e c o v e n t i o n


section 1: introduction
  getting it built
  land art, earthworks...

section 2: activism...
  direct engagements
  breaking out of the box...
  research centers
  community action

section 3: valuing anew...
  sites and non-sites
  itenerant nature
  agents of perpetual change

section 4: biodiversity...
  habitat architecture
  ocean habitats
  trans-species art
  spying for nature
  species reclamation

section 5: urban infrastructure...
  urban forests
  waste treatment
  sustainable 'hoods

section 6: reclamation...
  watershed management...
  uniting human intellect
  unspoiling soil

section 7: notes

section 8: a short history...

section 9: philosophical statements

section 10: glossary

section 11: critical diversity



The Contemporary Arts Center


director's foreword
In one sense, all artists seek to change the world. To make things, even to propose ideas, is intrinsically a hopeful act. The most cynical artist, describing the least attractive alternative to the unmediated world, harbors at least a feeble hope that his dark view will prompt some transformation—whether of consciousness or of substance—that will save us all.

Yet, over the last 200 years, the artist has largely given up the role of builder, in favor of metaphor and critical analysis. Notwithstanding the cyclical revivals of interest in architecture and design as social action, to make something useful in the Modern world is more or less suspect as art.

And so it is remarkable that in one arena, at least, there are artists who have resisted the passive role of commentator, pursuing an active strategy that requires the production of concrete, positive change in the natural environment. If this book, and the exhibition it accompanies, were to do nothing more than identify a significant number of such artists it would be a noteworthy curatorial achievement. That the artists so identified have produced such ingenious, expansive and (as author Sue Spaid demonstrates here) practically and politically effective works is proof of the value of ecological intervention—"ecovention"—as a contemporary art tactic.

Any thoughtful person involved in the arts must balance his poetic concerns against the weight of Real World need. As an art museum, the Contemporary Arts Center frequently concerns itself with an international critical dialogue that may have profound implications for the way we see each other and ourselves, but can seem small in terms of the day’s lead story. When, therefore, the Center engages topics of artistic relevance that also touch on the daily life of the community, as it has in this project and in many other instances, it is a matter of great pride to all of us involved in the CAC’s management and governance. For the members and trustees of the Contemporary Arts Center, I express deep thanks to Sue Spaid and her co-curator, Amy Lipton of ecoartspace, for once again bringing us this pride.

Any work as complex as this project is the product of many hands. At the CAC, a small staff of unparalleled enthusiasm and ability supports every such effort with little recognition. For this project, those most involved include research intern Jessica Flores; chief preparator Tom Allison and his crew, who installed the show; and senior curator Thom Collins, who edited the book and led the team. Former CAC curator Ruth Meyer was instrumental in editing the text and providing her insight. Trustee Alice Weston, for many years one of the Center’s staunchest supporters and herself an environmental artist of substantial accomplishment, was a great resource and an enthusiastic cheerleader.

The show was sponsored by the Cinergy Foundation which, under the leadership of its President, J. Joseph Hale, has made extraordinary contributions throughout the region and is certainly among the most strategic and enlightened corporate foundations anywhere. Also supportive were the Maxwell Weaver Foundation, Federated Department Stores Foundation, Delta Airlines, and Pro Helvetia.

Terry Boling and Marc Swackhamer, architects on the faculty of the College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning at the University of Cincinnati, contributed the innovative design of the exhibition. Christian Wilhelmy and Micah Hornung of Seemless Design created the marvelous product that the reader now holds in his or her hands.

In addition to her curatorial work on the exhibition, Amy Lipton made many material contributions to this book, gathering information and suggesting dozens of artists and securing the book’s co-publisher. Sam Bower at greenmuseum.org showed such faith in the ideas presented here that he arranged for the book's funding and agreed to co-publish the book sight unseen; he has also published much additional information on the subject at the greenmuseum.org web site.

There are many contributors to this effort who cannot be individually acknowledged for lack of space; we thank them all, and recognize their share in the project’s success. For their help with research and photographs we would also recognize Pam Whitten of the Harrison Studio; Peggy Kaplan and Ronald Feldman, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Allegra Raff at Alan Sonfist Studio; the Phoenix Arts Commission; Hafthor Yngvason, Director of the Cambridge (Mass.) Arts Council; Poldi Gerard, Lemna International; Nancy Thorpe, Aspen Art Institute; Joe Face, University of Cincinnati; Barbara Matilsky, University of North Carolina, Ashville; Adrian Sas, City of New York Parks & Recreation; Gwen Chanitz, Denver Art Museum; and Wendi Goldsmith, Bioengineering Group, Inc.

In Cincinnati many people assisted with logistics and research, including Glen Brand, Associate Director of the Sierra Club, Cincinnati; Cynthia Colebrook, Director of the Regional Greenspace Initiative; Holly Utrata-Halcomb, Hamilton County Soil & Water; Robin Carothers and Susan Schultz, Mill Creek Restoration Project; and Ryan Taylor, East Fork of Little Miami River Watershed Manager, Clermont County. Another reader who provided invaluable assistance was Alicia Wilhelmy.

Of course, the efforts of all these contributors would have no effect were it not for the works of the artists featured in the exhibition and book. To the artists, therefore, I extend in advance the gratitude of the many people who will profit from what they learn in this book, and of the many others who will—perhaps without ever knowing it—benefit from both the work’s tangible results and its implications.

Charles Desmarais
Alice & Harris Weston Director
Contemporary Arts Center



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