What is Socially Engaged Environmental Art?



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It is a kind of 'shake' that is made of Socially Engaged Art and Environmental Art. It is technically making art together with the public in Nature.

In Socially Engaged Art, the artists want to make a social/economic difference with artwork created through collaboration with the public. The artwork, called ‘project’ is enacting social change. A part of the public upgrades from passive audience to active participant and the artist takes up the role of facilitator. The remaining audience’s role is to re-enforce the statement that everyone can learn from the project, however their presence is not always necessary. The artwork is process based and the outcome is often delayed in time. The artist aims to empower the participants to make changes in their own circumstances. They prioritise ethical values such as group dynamics, change of energy, raised consciousness and social encounters… If the Socially Engaged Art is practiced with an established community than it also has community related goals, such as to enrich the existence of the community.

The key projects of Socially Engaged Art maybe traced back to the 1960’s in Europe. For example Milan Knizak organised Demonstration for All the Senses in 1964, on the streets of Prague. He aimed to merge together art and life through simple manual tasks that aimed to enhance the awareness of the senses. His actions originated from “the desire for a more intensely lived social experience” (Bishop 2012). Later Knizak organised more ritualistic actions such as the Stone Ceremony (1971), where the participants stood silently in the stone circles they created around themselves, like many isolated beings in a barren landscape.

Environmental Art is an umbrella term for a range of practices. For example, Eco Art pioneers developing a positive role model for the issues raised in a very recent report published by Julie’s Bicycle and the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA, 2014 November). They state, “…the arts have a determining effect on culture. As such they should be at the heart of a sustainable worldview. But are they? The short answer is ‘no’. While there are some examples of outstanding practice, the arts community has not yet reached a consensus that environmental sustainability matters.”

Contemporary Land Art also follows the ethos of minimal impact and develops an inextricable relationship to the natural environment. Artworks, like Richard Long’s “Art made by Walking in Landscapes” (1970), Chris Drury’s stick chambers and Andy Goldsworthy’s nature compositions (2010) belong to this direction. These remarkable installations in nature are using materials found in-situ. The landscape as an inspiration and the created art are inseparably and intimately linked. When I work as a facilitator, I encourage the participants to develop ecological awareness and involve them in processes that encompass sustainability, respect for nature and a small ecological footprint.



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