For the next in this series of interviews of organizers and participants in the SOCiAL: Art + People initiative, I had the privilege of corresponding with many practitioners engaged deeply in the relationship of art, nature, and social justice. The format of the event in La Tierra de la Culebra Park on Thursday October 24th, entitled Can Artists Heal Nature in LA? includes 10 people each speaking briefly for 5 minutes, accompanied by a potluck and generous open discussion. In keeping with this format, I asked the participants to respond to questions in a single sentence (and if possible, a 140 character tweet-size answer). Some participants adhered to this more than others, but all collated succinct and thoughtful responses that give some insight into their work and concerns. Janet Owen Driggs was an instigator and facilitator of this event’s organization, and begins by explaining its underlying impetus and process of organization.
Janet Owen Driggs: The subject is such an enormous one, and one that I am wrestling with a lot at the moment. Not literally, I mean I am under no illusions that ‘art’ can ‘heal’ ‘nature’. But because I believe the question, because it is crass, enables us to access some very important, elusive, other questions. It begins to pry open:
1) Access the ways in which we conceptualize, and (attempt to) experience, the environment as a thing apart from ourselves.
2) Consider ways of constituting “non-humans” as subjects.
3) Think about our practices as beginning to not only imagine and represent difference or change, but to perform it.
It might be useful to know the process by which this was organized. Anne Bray contacted me in June (or thereabouts) to see if I was interested in organizing something about the art/nature intersection for her conversation series, SOCiAL: Art + People. We talked it through a bit and, aware of my own limitations, I reached out to a small group of people whose participation I felt was crucial to avoid a stale, repetitive conversation on the topic.
As a group we identified a number of geographically, culturally, racially, and economically diverse initiatives that are operating at that art/nature intersection. Hoping to bring people together from a variety of these initiatives, we wanted a lot of voices in the conversation. We consequently decided on the 10-person/5-minute structure and started compiling a long list of potential presenters.
Janet Owen Driggs, Olivia Chumacero, and Anne Hars organized the event, with participants and co-organizers including Hadley Arnold, Tricia Ward, Allison Danielle Behrstock, Andy Lipkis, Mark Lakeman, Ron Finley, Eric Knutzen, Jane Tsong, Jenny Price, and Sarah Dougherty. Read the rest of the interview here.