Sorry for such a crappy phone photo, but it was a dark auditorium. In case you didn't get it from the title of this post, I saw Lucy Lippard speak at Mills College last week. She was there to promote her new book, Undermining, and her talk gave a synopsis of the book.
In truth, as much as I admire her, I felt her talk was fairly cursory, and basically covered the same ideas that those such as myself - who fit into center of the Venn diagram of artists, environmental issues, and activists - have debated and explored and focused on for the past ten years. However, I am still thinking about her talk, so I guess it stayed with me.
I took some notes, although she read her talk at a fairly quick pace and I didn't always get everything. Much of what she said that I found interesting was when she quoted someone else, and I didn't always catch who was the source.
What I came away with:
1) Her new book, which she describes as "an extended essay with parallel narratives," focuses on the gravel pit as a metaphor as an antithesis of the city, the lowest level of the landscape, and an example of what humans are doing to the planet.
2) Pueblo Indians farm with gravel mulch to preserve water. (Just thought this fact was cool).
3) On the global margins, emptiness and negative space are more important.
4) "All art is agriculture, not industry" - Carl Andre. Artists like him focused on absence and the dematerialized rather than object.
5) Land Art for Lippard is now, as she stated, "in the rear view mirror." Now she has turned her focus to things like Land Use and Land Appropriation, and the longer she lives in the West, the more she is drawn to the peripherals, the sideshows.
6) Earthworks take their power from distance - from cities, people, and are often instruments for seeing rather than being seen.
7) Remember that places like Trinity and the Nevada Test Sites were the original Ground Zeros.
8) She discussed how photography can be a form of activism by documenting destruction and degradation, and debated when photographers capture images of such, does the beauty they create allow people to look longer at such destruction, or does it hinder the cause by making it beautiful?
9) EcoArt is a response to the destructive tendencies of Land Art, and coincidentally, has more women involved than Land Art did.
10) "It is easier to conceive of the end of the world than the end of capitalism" - didn't get who said this, but it's sooooo true.
11) "Art may not change the world, but it can be a worthy ally to those trying." - Lippard
12) "The Activist is the artist's ashes, artists rise from the ashes of obsolete art."
13) "An artist who is not an activist is a dead artist." - Ai Wei Wei, although Lippard doesn't agree that all artists are activists. Yet she feels that in this global age, everyone needs to be activist of some sort.
14) Lippard has never been to Burning Man, although she's been told that the Rainbow Gatherings are really where it's at. (But hasn't been to one of those either).
15) When asked by a student if this was a call to arms, and if so, what should be done, her response was, "I'm 78 years old. I shouldn't be telling artists what to do. You've got to rise up and do your own."
16) Social ecology and the importance of the local are necessary involvements for artists and activists.