Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Art and Ecology by Bill Gilbert

Hercules at Calperum Station by Bill Gilbert from the Terrestrial/Celestial Navigation series

One of the things I love the most about doing the Earth Chronicles Project is having the opportunity to meet and interview such an interesting and diverse group of people and groups. It was so stimulating talking to Bill Gilbert about the fortuitous circumstances that led to him starting the Land Arts Program at University of New Mexico which has grown to the umbrella of the Art and Ecology program.
You can go to the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe and see an impressive exhibition of student work from the Land Arts program. http://www.ccasantafe.org/exhibitions/390-connecting-liminal-nowhere-land-arts-of-the-american-west-2012

The Land Arts program came about as the brainchild of Bill Gilbert. Bill was talking to his friend Douglas Humble about his desire to combine indigenous ceramic and earthworks in a place based Land Arts Course that led to his being introduced by Doug to Patrick Lannan. And lo and behold the Lannan Foundation was excited about Bill's idea and that is how the Land Arts program at UNM got its start. The program still receives funding from the prestigious Lannan Foundation and Bill is the Lannan Endowed Chair of the department. http://www.lannan.org/

The Land Arts program started out studying the now famous Land Arts movement in the wide open spaces of the west. Now they are involved in a variety of very interactive field projects including going to the rural, impoverished community of Buena Vista in El Paso, Texas just across the border from Mexico and helping them with various projects to help empower and uplift the community. 

It was also fascinating seeing Bill's work and hearing about the thought processes that go into it. I was particularly drawn to his Terrestrial/Celestial Navigations series. I am going to give you Bill's words in explaining this series:

Terrestrial/Celestial Navigations, 2011

Part of my ongoing experiment in constructing a portrait of place by walking the surface of the planet, terrestrial/celestial navigations honors the relationship desert peoples have with the sky by weaving together heaven and earth. Each walk inscribes the land with the patterns of stars earlier cultures created to project their world into the night sky. In this series, I employ pedestrian and satellite technologies using google earth to establish GPS points for each star and my body to then inscribe constellations by walking them onto 
the ground.

Lepus in New South Wales by Bill Gilbert from the Terrestrial/ Celestial Navigation series

These pieces are not only visually beautiful but several of them have QR codes so if you have a smart phone you can walk these lonely expanses with Bill. You even get to hear his encounter with an Emu which is the largest bird native to Australia. I also love the images of native plants that Bill encountered and integrated in 'Hercules'. One gets the opportunity to taste the experience of walking with Bill through these majestic otherworldy landscapes.

Scorpio in the San Rafael Swell by Bill Gilbert from the Terrestrial/Celestial Navigation series

Here are a series of production stills from our time shooting in Bill's studio;
Bob putting a mic on Bill for his interview

Bob setting up for dolly shots of the interview

Setting up to shoot Bill talking about his series called "For John Wesley Powell: attempts to walk the grid 2005-2007". One of Bill's pieces in this series will be in our exhibition at New Mexico Highlands University as well as "Hercules" and "Lepus" from January 14- February 14, 2013. Bill's work will also be in our exhibition at Santa Fe Art Institute for the month of April 2013.

Bob shooting Bill at work in his studio

Bob and Bill on the expansive landscape surrounding Bill's studio and home

To see more about Bill's work:

More about the Land Arts program:

More about the Art and Ecology program:

Land Arts of the American West is a studio-based field program[News 1] that seeks to construct an expanded definition of land art through direct experience connecting the full range of human interventions in the landscape—from pre-contact indigenous to contemporary practice. Land art includes everything from constructing a road, to taking a walk, building a monument, and leaving a mark in the sand. The program seeks to expand upon connections between typically separate fields. Each fall we spend two months camping while traveling 7,000 miles to engage sites that range from the CLUI complex at Wendover, Utah to the pottery culture at Mata Ortiz, Mexico, from earth works like Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty to archeological sites like Chaco Canyon. We learn from the fact that Donald Juddsurrounded himself with both contemporary sculpture and Navajo rugs; that Chaco Canyon and Roden Crater function as celestial instruments; and that the Very Large Array is a scientific research center with a powerful aesthetic presence on the land. We spend the semester living and working in the landscape with guest scholars that expand the range of our definition in disciplines including archeology, art history, architecture, ceramics, criticism, writing, design, and studio art. The immersive nature of how we experience the landscape triggers an amalgamated body of inquiry where students have the opportunity of time and space to develop authority in their work through direct action and reflection. Land Arts hinges on the primacy of first person experience and the realization that human-land relationships are rarely singular.
Land Arts of the American West started at the University of New Mexico by artist Bill Gilbert in 2000 and developed as a collaboration between Gilbert and architect Chris Taylor since 2001. From 2002-2008 Land Arts was co-sponsored by the University of New Mexico and the University of Texas at Austin where Taylor taught in the interdisciplinary design program of the Department of Art and Art History. In 2007 Taylor was invited by Incubo to bring together a group of students and professionals from Chile and the United States for a symposium in Santiago and a Land Arts exploration of the Atacama Desert. In 2008 Taylor began teaching in the College of Architecture at Texas Tech University where Land Arts continues to develop in addition to the programming at the University of New Mexico. The program now operates autonomously from both institutions. Operational funding for Land Arts of the American West is provided in part by Lannan Foundation and Andrea Nasher.
The book Land Arts of the American West documents the history and development of the program was published by the University of Texas Press in April 2009.

Lannan Foundation is a family foundation dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity through projects which support exceptional contemporary artists and writers, as well as inspired Native activists in rural indigenous communities.
The Foundation recognizes the profound and often unquantifiable value of the creative process and is willing to take risks and make substantial investments in ambitious and experimental thinking. Understanding that globalization threatens all cultures and ecosystems, the Foundation is particularly interested in projects that encourage freedom of inquiry, imagination, and expression.
The Foundation supports this mission by making grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of contemporary visual art,literatureindigenous communities, and cultural freedom.
The Foundation also gives awards and fellowships to writers of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction and in the area of cultural freedom. Awards recognize individuals for extraordinary work in their fields. Fellowships provide time and support to continue with or to complete specific projects and also recognize those who show potential for future outstanding work.

Land artEarthworks (coined by Robert Smithson), or Earth art is an art movement in which landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked. It is also an art form that is created in nature, using natural materials such as soilrock (bed rock, boulders, stones), organic media (logs, branches, leaves), and water with introduced materials such as concretemetalasphalt, or mineralpigments. Sculptures are not placed in the landscape, rather, the landscape is the means of their creation. Often earth movingequipment is involved. The works frequently exist in the open, located well away from civilization, left to change and erode under natural conditions. Many of the first works, created in the deserts of Nevada, New Mexico, Utah or Arizona were ephemeral in nature and now only exist as video recordings or photographic documents. They also pioneered a category of art called site-specific sculpture, designed for a particular outdoor location.

The Emu (play /ˈmjuː/ or /ˈm/;[5] Dromaius novaehollandiae) is the largest bird native to Australia and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. It is the second-largest extant bird in the world by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. There are three subspecies of Emus in Australia. The Emu is common over most of mainland Australia, although it avoids heavily populated areas, dense forest, and arid areas.[6]
The soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds reach up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) in height. They have long thin necks and legs. Emus can travel great distances at a fast, economical trot and, if necessary, can sprint at 70 km/h (43 mph) for some distance at a time.[7] Their long legs allow them to take strides of up to 275 centimetres (9.02 ft)[6] They are opportunistically nomadic and may travel long distances to find food; they feed on a variety of plants and insects, but have been known to go for weeks without food. Emus ingest stones, glass shards and bits of metal to grind food in the digestive system. They drink infrequently, but take in copious fluids when the opportunity arises. Emus will sit in water and are also able to swim. They are curious birds who are known to follow and watch other animals and humans. Emus do not sleep continuously at night but in several short stints sitting down.
Emus use their strongly clawed feet as a defence mechanism. Their legs are among the strongest of any animal, allowing them to rip metal wire fences. They are endowed with good eyesight and hearing, which allows them to detect predators in the vicinity. The plumage varies regionally, matching the surrounding environment and improving its camouflage. The feather structure prevents heat from flowing into the skin, permitting Emus to be active during the midday heat. They can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and thermoregulate effectively. Males and females are hard to distinguish visually, but can be differentiated by the types of loud sounds they emit by manipulating an inflatable neck sac. Emus breed in May and June and are not monogamous; fighting among females for a mate is common. Females can mate several times and lay several batches of eggs in one season. The animals put on weight before the breeding season, and the male does most of the incubation, losing significant weight during this time as he does not eat. The eggs hatch after around eight weeks, and the young are nurtured by their fathers. They reach full size after around six months, but can remain with their family until the next breeding season half a year later. Emus can live between 10 and 20 years in the wild and are predated by dingos, eagles and hawks. They can jump and kick to avoid dingos, but against eagles and hawks, they can only run and swerve.
Native plant is a term to describe plants endemic (indigenous) or naturalized to a given area in geologic time.
This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area (e.g. treesflowersgrasses, and other plants). In North America a plant is often deemed native if it was present before colonization.
Some native plants have adapted to very limited, unusual environments or very harsh climates or exceptional soil conditions. Although some types of plants for these reasons exist only within a very limited range (endemism), others can live in diverse areas or by adaptation to different surroundings.
Research has found that insects depend on native plants.
An ecosystem consists of interactions of plants, animals, and microorganisms with their physical (e.g., soil conditions and processes) and climatic conditions.
Native plants form a part of a cooperative environment, or plant community, where several species or environments have developed to support them. This could be a case where a plant exists because a certain animal pollinates the plant and that animal exists because it relies on the pollen as a source of food. Some native plants rely on natural conditions, such as occasional wildfires, to release their seedsor to provide a fertile environment where their seedlings can become established.

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