In “Art and Ecology Now” by Andrew Brown, Brown illustrates the multitudes of ways artists can assist in combating the ecological crisis. He argues that artists can accomplish things that scientists cannot, through vectors including taking larger risks and engaging local communities, and because of this, the solution to the ecological crisis is an interdisciplinary one.
A topic that holds significance in this paper is the comparison between ancient and contemporary environmental art. The first cave drawings created by our ancestors were attempts to symbolize and understand the natural world and understand the place of homosapiens within it. Art was created from elements of the natural world, such as charcoal, and depicted scenes of nature and human interactions within it. Along with this, “The paintings were a way of both celebrating and taming powers that were beyond their [our ancestors’] control in reality; they were also an attempt to make sense of natural forces that exceeded their limited comprehension” (Brown 9). Art was a map in which ancient humans used to traverse their surroundings. It turned something complicated and frightening, whether that was an animal or a thunderstorm, and simplified it and made it less foreign.
Today, artists still use art to help themselves or others comprehend concepts, such as the ecological crisis. Brown discusses how “there has been a growing tendency in contemporary art to consider the natural world not only as a source of inspiration or subject to represent but also as a realm to influence directly – a sphere of action to transform and improve through creative means” (Brown 6). This, of course, is pointing to the fact that while environmental artists may not be directly impacting the environment themselves, but are urging society and the government to take action against climate change. Part of the work of environmental artists seems to include helping others in society understand the world in which we live. News reports and scientific studies on climate change can be overwhelming, emotionless, and can include incorrect information. Art, however, can make someone feel something, and inflict emotions that other disciplines cannot. It can help individuals realize the beauty of the planet again, and instill a desire to save the climate within them. In this way, I believe there are similarities between ancient environmental art and current, in that it encourages people to see the world through new eyes.
Brown, A. (2014). Art & Ecology Now. Thames & Hudson.