Robert Smithson, Bingham Copper Mining Pit—Utah / Reclamation Project (detail), 1973, Photostat and plastic overlay with wax pencil.

Robert Smithson, Bingham Copper Mining Pit—Utah / Reclamation Project (detail), 1973, Photostat and plastic overlay with wax pencil.

The routine aesthetics of ecological recovery (order, position, repetition, confinement, clearly defined boundaries) are becoming more prevalent in urban and non-urban landscapes globally. As we continue this trajectory of orderly nature-orientation, what influences do these aesthetic outcomes have on ecological memory? Further, what is the role of art within this paradigm of ‘nature’?

At sites where human-driven ecological recovery/rehabilitation is undertaken, natural, cultural and aesthetic outcomes converge to forge new ecosystems that are shaped by deliberate human choices and composed of elements with varied ecological memories (life-history, cycles of water and nutrient availability, experiences of disturbances in varying degrees etc.). If we consider that ecological memory is “maintained by two types of legacies – information and material” (Johnstone et al. 2016) then art’s ability to positively contribute to successful environmental reclamation projects becomes clearer.

If a rehabilitated site is populated by humans using trees grown in an external ecosystem (i.e. embodying a different ecological memory and life-history relative to the site being rehabilitated) then humans must also take responsibility for harmonising the newly introduced information and material aspects of these trees with the site being rehabilitated. Art in the expanded field can play a key role in this mechanism.

A fantastic and ethereal example of art in the expanded playing a key role in environmental equilibration can be seen in ‘Curse Mantra: How to Kill Factory Owners’ an exhibition featuring photographs by Mitsutoshi Hanaga curated by Koichiro Osaka. This exhibition focuses on the efforts of a small collective of Buddhist monks who used ceremony and ritual to bring justice to vulnerable people affected by environmental pollution in Japan in the 1960s. ‘Bingham Copper Mining Pit—Utah / Reclamation Project’ (1973) by Robert Smithson is also a great example.

drowning in a deep ecology

When you sit down and really analyse reporting on ecological issues and the representation of nature and natural system in the media, its anthropocentric quality becomes strikingly apparent; nature is most commonly positioned as an outcome of human desire, toil, rage, ignorance or abandonment. It makes you wonder:

What amount of nature is psychological?

This question has led to me to two key ecological philosophers: Arne Naess and Pierre-Felix Guattari. Both Naess and Guattari advocated for an understating of ecological sustainable that is not reductionist (more than mechanisms of facts, figures, description and prediction) but instead promotes ecological harmony of equilibrium, ecosophy.

Naess and Guattari agreed on many aspects of what constitutes an ‘ecosophy’, however they differ in their position of humans within the equation. To Naess, ecosopohy requires holistic thinking in which the biosphere is a single and unified whole, whereas Guattari centres social liberation at the heart of an ecological philosophy. 

Don't have an answer yet... but the Heidelberg Project is an interesting art/social justice/community building experiment to consider...


The Heidelberg Project (“HP”) is an outdoor art environment in the heart of an urban area and a Detroit based community organization with a mission to improve the lives of people and neighborhoods through art. 


The theory of change for the Heidelberg Project begins with the belief that all citizens, from all cultures, have the right to grow and flourish in their communities. The HP believes that a community can re-develop and sustain itself, from the inside out, by embracing its diverse cultures and artistic attributes as the essential building blocks for a fulfilling and economically viable way of life.


slicing a thunderstorm in the neo-avant-garde

Teresa Kazimiera Murak’s original use of everyday materials and unique mixture of nature and culture is the inspiration for a body of work I’m currently on. Beginning in the 1970s, Murak’s oeuvre consists of performances and interventions that embraces inevitability (i.e. the continual movement of plants in time towards a state of decay; the limits of repeated movements; the eventual end to the predictable movement of celestial bodies) within the boundaries of human understanding.

Murak’s work is a philosophy of interactions; how ‘natural’ elements interact, transition and unite within a comic system. Each expression is a reminder of the potential of individuals and groups to either be a part of the natural order or resist against it as well as the consequences of that choice.

Teresa Murak, Slicing a Thunderstorm, 1985/2016, photo: Maciej Musiał, via

Teresa Murak, Slicing a Thunderstorm, 1985/2016, photo: Maciej Musiał, via