Viewing single post of blog New ways of seeing…

I’ve recently been preparing materials for the next ‘underlined’ workshop, whilst also reading part of Nato Thompson’s Living as Form (Socially Engaged Art 1991-2011), an interesting book that wrestles with many of the topics also discussed at the Engage Conference 2017 – participation, dialogue and Community engagement. The book is particularly useful in examining socially engaged art-forms within a multidisciplinary approach including social sciences, psychology and politics, rather than through an exclusively art-history perspective. The book, and accompanying website www.creativetime.org discuss examples and context, raising necessary questions without straightforward answers… A quote from artist Rick Lowe, working on Project Row Houses stood out: “.. one of the students told me that, sure, the work reflected what was going on in his community. but it wasn’t what the community needed. If I was an artist, he said, why didn’t I come up with some kind of creative solution to issues instead of just telling people like him what they already knew.” (Nato Thompson, quoting artist Rick Lowe, in Living as Form, 2012, p.26). Somehow, community arts need to navigate the tension between documentation, reflection and action…

Photographer Edward Burtynsky, also wrestles with the artistic tension between documentation and action. His stunning photographs document environments formed or altered by industry and human intervention. The website www.artworksforchange.org is just one example of how Burtynsky has worked collaboratively with other organisations to link his photographs with ‘action pledges’ and educational information about the issues raised. Burtynsky has a thoughtful, balanced approach to the political and social impact of his photography, openly discussing the ambiguity and contradictions that occur (see his TEDx talk manufactured landscapes and green education). Often he gains access to the sites he photographs through working with the corporations who own and manage them, at the same time as wanting to raise awareness of our global impact and the personal choices that contribute to the environmental challenges of our age.

Chris Jordan photographs environments and wildlife impacted by human behavior. Jordan’s work directly aims to communicate factual information that we know into something that we feel and therefore act upon. I particularly like his artworks that make visual images out of environmental statistics (see Gyre, 2009 above from his collection Running the Numbers II). Video works like Albatros, 2017 (link below) accompany some of his photographs, which provide shocking evidence of the effect of environmental waste on birds.

Chris Jordan’s ALBATROSS film trailer from chris jordan photographic arts on Vimeo.