I am a Voice; the World is an Echo.
"Sustainability," a term that dances on my tongue with a rhythm uniquely its own. The way I hear it differs from others, often evoking giggles when I attempt its pronunciation. Yet, those giggles bring a touch of lightness, a shared moment of amusement. I've always found myself stumbling over words in any language, and in doing so, I bring smiles to those around me. In the past, I was embarrassed by my lack of pronunciation, now I know I am simply a mirror mirroring.
Hence, I choose the visual language of creation, using the written word as part of this intricate form of communication to avoid any potential misunderstanding that arises when I open my mouth.
Writing is akin to painting, and the pen becomes a soul expressing itself. Since I don't have to audibly read the words, I can play with their visual aesthetics. Even those words I have no idea how to pronounce can find their place in my composition, chosen solely for the balance they bring to the overall design.
My first encounter with this elusive term was in 2004. It marked the year of collaboration with Pop Sustainability, an organization bearing a mission far-reaching and forward-thinking. Commissioned by them, I embarked on the crafting of a wearable moving sculpture for the NYC Halloween Parade.
Rachel Cohen, a creative companion, stood beside me, or perhaps I stood beside her, or maybe we stood within the realm of my art, as we embarked on this endeavor.
Just last week, she joined me amidst the woods, and our conversations still echo with ideas about our work and the impressions we leave on the environment – an endeavor that weaves beyond artistry, a story awaiting its telling.
Rachel and her dance ensemble became the moving force behind the sculpture – the hangers, the wheels, and the very heart of the creation. I distinctly remember the anticipation that lingered before the parade's commencement, a time that, if you've ever participated in a parade, I must caution you about – it's a long wait, and nature often calls. We had our water bottles – a paradox in itself. One moment we were drawing attention to the detrimental effects of such bottles, and the next, we were using them as impromptu restrooms.
Participating in the parade was an experience like no other, akin to a quintessential New York City dream. The crowd's energy, the palpable vibes, the resonating music – all converged to form the heartbeat of the city, and in that moment, we were all united as one. Our presence extended beyond the parade's mere procession, taking us to television screens that amplified our message. The spider web's structure was meticulously crafted from over 3,000 plastic six-pack holders, each woven into a monumental whole. I crocheted them together, each leg connected to a dancer's head, making the spider dance. It seemed fitting, as Halloween's spirit was woven into each stitch. The symbolic depth of the spider, its significance in my life, had yet to be realized. As always, symbols are everywhere.
Through this creation, we aimed to illuminate the dangers posed by these holders, which all too frequently find their way into our oceans, causing harm to marine life.
Once the parade's echoes subsided, the sculpture was disassembled. But instead of fading into oblivion, its components were granted new life, repurposed and passed into the hands of another artist. It was during this transition that the word "sustainability" etched itself into my memory. Though its pronunciation remains an ongoing whimsical challenge, its significance resonates deeply. Through this creative endeavor, I came to understand its essence in a tangible way, its meaning interwoven with my creative passage.
And so, as I continue my artistic odyssey, this term, with its layers of purpose and responsibility, reverberates through my thoughts. The word I cannot quite master, the concept I passionately embrace, guides my creative trajectory. In my world, sustainability is not a mere word; it is a symphony of intention, a pledge interwoven into the very fabric of my craft.
Sustainability within the realm of artwork is a multidimensional endeavor that goes beyond the confines of artistic creation itself. It encompasses a profound consideration of its impact on the environment, culture, and society at large. Sustainable art transcends the surface of canvas or sculpture; it aspires to evoke an enduring influence on various levels.
The essence of sustainable artwork is deeply entwined with the thoughtful curation of materials utilized in its creation. Artists today often gravitate towards ecologically mindful and ethically sourced resources, a conscious effort to diminish their carbon footprint and mitigate waste generation. In the past, this meant embracing repurposed materials, upcycling discarded items, and tapping into renewable resources—a triumphant stride toward fostering a more environmentally considerate artistic practice. However, in my perspective, these methods require reevaluation. By dignifying materials like plastic through artistic transformation, we inadvertently perpetuate their production and environmental harm. The elevation of such materials to art form only perpetuates their existence. Recykling has proven ineffectual, clouded by the costliness of the process and misleading corporate claims. Our path forward necessitates the embracement of materials that seamlessly reintegrate into the earth's fabric once they have served their purpose.
A crucial aspect of sustainability rests upon the enduring nature of artistic creations. Constructing artworks from resilient materials, employing adept framing techniques, and adhering to meticulous conservation practices can significantly extend their lifespan. Such endeavors curtail the need for frequent replacements, making a substantial contribution to a more sustainable artistic landscape.
Yet, as I was guided by societal norms, I found myself entwined in the notion of permanence. I was directed to fashion objects meant to withstand the ravages of time, oblivious to the transient essence of all things. Some urged me to transition from organic materials to synthetic fibers, under the pretense of enhancing longevity and attracting more collectors. In a light-hearted tone, I playfully was repeating that even if humanity were to vanish, only Kraft cheese and acrylic yarn might endure. Now, with the wisdom gleaned from the intimate interplay between acrylic yarn and my own corporeal existence—where my body mirrors the Earth's surface, and my skin embodies the soil—I reconsider the concept of artistic longevity. I believe that the essence of art should reside within the memories of experience, rather than the materials themselves. I embark on a journey where I sow my own seeds, cultivate them, and harvest 100% organic fibers that I deftly spin into threads under my fingertips. My aspiration is for my creations to eventually transform into nourishment for the soil, aligning with the principles of "Bring nothing, leave nothing"—a motto that resonates deeply as sustainability knocks at the door of my creativity.
One undeniable truth is that sustainability in art reaches far beyond the realm of the physical. It delves into the profound dimensions of conceptualization. Artworks that shed light on environmental, social, or cultural concerns possess the remarkable potential to ignite sustainable viewpoints within their observers. They become catalysts for change, elevating awareness and consciousness. However, here is the paradox that frequently entangles us. As artists, we preach about how others should live their lives, yet those "others" are essentially us. We are the very mirror reflecting our collective actions, all the while voicing our concerns about the choices humanity makes on this planet. Yet, our own footsteps leave imprints of pollution.
I found myself caught in a quandary, unsure of which path to tread, as every stitch, every loop seemed to worsen the predicament. Pretending I was creating greatness, I was contributing to a greater problem. I even found myself debating with scholars who invited me to partake in a virtual reality museum aimed at enlightening audiences about the potential consequences if we fail to change our ways. I asked them a straightforward question: How are they reducing their own impact on the environment? Their answer echoed a common sentiment – they're focused on spreading awareness about the problem. But we're all familiar with the problem already, and our repetitive discussions just generate more waste, akin to the discarded words that also litter our minds.
Conceptual depth must begin within us, that moment of awakening when even the slightest action gives us pause, for we recognize its potential to further harm the very land we cherish. Embrace the soil, for it shall be your guide. In my artistic odyssey, I continually seek deeper realms to create concepts that embody sustainability in their essence. We can all sow the seeds of change. Let us cultivate our materials and collaborate across the globe, transcending geographical limitations. Our art can nourish both the soul and the soil, a harmonious fusion that resonates with sustainability's core.
Local and Global Impact:
Fostering sustainable practices within the art industry is a dynamic interplay between local engagement and global outreach. Supporting local artists and engaging with communities nurtures sustainable ideals from the ground up. Additionally, artworks with a global perspective, addressing universal themes, have the potential to cultivate cross-cultural understanding and empathy, amplifying the sustainability message. It's the ethos of thinking globally and acting locally. For me, the challenge was to justify the flights for installations when those flights might be part of the problem. In a world of growing interconnectedness, could my purpose lie in crafting art as a template for others to weave their creations upon? The focus is shifting, not just on the artist, but on the artwork itself. The spirit of creation is a fluid form, accessible to all. Those deeply connected often grasp these ideas and spread them like a beacon of enlightenment.
Call me a virus, but I'm the kind you need – spreading organic art that flourishes in various hands, nurtured by diverse hearts. It's an artistic cycle where the origins become beautifully tangled. Work locally, think globally.
Local and Global Impact:
The art market, traditionally built around the physical ownership of artworks, has an opportunity to align with sustainability by championing values such as transparency, ethical sourcing, and equitable artist compensation. This transition raises intriguing possibilities. In a world where artworks might not be physical entities or could biodegrade over time, could we reimagine art ownership as a collaborative effort rather than an individual possession? How could we navigate the challenges of transporting art, especially until teleportation becomes feasible? Is there room to create a new paradigm where owning an artwork means it remains in its place of creation, eliminating the need for transportation altogether? Would you invest in art knowing you might never physically experience it, much like planting a tree whose shade you may never sit under? And then there's the financial facet: the excitement surrounding crypto art and currencies quickly collided with their environmental impact. As we ponder these questions, we open doors to innovative ways the art market can play a role in preserving our world for the future.
Digital Art and Technology:
Embracing the realm of digital art and technology opens new pathways towards sustainability. Digital artworks possess the unique capacity to be shared and experienced with minimal physical transportation, thereby mitigating the carbon footprint and energy expenditure typically associated with traditional art forms.
In this era of digital marvels, the once enigmatic swiftly transforms into the familiar. As the production of tools like VR sets leaves an indelible ecological footprint, it beckons us to envision a future where our creations endure across time. Can we forge tools designed to stand the test of time, echoing the eternal resilience of art itself?
Our ongoing exploration of energy underscores a fundamental truth – all is energy, interconnected and interwoven. Could this understanding propel us into an era where the very devices we rely on become obsolete, and our vision directly accesses the ethereal? In this intriguing convergence of technology and perception, we find ourselves at the cusp of an extraordinary shift.
A magnetic force draws me incessantly to this art form – the ability for a solitary creation to transcend geographic boundaries, witnessed simultaneously across the expanse of our world. Yet, within this digital tapestry, a pressing question persists – from whence does the energy that powers our digital world originate? A transition to more sustainable energy sources is a pivotal step on the journey towards aligning our creative endeavors with the principles of sustainability.
Education and Collaboration:
Fostering sustainability within the artistic community involves a dynamic blend of education, collaboration, and action. Through workshops, educational initiatives, and collaborations, artists, curators, collectors, and institutions can become ambassadors of sustainable practices, infusing every aspect of their creative and operational processes with a shared commitment to positive transformation.
The winds of change are already upon us, whispering the need for less talk and more tangible action. As someone who advocates, I am reminded of the harmonious dance required between words and deeds. The essence lies in our everyday choices, each one contributing to the symphony of sustainable living. From the food we consume to the clothes we wear, even the simplest acts like washing clothes or brushing teeth, each step must be imbued with the spirit of biodegradability, setting the stage for the emergence of sustainable art.
Just as the soil nurtures the seed, it is our collective responsibility to nurture a fertile environment for artistic creation to flourish. The art of sustainability is woven into the fabric of our existence, manifesting through the fibers of our being, our daily habits, and our mindful actions. Through this united effort, we sow the seeds of a future where sustainability becomes second nature, a vibrant backdrop against which art and life coalesce.
In essence, the sustainability of artwork is a comprehensive pursuit, encompassing the environmental, social, and cultural facets of creative expression. Through intentional choices concerning materials, concepts, and methodologies, artists and the art industry play a pivotal role in steering us toward a more sustainable future.
Perhaps you've wondered about the purpose of creating art, a question that has echoed within me repeatedly. As I've come to understand, art serves as a preview of the reality. Life and art are intricately woven together – the very threads of our existence. We are enveloped by artistic creations, whether they appear in our homes, daily lives, cuisine, attire, literature, or melodies. Now, the call is for everything and everyone to transition toward nurturing the continuity of our species.
In truth, it's not merely about rescuing the planet. Earth, as a living organism, will eventually release us – a parasitic presence. The crux lies in recognizing that we must forge a new kind of existence, an avatar that harmoniously coexists with the intricate tapestry of our earthly illusion, affording us an enduring place in its intricate design.
And what prompted me to express these reflections on this digital canvas? My life's decisions, extended discussions with fellow artists, responses to institutions urging me to persist in my creative pursuits, and the final catalyst: a straightforward mention in a museum's post, showcasing my crocheted rainbow.
This rainbow has consistently tapped at the threshold of my consciousness for years. It prompted me to engage with the museum, advocating for changes to the label. I sought to remove the illusions of my nationalities, geographic location, age, and, perhaps most crucially, my gender – shifting from woman to non-binary. These facets, while shaping our avatars, shouldn't dictate the significance or value of the artwork. And now, here it is again, calling me to revisit the subject of sustainability.
Within the realm of artistic sustainability, my crocheted rainbow stands as a resilient testament. Crafted from a fusion of non-organic materials, it embodies an enduring link to our Earth. While the presence of humanity might one day wane, this creation will persist. Artworks like this one intend to highlight the significance of inclusivity, each being contributing to the intricate fabric of avatarnity. Paradoxically, even as it aimed to illuminate, it inadvertently added to the pollution, with plastic microfibers finding their way into my lungs; my lungs, akin to the Amazon, bearing the breath of the planet. If I pollute myself, I pollute us all.
My own art speaks to me as though I'm the sole observer, consistently delivering diverse reminders. It murmurs to my receptive ear, urging the cultivation of future fibers – a tale of resilience and interconnectedness. The rainbow, a universal symbol, mirrors the inherent divinity residing within us all. As seeds, we nurture the soil of creativity, collaboratively nurturing a lasting and profound artistic legacy.
P.S. If you found value in this voyage of words and would like to extend your support, you can now "buy me a book." Your contribution will aid in cultivating new chapters, woven organically and biodegradable, into the fabric of our shared existence.
P.S.2: Our mindset shapes our reality. But does that imply that if you don't feel guilty while polluting, the harm magically disappears? It's like individuals committing what might seem like malevolent acts while genuinely believing they're championing a just cause. Ultimately, it's your prerogative to form your own opinions on every matter, free from external influence, even from me. Remember, I am a product of your mind.