THE ECOLOGICAL IMPERATIVE: MAKING
ART AS IF THE WORLD MATTERED
The ongoing ecological destruction happening on the planet needs
no introduction here. No one these days can be unaware of the
complex problems of water degradation, toxic waste, species extinction, soil and forest depletion, desertification, acid rain, and the
"greenhouse" effect. As Rebecca Solnit has remarked, "the landscape itself is no longer an aesthetic refuge, but a battle ground."
Nor is it an easy thing to deal with issues that bring deeper and
deeper levels of anxiety to us all.
Time is running out with respect to many of these environmental
threats, and as we in the late-twentieth century witness the frightening portents of the beginning of the end of industrial civilization, we
are still groping for the answers to many difficult questions about
what life after industrialism will be like and how we will adapt to it.
As an art critic in the 1990s, I am no longer interested in writing art
reviews, or catalogue essays. Rather, I am concerned with understanding our cultural myths and how they evolved; how artists are
now addressing the changes that must be implemented in our consciousness and our society.
Modernism was the art of the industrial era. Stylistic problems
fascinating to modernists were linked to a view of the world based
on egocentric individualism which I believe is now changing. As we
move into the ecological age, the world is becoming a place of global
interdependence and interconnection. The challenge for each of us
will be to break through a certain infrastructure of thinking and
experience in modern society that has been shaped by the assumption of separateness. Individual freedom and individual uniqueness
were cultural ideals summed up and embedded in the motifs of
Romanticism; today, however, as we begin to recognize an environ