Tim Collins: Eco Art Activism


I found today’s lecture by the new head of post-graduate studies at Glasgow School of Art, Tim Collins, inspiring and astounding. Tim, in collaboration with his wife, Reiko Goto, forges a discourse between art and nature. His projects, ‘Nine Mile Run’ and ‘3 Rivers 2nd Nature’, both of which intervened with large-scale environmental concerns in Pittsburgh, create a challenging dichotomy between industry and environment.

I was impressed by both the actual size and colossal intention of his practice. His intention of averting and correcting environmental disharmonies, authored projects that were not ‘didactic or preaching’, but were instead genuine reactions to legitimate concerns. To the extent that the viewers, and indeed, some of the team of participants, had difficulty in identifying where the art actually was.

On reflecting upon Tim’s lecture, I have found that my notion of Land Art, Eco Art and art in activism or ecology has been radically re-shaped. Tim reminded me that art can play a large part in highlighting and discussing ecological issues. Furthermore, today’s lecture allowed for a revision of art’s role by highlighting the way in which social ecological practices of some artists, play a potentially frivolous role in moulding public opinion.

Instead, artists can take a theoretical and practical approach to human relations and their entire social context. Dubbed by Nicholas Bourriaud as ‘Relational Aesthetics’ in his 1998 book of the same name, artists like Tim can work as facilitators offering viewers an art that is based on exchange of information, rather than a sermon. Bourriaud believes that the artist supplies the viewer with the power and knowledge to change ecologies, as Tim has done with the participants and users of the artworks above. Bourriaud goes on to claim that art could be judged on “the inter-human relationship they produced.”

The new, or the preaching authoritarian model of art is a concern for Tim and Reiko and their art. They demonstrate an understanding of Modernist emancipation as exploitation and subjugation by creating work that is viewed through the lens of new philosophies, emerging ecological concerns and new developing cultures.

Tim Collins is one the artists Bourriaud describes as, “carrying on the fight, by coming up with perceptive, experimental, critical and participatory models, veering in the direction indicated by Enlightenment philosophers, Proudhon, Marx, the Dadaists and Mondrian.”

Further reading:

The sociology of spaces and landscapes

Globalisation and Modernity

Habbermaas:  The structural transformation of the public sphere

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