The Art of Ecology


I have always found peace in the tranquil setting of a boat on calm waters.  It always gives me time to reflect on life and how blessed I am.  I believe photography and film have the same effect on Agarwal and Kak.  Agarwal uses his pictures of India to expose the culture and way of living.  He speaks of being swept up in the excitement of the rallies and protests and then being forced to slow down by the rivers that could not be crossed.  Through these images, he shows the world that no matter where you are or what is happening, the environment will always be the strongest force in what you do.  The artists also discuss the impact these images can have on the world: “[Words on Water] certainly brought up to speed our collective understanding of the world in which the struggle was being waged, and reflected on what systems of justice were open to the poor and disadvantaged in India” (Kak).

Kak also discusses how the aesthetics of the images and films were guided by the previously mentioned rallies and protests as well as the people in the towns and villages he captured with film.  “In the film on the Narmada valley the aesthetic choices were dictated by my immersion in what was a remarkable people’s movement, a mobilization that involved Adivasi tribals, mid-level peasantry, urban intellectuals and students. There was a constant flow of people around us, protests, demonstrations and rallies, and the image-making was a response to that” (Kak).  Agarwal says that he thinks that aesthetics is somewhat of a superficial guide to art but is what the viewers look for the most: “Unfortunately there is often little real ‘reading’ of this by some curators/critics, where art as aesthetic is still the main concern rather than an ‘informed’ or ‘engaged’ aesthetic. It’s almost as if ecology gives the art world some ‘relevance’. I personally do not think this relevance is required by art, since I do feel it is relevant on its own, but it may be that the art world desires such relevance in a world which is so politically active and socially challenged today. I think there is room for a wider cross-disciplinary conversation in the domain of art.”  I tend to agree with his statements in some ways.

Mark Dion is also very interested in the environment and how it can be portrayed to the general public.  In his ocean themed collection, he has combined works from artists of different skill levels that portray the environment from their perspective.  All of these works are treated equally regardless of skill level.  This set up allows the viewers to connect to the collection no matter their taste of art or their social status.  I find this to be a very brilliant idea.  This makes Dion’s art that much more accessible to everyone.

I had never really considered the impact art can have on the mindset of people about the environment.  I am always very dedicated to maintaining a small carbon footprint but these images, collections, and perspectives opened my eyes to a deeper appreciation of the world around me and the full potential it has.


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