Tag Archives: art

Slow ecological art

On Pruned Alexander Trevi describes the sculptor David Nash‘s art created from following the movement of a wooden boulder down a stream. Nash tried to use the river to move the wood to his studio, and when it became stuck he documented the movement of the wooden boulder downstream. The 25-Year Riverine Journey of a Wooden Boulder Carved out of a Felled 200-Year-Old Oak Tree:

“For 25 years,” Nash writes, “I have followed its engagement with the weather, gravity and the seasons. It became a stepping-stone into the drama of physical geography. Spheres imply movement and initially I helped it to move, but after a few years I observed it only intervening when absolutely necessary – when it became wedged under a bridge.”

wooden boudler 2


The journey is so extraordinary — made more so perhaps by the fact that it’s so well-documented — that we can’t help but quote the rest of Nash’s accounts:

During the first 24 years it moved down stream nine times remaining static for months and years. Sedentary and heavy it would sit bedded in stones animated by the varying water levels and the seasons. Beyond the bridge its position survived many storms, the force of the water spread over the shallow banks did not have the power to shift it. I did not expect it to move into the Dwyryd river in my lifetime.

Then in November 2002 it was gone. The ‘goneness’ was palpable. The storm propelled the boulder 5 kilometres, stopping on a sandbank in the Dwryd estuary. Now tidal, it became very mobile. The high tides around full moon and the new moon moved it every 12 hours to a new place, each placement unique to the consequence of the tide, wind, rain and depth of water.

In January 2003 it disappeared from the estuary but was found again in a marsh. An incoming tide had taken it up a creek, where it stayed for five weeks. The equinox tide of March 19 2003 was high enough to float it back to the estuary where it continued its movement back and forth 3 or 4 kilometres each move.

The wooden boulder was last seen in June 2003 on a sandbank near Ynys Giftan. All creeks and marshes have been searched so it can, only be assumed it has made its way to the sea. It is not lost. It is wherever it is.

Colours of Salt Pond Ecosystems

The South San Francisco Bay salt evaporation ponds, which are often visible from planes flying in and out of San Francisco Airport. Salt ponds with different salinity levels are inhabited by different organisms that give them different colours. Algae colour low salinity ponds green, while different algae color high salinity ponds red. Bacteria and shrimp also shift the colours.

Hidden Ecologies is blog describes work from the San Francisco Exploratorium that explores and visualizes the transitional landscapes surounding San Francisco Bay at different scales. Architect Cris Benton has made a collage of his photos from high and low elevations of Salt Pond Colors:

Salt pond collage

Climate Change Escapism

In Spain Greenpeace has published a short photo book Photoclima that uses estimates from IPPC and photomontages to show six landscapes of Spain a changed climate. The book is bilingual in Spanish and English.

By Pedro Armestre and Mario Gómez. La Manga del Mar menor, Murcia now and after a few decades of climate change,

On BLDGBLOG Geoff Manaugh comments on how this project, and how not to envision the future in Climate Change Escapism:

The basic idea here is that these visions of flooded resort hotels, parched farmlands, and abandoned villages, half-buried in sand, will inspire us to take action against climate change. Seeing these pictures, such logic goes, will traumatize people into changing how they live, vote, consume, and think. You can visually shock them into action, in other words: one or two glimpses of pictures like these and you’ll never think the same way about climate change again.
But I’m not at all convinced that that’s what these images really do.

In fact, these and other visions of altered planetary conditions might inadvertantly be stimulating people’s interest in experiencing the earth’s unearthly future. Why travel to alien landscapes when you can simply hang around, driving your Hummer…?

Climate change is the adventure tour of a lifetime – and all it requires is that you wait. Then all the flooded hotels of Spain and south Florida will be yours for the taking.
Given images like these, the future looks exciting again.

Of course, such thinking is absurd; thinking that flooded cities and continent-spanning droughts and forest fires will simply be a convenient way to escape your mortgage payments is ridiculous. Viewing famine, mass extinction, and global human displacement into diarrhea-wracked refugee camps as some sort of Outward Bound holiday – on the scale of a planet – overlooks some rather obvious downsides to the potentially catastrophic impact of uncontrolled climate alteration.

Whether you’re talking about infant mortality, skin cancer, mass violence and rape, waterborne diseases, vermin, blindness, drowning, and so on, climate change entails radically negative effects that aren’t being factored into these escapist thought processes.

But none of those things are depicted in these images.

These images, and images like them, don’t show us identifiable human suffering.

The 10,000-year Gallery

Photographer Ed Burtynsky has proposal a “The Gallery of the Long Now.” It would compliment the Clock of the Long Now project, now underway. The idea for the clock was hatched over 20 years ago and the goal is to build a clock that can run–by itself–for 10,000 years. The plan is for it be housed in a mountain, protected from the elements – Burtynsky thinks that a gallery would be a great addition.


On the The Long Now Blog Stewart Brand writes about Edward Burtynsky‘s proposal for a 10 000 year art gallery in the Clock of the Long Now (aimed at fostering long-term responsibility) in its Nevada mountain site.

The gallery would consist of art in materials as durable as the alloy steel and jade of the Clock itself, and it would be curated slowly over the centuries to reflect changing interests in the rolling present and the accumulating past.

Photographs in particular should be in the 10,000-year Gallery, Burtynsky said, “because they tell us more than any previous medium. When we think of our own past, we tend to think in terms of family photos.”

The rest of the presentation was of beautiful and evocative photographs from three demonstration exhibits for the proposed gallery—”Museum of the Mundane” by Vid Ingelvics; “Observations from a Blue Planet” by Marcus Schubert; and “In the Wake of Progress” by Burtynsky himself. A typical Burtynsky photograph showed a huge open pit copper mine. A tiny, barely discernible black line on one of the levels was pointed out: “That’s a whole railroad train.” Alberta tar sands excavation tearing up miles of boreal forest. China’s Three Gorges Dam. Mine tailing ponds beautiful and terrible. Expired oil fields stretching to the horizon. Michelangelo’s marble quarry at Carrera, still working.

“This is the sublime of our time,” said Burtynsky, “shown straight on, for contemplation.” Indeed worth studying for centuries.