questions, design and build the viewing scopes, and install interpretative panels at assigned spots according to governmental regulations. She had to apply for a city grant, framing her vision within acceptable park service vocabulary. Perhaps most importantly, she relied on the communityofpark service employeestoweld, install and maintain the pieces. The collaborative and interdisciplinary87


natureofthese endeavors mirrors the kindsofrelationships which constitute an ecosystem and thus always point towards coalitioning asaneco-social system. Gregory Bateson states that within an ecosystem,noone element can control the entire system. He insists thatanyattempttodo so resultsinrunaway conditions, throwing the system outofits established balance and creating degraded conditions (Bateson 315). Translated into organizational structures, it suggests that hierarchical, domineering, systemsofpower have a high potential to create runaway conditions and working with and beside peopleismore likely to produce sustainable results. Returningtothe exampleofthe bee and the flower, each elementinthe system works together to create an ecosystem that sustains allofthem. Simplistically put, the bee pollinates the flower, whichinturn, provides sustenance to the bee as an enticement for it to come. It is a non cognizant system, basedonthe relationship between the bee and the flower that constitutes a sustainable ecosystem. The actofcreating interdisciplinary groupsofpeople who, unlike the bee and flower, knowingly and willingly engageina common goal is an ecological process. A coalitionofpeople, each relying on the other to do their part, as the bee and the flower rely on one another, is an eco social system, whichinturnisengagedinproducing another eco-social system, the art-piece itself. The physical elementsofViewpointswere organized asanecological process, involving communicative relationships between the elements as well as between the elements and the visitor/participant. All the elementsofthe piece needed each other to be a complete learning process. Like the bee and flower,88


the stations functioned separately and together simultaneously. As a group they created an eco-social system precisely becauseofthe relationships established between them. The piece was organized,asecosystems are, in a nonhierarchical manner. It invited rather than demanded people useit,as the flower invites the bee. The piece,asa whole, is both temporal itself, requiring time to work out the riddles, and additionally, speaks directly to the viewer/participant about the temporal processesofthe estuary, referring to sedimentation over time, the yearly migration patternsofendangered species, and the continuous flowofwater through a wetlands system. The initial panel asks the viewer not to turn their backonnature, suggesting instead that the viewer turn around, and engage directly with the landscape. The panel said: "Stop. Look. Listen. What can we learn?" (Wallen Toward). Each additional panel asked a question that required the viewer to refer back to the original panel and its admonishment not to "see" the estuary through a distorted lens, but to sort out their relationship through constructive questioning. An early panel's question about what life forms perish when human caused sedimentation createsimpermeable boundaries leads to and provides a cognitive layerofthought for the next questions about human interventioninmaintaining endangered species population who are endangered by the human-caused blockageofthe estuary mouth. By asking layered questions, Wallen points toward and assists the viewer/participantincreating knowledge about runaway conditions caused by unmindful human activity.Similarly, a panel about a proposed aquaculture park asks, "How would we treat our wastesifwe89


saw them as a resource insteadofsomething to be discarded?" (Wallen Toward). The next panel layers onto this initial foray into eco-wisdom by reestablishing and questioning the current cultureofdomination and control, exemplified by introducing a non-indigenous plant form, water hyacinths, which can cause even worse runaway conditions. That panel asks: "How many species have been imported without fully considering the consequencesoftheir introduction?" (Wallen Toward). While each panel and scope functionedindividually, the full impactofwhat they implied pointed towards and modeled required experiencing the entire piece as a setofcommunicative related entities, working together to constitute a healthy, vibrant, eco-social system. The potencyofViewpoints rests on the willingnessofthe visitor to engageinthe constructionofknowledge. It is possible that some people only glanced at one or two panels and scopes. But it is also possible, that there were people who, after experiencing the work as a set, walked away with a nascent glimmerofeco-wisdom,orperhaps a more sophisticated comprehension. Regardless of the levelofcomprehensionofthe visitor/participant,analternative world informed by eco-wisdom was prefiguratively modeled by the panels and scopes, which refused to admit that individual plants and animals live independentlyinthe estuary, as the current template for Federal, State park interpretative panels suggests, but rather that they liveinconstant communicative relationship to one another, affecting each other constantly through those relationships.90


Ruth Wallen's Ecological Art, a praxis resulting from the constant interaction between eco-theory and artistic practice, physically presented that theory in all the elementsofthe piece. The organizational coalition necessary to produce the piece, as well as the internal organizationofthe piece itself was eco theory made real. Ruth Wallen is oneofa growing numberofEco-Artists.Aspractitioners, rather than producersofstatic items for contemplation, their art is formofactivism, intent on creating social transformation through an alterationofcultural stories and belief systems from a current mechanistic, domineering worldview to one valuing relationship, community, dependency competition and sustainability: an eco-wise worldview. "Ecological art existsina social context. While the work may express an individual vision, the work is created to communicate, to stimulate dialogue, and to contribute to social transformation" (Wallen Toward). Like radical social movement activists, ecological artists believe that it is through culture that one worldview is replacedby another. "A new world will be bornofchanged encoded in the detailsofour lives as we are living them now.Thefabricofthe new society will be madeofnothing more or less than the threads woven in today's interactions" (Mcallister 111).91


Chapter Five Conclusion Ruth Wallen, Betsy Damon, Mel Chin, Betty Beaumont, John Singer, Agnes Denes, Wayne and Helen Harrison: This is a short listofthe many artists practicing Ecological Art. The nascent formationsofthis particular genreofart beganinthe seventies. Galvanized bya seeminglyendless seriesofenvironmental crisis during the sixties, mercury in fish, polluted waters, oil spills, and species eradication, large numbersofpeople, including artists became involvedinenvironmental issues. Activists approached these problems from multiple standpoints: through the law, education, community organizing, and cultural production. Itisthe cultural approach that is rarely acknowledged among general public opinion as being a formofactivism although feminist artistshave been making that argument since the seventies. Ecological Artists clearly state that their intent is to change people's worldviews or belief systems from an enlightenment based ideology to oneofeco-wisdom, andindoing so hopefully produce a changeinthe kindsofchoices people makeona daily basis. The vocabulary they utilize to describe and analyze their works however, rarely includes the words activism or activist. I argueinthis thesis that Ecological Artists are cultural activists who simultaneously developed strategies and methods similar to those being worked out by Radical Social Movement activists.92


While these activities have been defined within the Social Movement discipline, I argue that Ecological Artists are utilizing direct theory and prefigurative politics as a method to create social change. Radical Social Movements activists, starting with early feminists, are committed to change through cultural work. When social movement analysts talk about culture, they are not necessarily referring to art, literature, music and film. The kindsofcultural work they are referring to are primarily focused on internal organizational cultures and a cultural ethos that frames external political activity. For example feminist theories about non-dominant organizational structures have led to the cultivationofan internal organizational culture which breaks down dominant/subordinate relations. This theory has been presented, worked out and modeled by its physical manifestation; consensus decision making, rotating leadership, and networked affinity groups. External activityofradical social movement activists operates the same way. A commitment to Ghandian philosophyofrespectful power, presents a physical presenceinthe formofthe rulesofdirect action; carry no weapons,treat everyone with respect, be inclusive, and do not destroy private property. The roleofsocial movement activists has always been defined as being an integraltothe creationofa new society. The roleofthe artistsinsociety has been largely definedinthe twentieth century as separate and apart from society. Artists' placeinthe social order has been framed for a long time by the Modern sensibilityofthe artist as a solitary individual presenting his/her geniusofsubjective expression and talent through93

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their work, separate and apart from society. Considering an artist as an integral partofthe functioningofa society is a radical thought. Those artists who have been attempting to make that argument, most notably Suzi Gablik and Carol Becker, have met with considerable resistance to the idea. Perceiving artists as a fundamental, dynamic force for change is an even further stretch for many people, still steepedinmodern art ideology. Nonetheless, many artists, such as Suzanne Gablick, Suzanne Lacy, Linda Weintraub, and Mel Chin have made the argument that artistic production is fundamental to a healthy society. There are a fair numberofartists who have committed their work to the creationofsocial change through cultural activism: education, consciousness raising, and making the political personal. The idea that culture plays an important roleinthe creationofpeople's belief systems and that cultural production can insert new meaning-making systems into the culture and thus rework itandchangeit,was first articulated by feminists artistsinthe seventies, who unabashedly called themselves activists. Their nascent ideas and practices provided a model and inspiration for later artists, who embraced the ideaofsocial change through their cultural creativity. However, rarely did artists choose to use the word activism. Ecological Artists were no exception. While they firmly believed that their work could promote changeinthe world, they did not use the world activist to describe themselves or cultural activism to define their work. I assertinthis thesis that at all levelsofactivity, Ecological Art can be perceived as a formofcultural activism and ecological artists as cultural activists.94

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By producing new meaning-making symbols, Eco-Art which is physical, not abstract, and easily comprehensible inserts new feedback loops into the mainstream societal culture and these loops, communicating about difference, are capableofchanging the belief systems that support the organizational activitiesofthat culture and in turn change the culture itself. Eco-Art as a praxis was historically developed through a constant interaction, a continual working out between artistic production and ecosystem theory. Like an onion, each layerofthe most effective Eco-Art productions present information about ecosystems. Each pieceofEco-Art functions as an ecosystem.Asa piece, the work communicates to the viewer about ecosystemic properties, presents a working modelofanecosystem, and at the same time is the physical manifestationofeco-wisdom. This continuous play between practice and theoryinthe creationofa physical presence that speaks to andofthat theoryisa formofdirect theory. EcologicalArtis also a formofprefigurative politics, modeling new waysofbeinginthe world informed by eco-wisdom, prefiguringanenvisioned future where an entire worldview and society has been generated basedoneco wisdom. Allofthe elementsofEcological Art; its prefigurative modelingofan eco wise future, the presentationofecosystem propertiesinits internal and external organization, the modelingofa working ecosystem and the physical cultural presenceofeco-wisdom present characteristicsofdirect theory and prefigurative politics. Ecological Art in utilizing ecological principles to create functioning95

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ecosystems presents multiple opportunities for the visitor/participant to engageinthe constructionofecological wisdom and in doing so, alter their belief systems, orworldviews. This beginning constructionofa worldview, basedoneco wisdom, can create a new cultural repertoire, a setofknown tools, utilized to make decisions and actinthe world which holds the promiseofcreating societal change, one person at a time. Ecological Artisa formofcultural activism and Ecological Artists are cultural activists.96

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Endnotes1The information about ecosystems, condensedinthis section, has been drawn from multiple sources. Gregory Bateson was oneofthe first people to articulate the ideasofcommunication, relation and feedback loops. He collected muchofhis work in a single volume calledSteps to an EcologyofMind.Friljof Capra, a Deep Ecologist, wroteThe WebofLife:ANewScientific UnderstandingofLiving Systemsin1996, which takes Bateson's thinking to a deeper level. Other people, including Mary Catherine Bateson and Peter Harries-Jones have written a good dealofmaterial, working through the complexityofGregory Bateson's work. I drewonNoel Sturgeon and Carolyn Merchant's workonEcofeminism.2Recursive is a term utilizedinEcosystems theory to describe how information is contained within ecosystems and is continuously fed back into the system which either sustains the system,oraltersit.It lie rally means to come backin.For example, to continue working with the bee and flower metaphor, the locationofflowering bushes in continuously returned into the ecosystemofthe hive through the flight patternofthe bees. Itisa recursive element within an ecosystem.3Again this information is a compressed versionofmany people'sarticulationofecosystem theories: Bateson, Capra, Merchant, and others.4There is a long historyofpowerful institutions and corporations reacting violentlytothe demandsofpeople involvedinLabor, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Feminist, and many other struggles for justice and equality. Someofthe more famous incidents are: the Ludlow Colorado Massacreof20 people during a copper mine strike, the April 1963 bombingofanAfrican American, Alabama church during the Civil Rights Movement and the 1964 murdersofthree civil rights workers who were found buriedina Levee.5Themostobvious exampleofartistic production in serviceofchanging a worldview isAIGore's 2006 documentary on global warming,An Inconvenient Truth.There are multitudesofpeople who have dedicated their artistic output to create ecosystemic wisdom: Wendell Berry's poems and fiction, Suzi Gablik's dialoguesinConversations Before TheEndofT/me,Alan Sonfist's and Joseph Beuys' tree plantings, Betty Beaumont's underwater fishery habitats and so many more.6Bateson examines this issue over and over and applies it in numerous disciplines. His initial explanationofthe principles can be found in an essay addressing alcoholisminSteps to An EcologyofMind.He dedicates an entire essay called "Conscious Purpose vs Nature"inhis book where he applies the ideas to human society.7The academic examinationofgroups dedicated to creating an eco-wise world, has categorized them according to personal theories about strategies, and standpoints. Whether they want to "Reenchant Nature",orfind spiritual or ethical principles there,allofthese groups, Ecofeminists, Social Ecologists, Deep Ecologists,orEcological Artists agreeonthe basic principlesofecosystem theory.97

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8 There is a large bodyofwork by artists who were very involved in re-arranging earth on a large scale. The most famous person is Robert Smithson, who built a spiral jettyofstoneinthe Great Salt Lake. Michael Hiezer, Richard Long, and Dennis Oppenheim are famous for bulldozingormowing patternsinthe earth that are so big they can only be perceived from afar.9Written material that specifically addresses Ecological Art is mostly found in articles and websites.Inevery major book I pickedup,the workofEco-Artists is completely folded into Earth Art and there is little recognitionofthe difference between the two. Even several websites, ostensibly about Ecological Art, include paintings, weavings, dance, and other formsofartistic expression that are really about the artist's subjective expressionofa site, rather than a site which illuminates ecosystemic principles.10Ruth Wallen was invited to create a setofinterpretative panels to be placed along the trailinThe Chaco Canyon National ParkinArizona. Her friendwanted something different than the usual panels which normally just function to identify single elementsinthe environment.IIThe National Park Service has a template for all the interpretative panels placed in National parks. The panels are usually placed at strategic sites along trails to point out pertinentorpicturesque elements in the landscape. They rarely point out the relationships between all the biotainan ecosystem.98

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Works Cited Bateson, Gregory. Steps to an EcologyofMind. Chicago: UniversityofChicago Press, 1972. Belgrad, Dan. "Power's Larger Meaning, The Johnson CountyWaras Political Violenceinan Environmental Context." The Westem Historical Quarterly. 33, (2003): 1-21. Beaumont, Betty. "Culture Nature Catalyst".ArtNature Dialogues: Interviews with Environmental Artists. Ed. JohnK.Grande. Albany: State UofNew York Press, 2004 Boggs, Carl. "Rethinking the Sixties Legacy: From New Left to New Social Movements". Social Movements: Critiques, Concepts, Case-Studies.Ed.StanfordM.Lyman. New York: New York UP, 1995. Brienes, Winnie. Community and Organization in theNewLeft, 1962-1968.TheGreat Refusal. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1989. Capra, Fritjof. The WebofLife: ANewScientific UnderstandingofLiving Systems. New York: Anchor Books, 1996. Darnovsky, Marcy. "Introduction". Cultural PoliticsandSocial Movements.Ed.Marcy Darnovsky, Barbara Epstein and Richard Flacks. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995. Epstein, Barbara. Political Protest and Cultural Revolution: Nonviolent Direct Action in the 1970's and 1980's. Berkeley: UofCaliforniaP,1991. Gablik, Suzi. "The Ecological Imperative".ArtJoumal.51(1992). 49-51. Gooding, Mel. ArtistsLandNature. New York: HarryN.Abrams, Inc, 2002. 22 March 2007 99

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Hunter, Allen. "Rethinking RevolutioninLightofthe New Social Movements".Cultural Politics and Social Movements.Ed. Marcy Darnovsky, Barbara Epstein, and Richard Flacks. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1995 Kaufman, Cynthia.IdeasForAction: Relevant Theory for Radical Change.Cambridge: South End Press, 2003. Lacy, Suzanne. "Cultural Pilgrimages and Metaphoric Journeys."Mapping the Terrain:NewGenre Public Art.Ed. Suzanne Lacy. Seattle: Bay Press, 1995. --"The Nameofthe Game".FeministArtCriticism. 50Summer 1991. 64-68. McAllister, Pam.You Can't Kill the Spirit.Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1988. Melucci, Alberto. "The Global Planet and the Internal Planet: New Frontiers for Collective Action and Individual Transformation".Cultural Politics and Social Movements.Ed. Marcy Darnovsky, Barbara Epstein and Richard Flacks. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995. Merchant, Carolyn.Radical Ecology: The Search foraLivable World.New York: Routledge, 2005. Metzner, Ralph. "The Emerging Ecological Worldview".WorldviewsandEcology.Ed. Mary Evelyn Tucker and JohnA.Grim. Lewisberg: Bucknell UP, 1993. Michael Singer Artist. 22 March 2006 Poletta, Francesca. "Culture Is Not Just in Your Head".Rethinking Social Movement: Structure, Meaning, and Emotion._Ed.Jeff Goodwin, JamesM.Jasper. Lanhan: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2004. Rasmussen, LarryL."Cosmology and Ethics"Worldviews and Ecology.Ed. Mary Evelyn Tucker and JohnA.Grim. Lewisberg: Bucknell UP, 1993. Saldana, Lori. "Tijuana River Estuary, A Controversy Runs Through It".San Diego Earth Times. (2007)<> Singer, Michael. "Designing With Nature"ArtNature Dialogues: Interviews with Environmental Artists.Ed. JohnK.Grande. Albany: State UofNew York Press, 2004100

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Small, Christopher. Musicking: the MeaningsofPerformingandListening. Hanover:UPofNew England, 1998. Spretnak, Charlene. StatesofGrace: The RecoveryofMeaning in the Postmodem Age. San Francisco: Harper, San Francisco, 1991. Spretnak, Charlene. "Ecofeminism: Our Roots and Flowering." ReweavingTheWorld:The EmergenceofEcofeminism. Ed. Irene Diamond and Gloria Feman Orenstein. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1990. Susman, WarrenI.CultureasHistory: The TransformationofAmerican Society In the Twentieth Century. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2003. Sturgeon, Noel. 'Theorizing Movements: Direct Action and Direct theory." Cultural PoliticsandSocial Movements. Ed. Marcy Darnovsky, Barbara Epstein, and Richard Flacks. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1995. Swidler, Ann. "Culture In Action: Symbols and Strategies". American Sociological Review. 51, (2001): 273-287. "Tijuana River Estuary Park." California State Parks, 22 March. 2007. Tilbury, Daniella and David Wortman. Engaging People in Sustainability, Commission on Education and Communication, IUCN. Gland: IUCN Publications, 2004. Wallen, Ruth. "Of Story and Place: Communicating Ecological Principles through Art." LEONARDO. 36, (2003): 179-85. ---. "The Legacyof1970's Feminist Artistic PracticesonContemporary Activist Art." nParadoxa.14, (2001): 1-6. --"Towards a DefinitionofEcological Art" About Eco-art. UniversityofCalifornia, San Diego 22 March. 2007 Wei-Ming, Tu. "Beyond the Enlightenment Mentality". Worldviews and Ecology. Ed. Mary Evelyn Tucker and JohnA.Grim. Lewisberg: Bucknell UP, 1993. Weintraub, Linda. Artonthe Edge and Over: Searching for Art's Meaning in Contemporary Society 1970's 1990's. New York: Art Insights, 1996.101

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"-"Eco-tistical Art-An experimental Initiative at the 2005 CAA Conference".ArtJournal. 65 (Spring 2006) 55 Yinger,J.Milton. Countercultures: The Promiseandthe Perilofa World Turned Upside Down. New York: The Free Press, 1982.102


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