Monday, September 15, 2008

Open Thread: The Effect of Global Warming on Art Making and Collecting

Bambino and I spent the weekend at the beach house of two wonderful collectors and friends of ours (I won't say who, except to hint that the one has a highly regarded blog that was not named for a current exhibition at the Asia Society), and the topic came up of what kind of art it's possible to keep in an environment where metal will rust in a heartbeat and the relentless humidity will warp the most professionally framed art on paper. Indeed, as any conservator will tell you, there are certain climates in which certain types of art would have a very short shelf-life.

With global warming changing climates around the world, though, I began to wonder what impact that might have on the type of art that gets made or bought. Should Manhattan, for example, become as humid as the tropics, who could afford to house photography in an apartment that gets shut down during the summer. You'd need to keep the AC running all summer long whether you were there or not (not an attractive option with energy costs what they are), or move all your art to storage each summer. Would that impact what you decided to buy after a while?

Far beyond climate-controlling one's apartment year round, the drastic weather we're seeing due to global warming is impacting institutions where they're very careful about the environment their treasures are housed in. No matter how sophisticated your HVAC system is, mother nature can still have her say. Tyler Green points to images of the Menil (which seems OK) in Houston (which was devastated by Hurricane Ike). [Please forgive what might seem an inappropriate focus on art when lives and homes were lost, those people are on my mind this morning as well...thankfully the death toll was much lower than it could have been.] Tyler also was my first source of information for how museums dealt with the terribly flooding the heartland saw this past June. Knowing that more extreme weather is probably in our future, will that impact what museums exhibit certain times of year? Will how easy it is to move certain types of artwork quickly determine exhibition schedules or the willingness of other institutions to lend work to institutions for shows during the hurricane season or flooding zones? Museums have to consider such matters when they're first built, of course, but what if they were built for a very different climate than the one evolving around them now?

Many contemporary artists are not particularly daunted when it comes to using materials in their art that later require considerable care to preserve, but what if warming trends made it nearly impossible to even create types of work and get it to the gallery or collector's house before it becomes their responsibility? What if energy costs make having the AC running round the clock in the studio spaces much less viable, but turning it off would impact your ability to complete a piece they way you need to? Even as I write these questions, I imagine they seems somewhat simplistic if not silly, but I'll put them out there anyway in case folks truly are seeing an impact in their art making, curating, or acquiring habits as things heat up. Consider this an open thread on what impact continual global warming may have on the art you make, exhibit, or purchase, if indeed you foresee any.

Image above:
The EDITT (Ecological Design In The Tropics) Tower is a fuzzy combination of organic and inorganic material. Llewelyn Davies Yeang

Labels: , weather


Blogger Mark said...

So, dose MAO have a nice beach house? Nothing will or should last forever-leave no foot print, maybe a digital one. Kind of like rock paper scissor, add mylar and you may have a suitable alternative to canvas and paper.

9/15/2008 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

"Did McCain just make that up?"

9/15/2008 09:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this is an art blog so the subject is often how events effect artists and the business of art, but my first reaction to this post was

"WTF? People are dying in hurricanes and wars, people are losing their homes and jobs and can't afford to send their kids to college, we're in a very close race which might end with a war-crazed hothead and a beauty-queen book-banner bimbo in the White House and we're supposed to worry about rich people who can't afford to keep their Manhattan AC on all summer while they're off at their vacation homes? I repeat, WTF?"

But then I calmed down and accepted that, yes, if these rich people cannot continue to buy my work, for whatever reason, than I'm in trouble. It's trickle-down in action. But really, I think climate change along with the dwindling of natural resources which causes energy costs to rise is going to affect every aspect of life, including the art business. As the world gets harder to live in, we're all getting closer to existing at the survival level where art as a business (meaning making objects to sell, and the selling and buying of those objects) is going to be much less viable and frankly, much less important. Of course it's important to those of us in the business, because if the business goes under, so do we, but on the larger scale, art (again, I mean the business side of it) is just not as important as the struggle to survive. All of us who find (or seek) some kind of spiritual fulfillment or higher, deeper purpose to art will have to find it in the small things we encounter along the way, or things that already exist. We've already begun our descent into a long dark age, on many fronts including economic and environmental, and I don't see it turning around any time soon, if ever.

Have a nice day!

Love, Oriane

9/15/2008 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ps I do have more thoughts on the subject, but I won't be able to participate in the discussion for a while, was just taking a break to vent.

Later, O

9/15/2008 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Regardless of weather or not, we will be moving toward an architecture and an art that can easily be built and debuilt and rebuilt again and again following some schemas. Cedric Price has long predicted this and explained why it would be so and why the world will not be able to afford forever the constant piling up of its own ruins at an expansive rate.


Let's say the new Van Gogh is painting on some sort of "scanning" canvas that records in time every of the artist moves: the brushstrokes, and the choice of colors.

Than, just like a 3D film animation, you have a perfect digital recording of the process, which another "composing-machine" could replicate, gestures by gestures, techniques by techniques, every time it's needed for an exhibit again.

Let say that science can also one day go back to a "real" Van Gogh
and it's now able to scan and analyze which stroke was painted over which and in what order (you can already download or buy a 3D analysis of the Jocunda these days). That would mean that all that would ever be lost whenever an original Van Gogh disappeared would be the aura and history of its material reality, but that a fair simulacra of its "artistry" would be recorded to some degree.

Than you duplicate these towers of digital data of which exist many copies around the world. Not only would any museum be able to present a perfect rendition of a Van Gogh at any time they wish, but so would anyone be able to afford one.

3D animation film of now is the biggest lead of the way the art and architecture of the future will be conceived. If a pile of rocks by Goldsworthy seems hard to replicate because it uses elements from nature, the 3d scanning of every of these elements and the order in which they are piled up is already a possibility. Than if you use a granit mixture that perfectly imitates an original rock to a degree where you are not able to tell anymore, or hardly, if it came from nature or not, than through molding all the rock pieces of the Goldsworthy, one by one, you might be able to replicate it perfectly.

Basically you're getting toward a world that was well described by Baudrillard, and which an artist like Beuys has warned against over 50 years ago: that you shouldn't trust and lend all powers to the surface and the aesthetic realm. But in the meantime, we are already looking at sculptures by Rodin in museums which were conceived as clones from the source, and with the development of technologies, I believe more and more artists will follow the path of Rodin (including the future Goldsworthy).

In fact, museums will keep their collections in similar worlds like Second Life. There is no way this world will have the place to storage the zillion artworks hat exist. One day, people might be able to replicate, with a set of very good pictures, all the art that was lost in fire from Saatchi.

You heard it from Cedric The Prophet.

Cedric Caspesyan

9/15/2008 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Sean Capone said...

This is kind of related to other broader discussions I've seen regarding the ephemerality of art and the preservation of difficult or ephermeral works (not just performance, film & video but, say, sculptures made of ice, chocolate or easily reproducible junk). Perhaps we will see the status of precious object-hood decline in coming years as art becomes more conceptual or more process-oriented, coupled with the difficulties of producing work under harsh environmental and economic conditions. What is the point of view from collectors to support the realization of 'scored' or 'rule-based' ephemeral works? Christian Boltanski talked about the difference between the "culture of ideas" which values the knowledge of how to create certain things throughout time and across generations, as opposed to a "culture of things" such as ours which prizes the singular act of object creation.

Maybe a little off-point but worth thinking about? Thanks,


9/15/2008 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Dream on.

If you push another 1000 years forward, time travel might become a possibility. Not a travel where anyone moves in time. But say that the light constantly travels, just like the stars that you are watching at night, and that one day you are able to suck that light in, at any point in space on this planet. Than you could have that light replicate on a frame, like a moving photograpy, events that occured over 4000 years ago.
You could then record in light all the movements of Van Gogh when he painted the Starry Night.

Add to this analysis of color pigment, and not even an Yves Klein could prevent anyone from finding the recipe of its YKB.

I think there is a slight possibility, that people from the future are watching you right now on their equivalent of an Ipod. Which is an embarassing thought, but not entirely improbable.

Cedric Caspesyan

9/15/2008 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

At the Musee National in Quebec City these days is a piece called Narcisse by Sterback, made of ice.

You can only see it once in a while, the time the staff goes and re-install a copy once the previous one has melt.

Your question depends on if your artist sculpts or molds ice, and if he (or she) records the process in photos or films.

Documents can be collected and bought. Sponsorship is another great activity that for a long time permitted artists to create art for churches, theatres and other public spaces, or these days permit the development of art centres in countries where government art funding is..err.. tolerated.

Cedric Caspesyan

9/15/2008 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

What Oriane said. Plus, having a father who has spent his retirement researching global warming, I'm just not that worried about it. The margins of error in the U.N. official calculations are too great, and we will run out of oil entirely before the projected temperature curve goes hyperbolic. There's increasing evidence to suggest that climate changes are far more influenced by solar cycles than by greenhouse gases. And solar cycles have us on the way toward another ice age.

Be that as it may, green energy, reduced consumption, and a heightened awareness of our global interdependence are the only things that will save civilization. My preferred paradigm for the future of artmaking is a lot like what I already see in Maine--people working hard, living thriftily, gardening, recycling, building their own homes by hand, and prioritizing artmaking as an integral part of life, without hubris or hoopla. I have friends and relatives there whose homes are stuffed with art, despite the fact that few of them have ever made more than $35k a year.

(That's middle-class Maine, not the Summer People at places like Kennebunkport, of course.)

9/15/2008 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Global dimming will result from global warming. That is, more clouds in the skies means less sun on our soil. That could reduce some of the temperature rise, because constant raining could refresh some of the hot air molecules. Rain could have a cleaning effect on the atmostphere, and provide more clean water than we'd expect. Regardless, some regions could become hardly habitable. Anything near the seas.

Our summer here was very cold and our last winter, the largest in 30 years, so maybe I'm overoptimistic in imagining that some regions are already receiving countereffects of global warming.

I think we are moving toward very zig-zagging weather but not something we won't be able to live through. It's hard for me to imagine that the deserts won't get enough precipitations for the people there be able to drink from.
If global warming is going to be one thing it's that it's going to be wet.

There is a reason I try not to live below Sherbrooke in my city. If there is a deluge, all downtown is getting flooded (Montreal is an island). Right now, you are allowed to begin to think about such issues: at which level are you living above the level of the sea?


Cedric Caspesyan

9/15/2008 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Bzzztt.. Wrong! I have confused some concepts. Global Dimming would on the contrary prevent rain from blocking the sun access to water. It does provide a cooling effect, but only to some parts of the earth, until the atmosphere get dense and hot everywhere. There is an argument that says we are moving toward more clouds on lands (tempestuous) and less clouds on seas (iris effect). It's all very confusing. At one point, some argued that the iris effect would solve our problem, than it was a big NONO, than they say again that it's a possibility that it would counterbalance with the dimming effect (providing the tempestuous yet cooling and cleaning rains abovementioned).
Other than that it's a grey hot sky that never rains. Hmm...
Would it be simply because we humans sweat, it still looks like our future is wet.

Cedric C

9/15/2008 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger Sean Capone said...

Does anybody have any comments about how this affects their artistic practice in particular? Thanks.


9/15/2008 05:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>gold hooves and famaldahyde<<

''Medieval stained-glass windows colored in gold nanoparticles help purify air when lit by the sun, a new study finds.

"For centuries people appreciated only the beautiful works of art, and long life of the colors, but little did they realize that these works of art are also, in modern language, photocatalytic air purifier with nanostructured gold catalyst," said Zhu Huai Yong, a material scientist at the Queensland University of Technology.

When energized by the sun, tiny gold particles can destroy certain airborne pollutants. These pollutants, called volatile organic compounds, create the "new" smell often detected in new furniture, carpets and paint in good condition. Even in small amounts, these compounds, like methanol and carbon monoxide, are not good for your health.

An electromagnetic field generated by sunlight couples with the gold electrons' oscillations to create a resonance, said Zhu. The magnetic field of the gold nanoparticles can expand up to hundred times, breaking apart the pollutant molecules.

Zhu said the byproduct of the reaction is carbon dioxide, which is comparatively safe, particularly in the small amounts that would be created through this process.

The high price of gold notwithstanding, using gold nanoparticles to drive these chemical reactions is more energy-efficient than conventional air-purifying processes, the researcher says, and it might be possible to commercialize it.

"Once this technology can be applied to produce specialty chemicals at ambient temperature, it heralds significant changes in the economy and environmental impact of the chemical production," said Zhu.''



9/15/2008 07:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

++++Does anybody have any comments +++about how this affects their +++artistic practice in particular?

Yes. It makes you stop making art and ask yourself some very tough questions.

Cedric Caspesyan

9/15/2008 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

Art is a language, and as that it is non perishable. The physical existence of a work of art is secondary to it's spiritual effect on our psyche, within the language and development of humanity. The fact that many of Van Gogh's and other painters from the beginning of the last century were made by poor artists using cheap materials, causing many of their colors to fade and the canvases to disintegrate, doesn't change their importance and meaning for generations to come. No work of art will last forever in it's physical form, however, it's symbolic meaning in our collective consciousness will stay in our psychic DNA forever.

As for how it would/should affect the way the art of the future looks - I would think it is our duty, as artists, to recycle/upcycle as much as we can. Since we are already alchemists, transforming raw materials into meaningful objects, why not transform junk?

9/15/2008 11:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Richard Schemmerer said...

I am with Iris
I work with repurposed materials and see all art as time based art
only the memory and the documentation is left behind
their are lots of shows right now here in Portland dealing with the sustainability of evolution and with time will come the answers to all these hypthetical questions
so keep making Art and keep talking about it

9/16/2008 02:33:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

Moreover, I would add, at the risk of sounding sentimental, I believe investing in art should not be compared to investment in stock or gold or any other thing which can be measured in numbers. Investing in art is more like investing in a loved one. As you would buy a gift for your lover, or pay college tuition for your child. Sure, there may be some future monetary gains, if your child, as a result, wins a fine position, is able to support her/his family, invest in their own children and maybe one day support you in your old age. Your lover may also return your gesture by caring for you, or buying you gifts, but that is not the reason you made your investment. Rather, you made it as an unselfish act of giving, an act of love. Your own, main motivation is that person you love brings you joy, and so does 'investing' in that person. Same goes for supporting any good cause. You are investing, indeed, in the future of your family, of your culture, of humankind.

9/16/2008 07:59:00 AM  
Anonymous L.M. said...

Cedric the prophet:

You know that if you start blithering on about time travel, all I think about is if I'll be able to bring a Bruegel painting to the future, in my purse. (just a little one that would have ended up lost otherwise)

As smug and self righteous as I can get about many of my wonderful and constantly evolving green living solutions, I always have to come back to the fact that creativity can be very wasteful, we do produce a lot of garbage to create those few gems that should be preserved.

9/16/2008 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger Belvoir said...

I remember reading a long-ago article in Vanity Fair, describing how Palm Beach socialites would in the summer keep the air-conditioning at full blast throughout their vast, uninhabited mansions while they were abroad or in the Hamptons, to prevent dampness and mold from affecting the fabrics. And presumably the art as well. I'm sure this continues..

9/21/2008 04:02:00 PM  

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