Earth Art to Eco Art Conference

The Society for the Humanities and the Department of Art announce “Earth Art to Eco Art”, an art and theory workshop celebrating the 40th anniversary of the internationally acclaimed Earth Art Exhibition that took place around the campus and the A. D. White House when it served as home to the A. D. White Museum of Art. Open to the public, the October 17-18 event at the A.D. White House, celebrates the aesthetic and historical significance of the earth art projects installed the A. D. White House and other sites on campus in February 1969. Sponsored by the Society for the Humanities with the cooperation of the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, the Department of Art, the Cornell Council for the Arts, “Earth Art to Eco Art,” is organized by Timothy Murray, director of the Society for the Humanities, and Patricia Phillips, chair of the Department of Art.

In February, 1969, the Museum’s director, Thomas Leavitt, worked with the exhibition curator, Willoughby Sharp and artists Jan Dibbetts, Hans Haacke, Michael Heizer (who withdrew from the exhibition), Neil Jenney, Richard Long, David Medalla, Robert Morris, Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, Gunther Uecker to install earth art works throughout the Cornell campus, from excavations in the A. D. White Garden and salt sculptures inside the Museum to an ice sculpture cut into the ice of Beebe Lake. In addition to reflecting on the historical importance of these artworks by artists who developed into conceptual leaders in international contemporary art (Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, Hans Haacke, Richard Long, and Robert Morris), the workshop dwells on the social and political extension of this work in recent digital and sculptural interventions in land and ecological art.

Events on Friday, October 17 begin at 1:30 p.m. with remarks from Willoughby Sharp, the screening of installation footage of the Earth Art artists’ projects in 1969 by current Cornell faculty member, Marilyn Rivchin, and presentations on the art historical significance of the exhibition, as well an invitation by Cornell art professor, Renate Ferro, to participate in an ongoing collective event that will develop throughout the workshop. The plenary lecture will be delivered by earth artist, Dennis Oppenheim, in A.D. White House, at 4:30 p.m. Oppenhiem was recently recognized for Lifetime Achievement at the 2007 Vancouver Sculpture Biennale. In the late 1960s, he created projects which embraced Earth and Body Art, Video and Performance Art. In a series of works produced between 1970-74, Oppenheim used his own body as a site to challenge the self and to explore the boundaries of personal risk, transformation, and communication. In 1981, he began to create machine pieces, and since the mid-1980s, his sculpture has been based on the transformation of everyday objects. Since the mid-1990s, his work has become larger in scale and permanent, fusing sculpture and architecture. Beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, events at the A. D. White House focus on contemporary experiments in digital and installation ecological art. Featuring lectures by Phillips, Verena Andermatt Conley of Harvard University, the Society for the Humanities Senior Scholar in Residence, and Patricia Zimmermann, co-director of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, the day also includes presentations by artists Daniel Warner, Stacy Levy, Brandon Ballangee, Cary Peppermint, and Christine Nadirs who work in water installation, ecological activism, sound art, and interactive eco-art.

Timothy Murray, director of the Society for the Humanities, notes “the happy confluence of year's annual research theme at the Society for the Humanities, "Water: A Critical Concept for the Humanities," with the 40th anniversary of the infamous Cornell exhibition, Earth Art. Given the added commitment of the Rose Goldsen Archive, Patricia Phillips and I are delighted to stage a workshop for critical dialogue on the historically aesthetic concerns of "Earth Art" and the more pressing critical-aesthetic imperatives of "Eco Art”.”

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