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Eco-art, design and architecture can be agents of environmental change in the public realm – The Conversation CA

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Many of us are aware of the environmental crisis, and the need to change how we operate. On a daily basis, a variety of media offer images that depict the effects of climate change to help us understand the extent of environmental damage — for example, in the form of scientists’ endless data and metrics presented in graphs or in news photographs.

Visual imagery has been central to how people develop a sense of the meaning of the Anthropocene — the era we are living in, the first time that human activity is the dominant influence on climate.

In the past few decades, new practices of art, design and architecture in the public realm have helped raise awareness about ubiquitous waste, pollution and global warming, and their associated social injustices.

With my colleagues, I am cataloguing public art, design and architecture projects in Canada that aim to teach about the environmental crisis, to reveal what eco-lessons are conveyed to the public and what the public can learn. Our work is informed by drawing on art and design that has helped launch both expert and community dialogue about what kinds of visual imagery and artistic practices might engender positive action for our environment.

Green arithmetic

Environmental historian and professor of sociology Jason W. Moore has explored how environmental researchers and policy makers have aimed to help the public understand how global warming is affecting Earth through data and metrics about environmental change — what he calls “green arithmetic.”

Even if these quantifiable methods of representation have been a powerful model for understanding the “what” of our planetary condition, it’s unclear if people have understood the effects of the present crisis on biological and socio-economic aspects of our interconnected world — or what changes we need to change course.

Graphical charts show exponential damages, but who can understand what a kilogram of carbon dioxide is or what it does to the environment? This format of visual imagery is far too abstract and the information depicted is set at a scale that is difficult for many to imagine.

As T.J. Demos, professor of art history and visual culture, has argued, graphs developed by environmental organizations or researchers rarely motivate people to take positive environmental action.

A photograph of tall towers on oil fields.

‘Edward Burtynsky’s ‘Oil Fields #19ab,’ chromogenic color print, taken in Belridge, Calif., in 2003, seen at the Nevada Museum of Art in July 2019.
(rocor/Flickr), CC BY-NC

Sublime images of catastrophe

Some artists have created sublime imagery depicting situations of catastrophe. Photographer Edward Burtynsky and other artists have developed artistic investigations that tell stories that reflect on what environmental transformation means.

Photographer J. Henry Fair is another artist who uses magnificent pictures to document “the hidden costs of consumption.”

This type of art is often placed in museums, which in most cases, isn’t an open public space. And only a small portion of the population ever sets foot into a museum.

However, it is not only museums that exhibit such images. Media outlets reaching the general public sometimes share photos about climate change disasters that they package as “beautiful” and “stunning.”

Such images may indeed be “stunning.” The problem is, however, that such pictures, whether generated by professional artists, photojournalists or by people sharing on creative forums, are often so sublimely produced that audiences want to consume more of them. Yet, there isn’t much certainty that this will help raise awareness of real causes of environmental damage, let alone engender change. These types of artworks, which can become highly popular cultural products, may be counterproductive to the aim of enabling change.

Public eco-art installations

On the other hand, the public art installation Ice Watch by
Icelandic Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, first created in 2014, was a seminal work intended to provoke immediate responses to our ecological crisis.

In the words of the artist, this work saw: “12 large blocks of ice cast off from the Greenland ice sheet are harvested from a fjord outside Nuuk and presented in a clock formation in a prominent public place.”

In its second installation, the work was placed in front of the Place du Pantheon in Paris in 2015, when an international meeting on climate change, COP21, was taking place.

The installation was simple, yet it made climate change immediately felt for those present, as people could see and touch the massive chunks of melting ice. It also connected people all around the world through its Instagram feed.

A statement about the artwork noted that the ice sheet from which these blocks were harvested is “losing the equivalent of 1,000 such blocks of ice per second throughout the year.” There were no graphs showing data about melting glaciers. Yet witnesses had a resonating experience about climate catastrophe.

The installation helped people confront the environmental crisis in a direct and personal way, since people saw, as writer Rebecca Solnit noted, a “beautiful, disturbing, dying monument.” A feeling of dread and eco-anxiety is at the core of this experience, a concept termed “solastalgia,” in 2005 by professor of sustainability Glenn Albrecht.

Public digital art

Another example is Particle Falls, by digital media artist Andrea Polli. This work was first publicly projected in 2010 and has been shown in a variety of places, including Philadelphia in 2013.

Particle Falls projects a visualization of air pollution data of the surrounding area and projects this as a waterfall. When the waterfall is calm, the air pollution is low. When pollution is high, the waterfall resembles an agitated boiling sludge seeping down the side of the building. Anyone walking on the city streets can encounter this visualization and be directly affected since it displays real-time data that can be seen and acted on.

Particle Falls projected in Philadelphia.

Getting to systemic change

These public works are successful in their capacity to make catastrophic situations, which are invisible to most people, visible. They may even activate some small behaviour changes.

Are such creations successful in empowering systemic change? Combining real-time data with visceral experiences in public spaces is a first step. Perhaps the ability to also deeply engage civic society in these public works may enable the necessary transformational changes.

Eco-art and design projects in public spaces are about offering powerful experiences to passersby and where they become witnesses to a devastating world situation. Through these experiences, people move a step closer to situations they may otherwise not have been able to imagine. And, having imagined these situations, people may then perhaps be motivated to solve them.

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Enter the Chanel Labyrinth at Art Basel – HarpersBAZAAR.com

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Chanel is on a tour celebrating 100 years of its iconic fragrance, Chanel N°5, and it’s latest stop was a jaw-dropping art installation at Art Basel Miami by artist Es Devlin. Entitled “Five Echoes,” the multisensory experience includes lights, a sculptural labyrinth, and more than 1,000 shrubs and trees that will be donated to Miami-Dade County for replanting after the exhibition closes to the public on December 21. The space also lent itself to a Chanel-worthy fete on Friday night set under the South Florida stars in Miami Design District’s Jungle Plaza. Pharrell Williams, the members of Haim, Gossip Girl reboot star Whitney Peak, Joe Jonas, Latin singing superstar Rosalía (who performed at the event as well), and many more were in attendance.

The French house has a long history of supporting young talent in film, music, and the arts. Alisha Boe is one young actress who has been anointed by Chanel—most recently having been invited to participate in its seventh annual Through Her Lens series for the Tribeca Film Festival, for which she created a short detailing her process as an actor. While outfitted for the night in a Chanel-logo sarong and black bouclé jacket, Boe says she wasn’t always so into fashion. “When I was 12, I shopped at Hot Topic,” she tells BAZAAR.com. To be fair, we note she is still rocking fishnet stockings for the evening. She laughs and says, “I’ve become way more appreciative of the art form that’s in it. I didn’t grow up looking at the runways, but that’s been a more recent development.”

Boe is most famous for her role in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, a project she began at age 19 (she is now 24) that catapulted her into a level of fame that can only exist at the unique intersection of streaming websites, Gen Z, and social media. She has amassed 3.8 million Instagram followers to date. “Being that young and not used to social media as a business tool, but just literally for social media to speak with your friends—that was the most overwhelming part,” Boe says of her fast ascent. “And also just being so green to the industry. But I got to connect with a bunch of people who connected with me or the show. It was a strange couple of years for sure. But it was fun … fun and overwhelming.”

After two seasons of the dark high school series, Boe has more big projects listed on her IMDb page coming, including a drama with Julianne Moore and an ensemble comedy currently entitled Strangers, in which she costars with some of the other rising brightest stars of her generation: Camila Mendes, Sophie Turner, and Maya Hawke. When asked whose career she finds personally inspiring, Boe points to some of these very women. “Honestly, I just like to keep up with my peers and what everyone’s doing,” she says. “Nowadays, people are creating their own work as well, and it’s so fun to be part of their process and finding inspiration from that—that you can have creative control over yourself and what you want to do. My friends are actually a big source of inspiration.”

The Norway-born actress holds onto a grounded feeling by surrounding herself with authentic friendships. Skye Bennike, whom she initially met when both modeled for Limited Too at age 11, accompanied her on her Miami trip. The two giggle about Danish food and chat about meditation with the ease of college roommates on our ride from the Faena Hotel to the Design District. “Honestly, it’s who you surround yourself with, and I’m such a strong believer in relying on your support system,” Boe shares. “I’m really lucky to have built such a strong one.” And Chanel is on that short list of true advocates. “They’ve just been so supportive … of me and my career over the years. I’m just really grateful for it, because they always take good care of me, and obviously, I’m a huge fan of Chanel. So it’s just a dream,” she says as she steps out of the black SUV and into an evening in celebration of the French house. True friendship goes both ways, after all.

Alisha Boe getting hair and makeup.

Boe in a Chanel sarong and jacket.

Alisha Boe and Skye Bennike.

Boe en route to the event.

Es Devlin and Pharrell Williams.

Kailand Morris.

Destiny Joseph.

Lucien Smith and a guest.

Jessica Clements.

Attendees in Chanel.

Whitney Peak.

Herizen Guardiola in Chanel.

Karlie Kloss and Venus Williams.

Joe Jonas in Chanel.

Rosalía performs.

Alisha Boe and Skye Bennike watch the performance.

Alana, Danielle, and Este Haim.

BAZAAR editors Kerry Pieri and Amanda Alagem.

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Trends at Art Basel Miami Beach That Could Spill Into Next Year – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — There are three primary ways galleries source work for an art fair booth.

The first is to get it from an artist the gallery represents. The second is to draw on the gallery’s own inventory. The third is via consignment, which is when the owner of an artwork gives it to a dealer, who then takes a commission from the sales price.

Like nearly every art fair before it, the galleries exhibiting at Art Basel Miami Beach brought work acquired through a combination of all three channels, meaning that the art on view wasn’t just what was available, it was what insiders thought the market wanted most.  

And so, despite the fact that 253 galleries together had thousands of artworks worth many millions of dollars to sell, there were some clear indications of the current state of the contemporary art market—as much for what was not on offer as for what was.  

Maybe a Picture Doesn’t Last Longer

Contemporary photography has traditionally been an entry point for nascent collectors, both because of its accessibility and a price point that is often lower than painting and sculpture. This year, there wasn’t a lot for the fair’s 60,000 attendees to choose from.

“I even had a client who mentioned that,” says the adviser Heather Flow. “They said, ‘When we first started collecting, we bought so much photography, and there’s not much here this year.’”

Maybe it was just a question of shifting tastes. Possibly it had something to do with filling the wall space of collectors’ fourth or fifth houses. Perhaps it was because everyone, stuck on computers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, craved something with texture. 

“We’ve all been living in a flatscreen world,” says Flow. “The flat, compressed image—which is the way photography can sometimes feel like—maybe it’s too reminiscent of having everything on the screen.”

The fitful markets of the medium’s biggest stars certainly aren’t helping.

In recent years, Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky, and Jeff Wall have seen their markets sink at auction, both in price and volume; their diminished market power could have a dampening effect on that of other contemporary photographers. 

The flip side could also be true: Dealers, flush from a year of sold-out shows and record demand, seemed to bring a much higher caliber tranche of material than in years past, leaving lower-priced art at home.  

“Underlying the entire fair was this idea that no one knows what 2022 is going to be like,” Flow says. “I think people were bringing whatever they knew they could sell and whatever they could sell for high numbers. Because if they have the cash now, they can plan for 2022.”

No Screens

For all the talk of NFTs breaking into fine art, there was barely any digital art in the fair itself.

That could be because NFT projects elsewhere were sucking the air from the room, and dealers didn’t want to compete; last week in Miami there were literally hundreds of NFT-related events, including NFT conferences, NFT panel discussions, NFT sales, NFT boat parties, and, of course, NFT exhibitions.

Or it could be that the confusion around NFTs—not to mention much of the art world’s distaste for the field—caused traditional galleries to steer clear of anything that even hinted of an association with the trend.

The only notable exception was at Pace Gallery, which offered an NFT by the Drift artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta; it sold for $500,000 (plus a $50,000 donation added by the purchaser) on the second day of the fair.

Everywhere else, very few screens could be found. Digital art as a medium “has been particularly obsolete, except for in the NFT realm,” says the adviser Lisa Schiff. “It’s been on the downside for a while.”

A Market in Transition

So what was selling?

As in the past five years, at least, figurative painting of non-White people by non-White artists continues to do well.

The November auctions in New York that preceded the fair saw spectacular results for work in the category—a 2019 painting by Amoako Boafo sold for $441,000 at Sotheby’s over a high estimate of $150,000, for instance, and a 2012 painting by Amy Sherald sold for $3.9 million over a high estimate of $1.8 million at Phillips. 

Often, an artist’s auction success in November translates to a profusion of their work in Basel in December.  “Sometimes, you go down and you can see all the things that recently sold at auction,” says Flow. This year, “it didn’t feel like that,” she says.

Indeed, a careful look at the booths in Miami revealed a transition away from figuration altogether. “You can see the beginning of the end of painterly, figurative paintings,” says Schiff. 

Momentum ranged from the very high end, such as a 1953 abstract painting by Ad Reinhardt that sold for more than $7 million at David Zwirner, to more affordable price points, including a ceramic sculpture by Masaomi Yasunaga at Lisson Gallery that sold for $10,000.

“Seeing what was brought, it’s more conceptual and abstracted. Instead of art thinking in the now, it’s thinking in the future,” Flow says.

She cites McArthur Binion, whose complex abstract work was featured in Lehmann Maupin and Gray galleries’ booths; Fred Eversley, a former engineer whose colorful, cast-polyester sculptures were in the booths of David Kordansky and Nicola Vassell; and Tetsumi Kudo, the late Japanese artist whose challenging, detailed sculptures were on view at Galerie Christophe Gaillard. 

This isn’t to say that we’ve returned to the era of ungainly Kunsthalle-specific installations, “but we’re starting to shift back to other things,” Schiff says. “It’s still beautiful art, but it’s more conceptual.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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This AI art app is a glimpse at the future of synthetic media – The Verge

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If you’ve been hanging out on Twitter lately, then you’ve probably noticed a profusion of AI-generated images sprouting all over your timeline like weird, algorithmic visions. These pictures have been generated using a new app called Dream, which lets anyone create “AI-powered paintings” by simply typing a brief description of what they want to see. It’s odd, often uncanny stuff — and extremely fun.

The resulting artwork has its own particular aesthetic, defined by swirling shapes and incoherent objects. The real magic, though, is that no matter what you type, the app will generate something that is visually compelling (at least until we get too used to these toys) and that matches your prompt in often surprisingly apposite ways.

Consider, for example, the image below: “Galactic Archaeology With Metal-Poor Stars.” Not only has the app created a picture that captures the mind-boggling galactic scale of a nebula, but the star-like highlights dotted around the space are mostly blue — a tint that is scientifically accurate for metal-poor stars (as metallicity affects their color).

A few quick searches on Twitter reveal plenty more examples, but really, you should have a play with the app yourself to understand it better. (If nothing else, the images it generates are exactly the right size to create a personalized wallpaper for your phone.)

This sort of AI-generated artwork is not new, but it is becoming higher quality and more accessible. Past examples of these sorts of text-to-image models have included research-orientated programs like DALL-E and VQGAN+CLIP, as well as more specialized commercial projects like Artbreeder (which is particularly good at creating portraits of fictional beings and people). With tools such as these, the AI art scene has exploded in recent years, with practitioners creating everything from lifelike Roman emperors to infinite waifus.

The Dream app takes things a step further with its speed, quality, and accessibility. It’s available on iOS, Android, and the web and is the work of a Canadian startup named Wombo. The company previously made that AI-powered app that lets you feed in static images to create lip-synced renditions of memeable songs. What exactly powers Dream isn’t clear (we’ve contacted Wombo to find out), but a lot of AI art tech is open-source, which means the firm has likely built on past work to create the app.

Generally, programs like these are trained on vision datasets — huge libraries of images that are tagged based on objects and scenery. The programs pick out consistent patterns and themes in these images and then use this information to try and generate something that matches the users’ prompt. We don’t know what dataset Dream’s algorithms were trained on, but based on its output, it’s safe to say it includes a wide range of imagery — able to generate pictures that correspond to anime characters and video games.

The accessibility of Dream means it’s being put to novel uses, too. It’s been used for viral games (like inputting your PhD thesis title and sharing the result) and for more directed projects as well. In one amazing Twitter thread, the writer and illustrator Ursula Vernon (who publishes under the name T. Kingfisher) shared a short comic they’d made using Dream. The comic’s characters are drawn by hand, but the backgrounds are AI-generated, with the surreal, shifting quality of the images explained as a result of the setting: a dream library overseen by the Egyptian god of writing, Thoth.

Vernon tweeted about her experience, noting that she had to do a not-insignificant amount of work to prepare the images and that the inability of the program to create scenery from within a space with consistent architecture created its own challenges.

“In Conclusion—does it work visually? I think the answer is ‘sort of,’” tweeted Vernon. “I’m very aware of the weirdnesses as an artist, obviously. As a dream sequence, the messed up architecture kinda works, but how long can you get away with it? Sooner or later, the reader is probably gonna notice that nothing takes place in the same scene from a different angle.”

Despite its obvious limitations, Dream shows us a glimpse of the future of synthetic or AI-generated media. For evangelists in this space, the promise of the technology is one of infinite variety. In the future, they say, games, comics, films, and books will all be generated on the fly in response to our every prompt and whim. And although we’re a long, long way from such media matching the quality of human output, limited, hybrid applications will be coming sooner than you think — appearing like something first glimpsed in a dream.

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