Field Notes from Art + Environment Conference: Day 3

The Art + Environment Conference culminated in a six-hour desert excursion to Pyramid Lake, led by Ralph Burns and Ben Aleck of the Paiute Reservation. Pyramid Lake is remote yet connected to regional struggles over water rights, a history of military use that continues to shape environmental issues, and a catastrophic drop in level due to local agriculture. Situated at a complex intersection of forces—natural and human—it epitomizes the new context in which artists engage with the environment.


Pyramid Lake on the Art + Environment Desert Tour, and Chris Drury’s Cloud Pool Chamber on the roof of the Nevada Museum of Art
(Digital Camera Obscura photos by Elizabeth Ellsworth)

Riding on the momentum and interest at Saturday’s closing sessions, participants and organizers have already begun to plan their future work. There is already talk of a center for the study of art and environment at the Nevada Museum of Art and organizers hope to host a follow up conference in 2010.

Over our days of blogging from the conference, ideas emerged that will shape the direction of a nascent Art + Environment movement:

—This new movement is not rooted in politicized environmental activism. Instead, audiences are “activated” by fusing aesthetic experience and knowledge (often in the form of scientific data).

—Sites of complex interactions between humans and landscape are open to broad interpretation, means of exploration, and a wide variety of aesthetic response.

—These human-landscape interactions will generate contexts in which individuals, academics, artists, scientists, explorers, researchers, and historians continue to work together.

—Individuals interested in this movement will continue to address the environment and explore landscapes -both natural and manmade.

—Throughout the conference, examples of local responses to the environment by artists and scientists were easily relayed to an imaginative global audience and new media helps makes it possible.


Smudge studio, Extreme Media Studies, and blog postings on Art + Environment are collaborative efforts of professor Elizabeth Ellsworth and project art director Jamie Kruse.

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