Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Cura Te Ipsum: The Sustainable Art Project

Things discussed: Sustainability; Food Supplies; Distance; Discarded Kettles; Indigo Blue; Freshness; Taste.

written by f

Sustainability is the word of the day. On every speech we make, every paper we read, every good we trade.

Energy and food are most often associated with the concept, but food is obviously what touches us deeper: we can live without electricity or gas, but we would never survive without food. 

What makes food sustainable? It’s usually a couple of things, that I'll put in bullet points down here:

1. Minimal distance between the food supply (say, farm) and the food retail (say, supermarket).

2. Number and effectiveness of natural elements used to enhance growth in the food supply itself: organic fodder for livestock, lack of chemical pesticides or industrial fertilizers for crops, humane treatment of animals, and so on.

3. Freshness of the product: the minimal distance - as of point 1 - ensures that the product doesn't need to be frozen or artificially ripened, but “freshness” is a wider concept: the product has to contain all the nutrients to give out a strong physical supply, but it also has to be tasty. In other words: it has to be good.

Now the thought: what if art could be sustainable? Along those same lines, without losing any freshness, without ceasing to be art?

The “Sustainable Art Project” stemmed from this chain of thought. Here are the rules:

1. Minimal distance. You cut the expenses of transportation, logistics, gas, road space, sleeping hours, materials. This may mean that all the ingredients you need to make a work of art are homegrown, DIY, or simply bought or acquired without violating the minimal distance rule. This means, for example: you don’t get indigo blue. Not even the industrial one. You don’t get lapislazuli, because they come from the other side of the planet; you don’t get stuff from Home Depot or Ikea, because God knows where it comes from, and so on.

2. Natural elements. You may not use industrially processed ingredients, unless the work itself is a repurposing of an industrial artifact that was build for a whole different reason; you don’t have to pollute in any perceivable way, not even visually. Everything has to be environment friendly, in a very specific sense: it has to enhance the space it's in at its best, or merge with it at its average.

3. Freshness. The works have to be good. Not lazy. Not smartass winks. Not hyper conceptualized: everybody has to be able to enjoy them, without for this making them mainstream, dumb, or mere publicity stunts.

Now, a small but necessary digression. I mentioned at point 2 the work as a "repurposing of an industrial artifact that was build for a whole different reason". The fact is: I am attracted to objects at rest.

It could be ready-made or found objects, but even their new artistic life is a function. It's interesting to notice that artthe best art, not all art is something that never ceases to perform its function. Whatever that ineffable function may be. 

Like a permanent talisman, or a dream of perpetual motion: it never loses charge. This said, the fourth rule: 

4. Universality. An ethnic artifact may well count as a form of art, and some pieces are masterpieces, but this is true in other contexts. In this exhibition we'd have works made specifically for it.

What are you left with? Well, what you’re left with is sustainable art. But it has to be art. It has to deserve, to earn the title of a work of art. It can’t just be a piece of wood. Or a neon tube. Or a discarded kettle.

It can be these things, but it needs a reason. Otherwise it’s not an art exhibition: it’s a flea market.

I think that, if somebody organized this exhibition for real, it would be a very interesting challenge for artists and curators alike.

No comments:

Post a Comment