Call for Papers: Artistic Ways of Understanding and Interacting with Nature

RHN 20/2014 | Call

European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment.

Special focus: Autumn 2015, Artistic Ways of Understanding and Interacting with Nature

Guest Editor: José Parreño, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain

Deadline: 15 September 2014

Artistic Ways of Understanding and Interacting with Nature

Could art help create a more ecological society? In the 1960s Land Art suggested a new relationship with nature. Artists left the art gallery and museums to produce their work in nature itself, many times in remote places such as deserts, mountains or even at the poles of the Earth. In doing so, artistic production went as far as to organize the landscape, rather than represent it, as had been the tradition. In doing so, artists had to deal with the natural elements such as land, water, earth, air, and, more importantly, the way they interacted with each other. As a result, art has contributed to an increased awareness of Earth dynamics and its complexity. Nowadays, art with an ecological purpose, whether attempting to preserve resources or to rehabilitate degraded landscapes, works together with other agents in the improvement of the environment.  Well known examples are the rehabilitation of a lake such as that of Leonhardt Lagoon by Patricia Johanson, the study of a river system such as “The Lagoon Cycle” by The Harrison, the recreation of a prehistoric landscape such as “Time Landscape” by Alan Sonfist, the collective plantation such as “7000 Eichen” by Beuys or the evocation of season cycles with leaves by Goldsworthy.  Other arts try to emulate nature or include nature in the “text” such as the Elm dance, Rautavaara’s inclusion of migratory bird song in his “Cantus Arcticus” or Hovhaness’ use of whale sounds in his compositions.

Thus, more and more artistic projects are directly involved with nature. Many are designed together with the environmental sciences in order to restore a specific area or to deal with a specific problem arising from the way the human species has exploited resources. Yet some projects have produced critical debate: can the act of moving tons of earth and stones, such as in Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” be considered ecological, simply because the intervention is done in nature? In this issue we are calling for papers which deal with the work of those artists who are working directly in nature, contributing to increase environmental consciousness in different ways: either by working along with the environmental sciences; proposing a new concept of beauty as the result of joining aesthetics, knowledge and ethics; contributing to spread a holistic sense of nature by revealing nature´s complex dynamics; or by helping to develop a positive affect for nature: that is to say, generating an emotional link with nature. By art we refer to any of the fine arts: sculpture, painting, dance, music, land art and so forth.

Topics could include some of the following, but are not limited to:

  • An analysis of artistic projects that contribute to the preservation of the environment, such as Seed Banks, etc.
  • An analysis of artistic projects that attempt to reclaim or restore degraded landscapes.
  • An analysis of artistic projects that attempt to raise consciousness of environmental degradation or create empathy.
  • An analysis of artistic projects that highlight the interaction and transcendence of seldom perceived dynamical forces.
  • An analysis of artistic projects that stimulate the participation of different social groups in joint actions to restore a  given landscape.
  • Are works of art which use exclusively natural materials or do not alter the landscape necessarily ecological?
  • What criteria would define ecological art? The types of material,  permanence, meaning?
  • Critical debates on the environmental consequences of art works carried out in nature.
  • Reflections on the need for a change in global consciousness with an new artistic sensibility toward nature.
  • Reflections on the need for a new aesthetics and concept of beauty based on ecological values.

Please direct questions to José M. Parreño ( Authors can submit an abstract proposal through email to José M. Parreño by Sept. 15, 2014. However, completed manuscripts (6,000-8,000 words) have to be submitted via the journal platform no later than January 15, 2015. Authors must request permission for any images used and images should be integrated in the text, if possible. Authors must comply with the guidelines indicated on the platform, including title, abstracts and keywords (in the language of the article, English and Spanish), instructions on images and MLA style citations. Articles will be accepted in English, Spanish and French.