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Eco-art in NYC (and online)

NYC folks, you have one more week to check out two great shows that address issues of sustainability with humor, verve, criticism, and great beauty.

Eyebeam's Feedback assembles an impressive array of projects engaged with sustainability and the environment in a big, dim, laboratory-like setting.  Tech- and concept-heavy, the exhibits require some time to interact with explanatory texts and complicated diagrams.  Artists, scientists, and designers explore themes like political engagement (an elegant call bank that connects directly with local and state politicians) and waste management (a piece called DrinkPeeDrinkDrinkPee - a little self-explanatory).  I liked how the show itself expresses awareness about its conditions, lowering the lights to conserve energy and providing workshops, events, and additional resources to enable continued participation by visitors.  Eyebeam, at 540 W. 21st, is open to the public Tuesday - Saturday, 12:00-6:00pm. Admission is free with a suggested donation.  They are having a closing party next Saturday 19 April at 3pm.  

On the next block, Adrian Piper's stunning Everything provides an abstract companion that kicks you squarely in the gut.  The phrase "Everything will be taken away" appears in nearly every piece: over a mirror, the Bill of Rights, a gravestone-shaped hole in the gallery wall, the newspaper story of a gruesome kidnapping and rape, the photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr., JFK, Malcolm X, and others, and a garbage can full of trash.  Her promise is both sinister and liberating, challenging us to consider the costs of freedom and asking if the erosion of freedom is something we have the power to halt. 

What does this have to do with the environment?  Moving clockwise from the door, the last piece -- the garbage can -- asks if human detritus can be taken away, who takes it away, how it gets taken away.  It is a pointed critique about race and class, as most of Piper's work is, and echoes Van Jones' sentiments about how our disposable society considers humans disposable, too.  Finally, the image points out that garbage of all kinds can be eliminated by choice or by force.  These meanings radiated back through all of the work as I scanned the show again, and linked for me even more profoundly the relationship between politics, culture, and the environment.  The gallery, Elizabeth Dee at 545 West 20th, is also open 10-6, Tuesday through Friday.


I know that some people who read my blog don't live in New York, so I'll provide these eco-art links as some payoff for reading the above rhapsodies:

This girl has been drawing everything she buys for the last couple of years.  I wonder if she buys fewer things knowing that she'll be drawing it?

Chris Jordan's giant photos in Running the Numbers contain lots of little things and big political messages.

Posted on Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 10:50PM by Registered CommenterMegan Metcalf | CommentsPost a Comment

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