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Sunday, March 29 • 3:30pm - 5:00pm
Session 6 Paper Stream 2: Eco Memorials

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Session 6 Paper Stream 2: Eco Memorials

Ila Sheren: "Bears, Boundaries, and Biodiversity: The Human and the Non-Human in Internet Art"
Can digital media effectively convey the message of environmental activism? It appears counterintuitive; after all, the plight of the environment, whether global climate change, factory farming, or lost biodiversity, is rooted in what one might term the “natural” world. Internet art, then, relies on the very technologies that environmental activism seeks to expose or curtail. This paper will analyze how artists exploit the parameters of the Internet to de-center what it means to be human and allow for an expanded definition of “environment,” beyond that of human perception. 

I will consider two Internet-based projects: Maya Lin’s What is Missing? (2012) and Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes’ Bear 71 (2012). With the advent of the Internet and near-constant connectivity, individualism gives way to an online collectivity, as is explored in What is Missing? Lin’s online project takes advantage of the crowdsourced nature of the Internet to collect and visualize anecdotal data. For this web-based memorial, the escalating loss of biodiversity takes visual form through the recollections of the masses, as well as literary, historical, and ancient sources. The second project, the interactive documentary Bear 71 (2012), questions whether or not there can be a true relationship between humans and non-humans. In 2009, Bruno Latour called for a true political ecology, one generated by removing the human/non-human dichotomy (as well as that of politics and nature). By narrating from the perspective of Bear 71 herself, Allison and Mendes ostensibly seek to forge such a connection between a single bear in Banff National Park and the online viewer/participants. The footage, however, is all taken from surveillance cameras placed throughout the so-called “wilderness,” and the human/non-human relationship becomes one of mutual antagonism rather than spiritual communion. Ultimately, both projects use the connectivity of the Internet to reconsider of the economic, ecological, and social roles that non-humans play.

Ruth Wallen: "Cascading Memorials: Climate Change and Community Action" 
Cascading Memorials is an ongoing project to create public spaces to grieve the distressingly rapid degradation of terrestrial environments due to the intertwined impacts of climate change, urbanization, and globalization. The project began in San Diego County, where I have worked for decades as an ecological artist and writer, chronicling the emergence of many communities the size of small towns while most conifers have burned, oaks, although regenerating rapidly after fire, have been ravaged by beetles, and coastal chaparral and vernal pools have largely disappeared. Yet like the overgrowth of chaparral after fire, memories have been quickly buried, with little sustained public conversation about the implications of change.  The work is based on the premise that not only on-going dialogue around the rapidity of ecological change, but also public, collective opportunities to grieve irreversible losses, are essential steps towards active engagement in re-envisioning the future. 

I would like to present this work in the form of a performative lecture, interweaving personal stories, scientific information and critical theory. This format will provide an experience that touches both the heart and mind. Within this form, I share elements of this on-going work, which though still centered in California, references sprawling development patterns and ecological issues common to the southwest. I will contextualize my project, initiated in a gallery setting but now also being developed in both on-line virtual and public outdoor settings, within the broader context of ecological art. 

The presentation explores representational and narrative strategies that offer opportunities for engagement, making losses palpable and intimate, while not invoking stasis but communicating the complexity of factors causing devastation in dynamic, ever-changing ecosystems. Initially focused on the possible disruption of interrelationships of species within specific habitats, the work also interrogates place, the significance of concepts of the local, or bounded systems in an increasingly globalized world.  Finally the work examines the potency of bearing witness, asserting that while apocalyptic predictions lead to fear, despair and paralysis, grieving irreversible loss is an essential step leading to passionate engagement. 


Mary Fitzgerald

Mary Fitzgerald is a dance artist and educator whose creative work includes choreography (with and without interactive media), socially engaged arts practices, and dance film. She was a member of Kei Takei’s Moving Earth for nearly ten years, performing and teaching internationally... Read More →


Ila Sheren

Ila Sheren is Assistant Professor of Art History in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research and teaching interests are in the field of contemporary political art, and her current project focuses on environmental activist art... Read More →

Ruth Wallen

Ruth Wallen is a multi-media artist whose work is dedicated to encouraging dialogue about ecological and social issues. Originally trained in environmental science, she turned to art as a form that could effectively raise ecological awareness. Solo exhibitions include installations... Read More →

Sunday March 29, 2015 3:30pm - 5:00pm MST
Art 246 900 S. Forest Mall Tempe, AZ 85281

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