Amy M Lambert
Examines topics in Environmental Studies. Includes social, political, historical, cultural, artistic, economic, or scientific explorations of environmental issues.
AUT 2013 BREAKING THE ICE: ART AND CLIMATE CHANGE ECOLOGY
What do art and climate change ecology have in common? Both disciplines are models for thinking about visually documenting knowledge (specifically close observation of Polar landscapes and glaciation). The primary objective in this course is to investigate the concept of visual documentation as it relates to alpine and polar environments from the perspectives of visual art and climate change ecology. Glaciers account for a major portion of the earth's fresh water. The Polar landscape and alpine environments are also inspiration for artists. Historical and contemporary artworks provide insights into the relationships of humans to these environments. Currently, retreating glaciers and declining snow pack caused by global warming is a major environmental crisis documented by scientific research. But what about art? How are artists reframing the discussion to include socio-ecological relationships informed by aesthetics, direct engagement, resilience and stewardship?
Other questions that will be addressed include: What are the advantages and disadvantages of visual documentation in art and climate change ecology? How have alpine and polar environments been historically represented? How are historical and contemporary images of alpine and polar environments used in understanding effects of mean climate change and climate extremes? How does visual data of glacier retreat inform restoration planning and design?
Students will use visual art methods including digital photography to investigate these questions. Concepts will be discussed from both a human and ecological perspective to better understand how Polar landscapes and glaciated mountains have informed human identity and how humans have transformed these same landscapes. For example, Barbara Matilsky, Curator of Art at the Whatcom Museum describes Polar ice and glaciated mountains as "...metaphors for both the control of nature and correspondingly lack of control, freedom, nationalism, and more recently climate change."
This course is designed for students interested in authentic interdisciplinary study. Students interested in either (or both) arts and sciences are encouraged to register. Interactive lectures will cover concepts in climate change ecology and aesthetics and will help to develop a basic scientific and visual arts vocabulary. Ultimately, students will participate in bridging the gap between scientific and artistic epistemologies and thus transcend conventional representations of climate change. In contributing to the mitigation of climate change impacts, students will participate in a field-based eco-art project that will culminate in the creation of a large format photo documenting the intersection of art and climate change ecology.
*Two field trips (outside of class time) are required. Field trip to Skykomish River basin [organization and restoration: North Cascade Glacier Climate Project] will provide opportunities to experience environments impacted by retreating glaciers and declining snow pack and to apply the concepts/skills learned in class. A second field trip to Whatcom Museum in Bellingham [exhibit: Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art 1775-2012] will provide students with an opportunity to experience the artwork of artists covered in class including fifty internationally recognized historical and contemporary artists.
This course fulfills course requirements towards Environmental Studies and Environmental Science major (distribution requirements for Society & Environment) as well as other areas of study including credits for Culture, Literature and Arts (CLA), Global Studies (GST), Interdisciplinary Arts (IA), Society, Ethics and Human Behavior (SEB), Science, Technology and Society (STS) and Media and Communication Studies (MCS). It also fulfills requirements for Visual Literary and Performing Arts (VLPA) and The Natural World (NW) credits.
Student learning goals
Develop language and writing skills to effectively communicate about contemporary art and climate change
Examine the links between the art-making process and the study of climate change; develop multiple tools to visually communicate using formal art concepts
Explore different approaches to contemporary art that incorporate the natural environment (i.e., landscape-based art, environmental art, earthworks and ecological art)
Engage in a hands-on collaborative field-based projects
General method of instruction
Course material will be presented through interactive lectures, discussions, readings and field based activities. Generally, we will read from an art text (Vanishing Ice exhibition catalogue) and climate change publication each week to develop questions that synthesize and bridge concepts of art and climate change ecology. The art text focuses on historical and contemporary environmental artists. The climate change readings with focus on ecological impacts, as well as ethical and philosophical ideas of climate change with a special focus on concepts related to aesthetics, resilience and stewardship. Writing assignments (Question development) will be used to bridge ideas of art and climate change as well as provide a framework for group discussion. Weekly art projects will be assigned based on concepts presented in the readings. Art instruction will be provided in-class prior to art assignments and will focus on basic art strategies.
Students should have a strong interest in learning about contemporary art and climate change ecology. Students will be better prepared if they have taken a course in environmental science, plant identification, art techniques or art history. However, there are no prerequisites for the course, and students should not be discouraged from participating if they lack these courses.
Class assignments and grading
Writing assignments include the development of question sets that incorporate and synthesize concepts from both readings about art and climate change. Art assignments may include the creation of artworks made from modeling clay, mark-making tools and text.
Writing assignments will be evaluated on thoughtful construction of ideas, clear and logical paragraph development, proper usage of terminology and use of supporting material. Art assignments will be evaluated on your willingness to take risks in exploring ideas (conceptual and intellectual pursuit), development of ideas and progress of work (artistic process), appropriate use of tools (craftsmanship) and presentation (ambition and investment).