SUSTAINABILITY AND ART
Sustainability and Art
Article by Jens Bugay-Hougaard
There are several aspects of sustainability in art practice: sustainability as a theme - creating art in a sustainable way, but it also forefronts the various ways of engaging the audience in thinking, learning, and feeling in regard to sustainability. Hence, as an artist, I use methods and strategies to invite the audience to investigate materials in new ways that elicit new perspectives and provoke an emotional response.
Using the strategy of reversal in one concept I have been participating in, I was part of creating a performance with a deliberate and provocative wasteful use of plastic, creating plastic waste just to produce the sound of breaking plastic. The sound has its own aspects: as a method of investigation of materiality and the usage of the sound to create a musical performance with the material. The destruction of the material was yet another aspect, and in this context the most important. It was used to provoke and hopefully inspire the audience to think about the sustainability of, in this case, a relatively ordinary and enjoyable musical experience.
It all comes down to our relationship with the material and how a resource transform into waste. Normally, most people do not consider this as the materials are ubiquitous; thus, their usage and waste are being taken for granted and of little consequence.
This new understanding of materials and materiality also has the potential to make people consider replacing problematic materials with sustainable materials, that may be very unlike the materials they replace.
To give an example: over the course of the last year, I have learned that giving second-hand clothing to developing countries create significant pollution as well as negatively impact the local economy in the receiving countries. This is clearly unsustainable and thankfully there are people in the clothing - and fashion industry working on replacing present environmentally unfriendly garments with sustainable organic materials such as fabric made from mushrooms.
Other important aspects are the staging and presentation of sustainability issues, as well as the participation of the audience in art.
Using a strategy of co-participation to facilitate the possibility of emergence of new understandings of materials, a new relationship with materials can be created, transforming the seemingly trivial materials we surround ourselves with, into the crux of understanding the possibility and the need to be sustainable.
Considering sustainability in art practise presents challenges but also a plethora of new possibilities of creative pursuits, and finally, it has the potential to make art more relatable and meaningful to a wider audience, instead of being art for art’s sake alone.