As our culture takes up more social responsibility and action, creative fields like sculpture, architecture and various art forms have followed this useful trend. Artists keen on joining in the ongoing conversation surrounding sustainability are leveraging their eco friendly art work to send a message, either by the media used for creating the piece or its theme.
In 1983, the United Nations established the World Commission on Environment and Development. It was an effort to encourage global cooperation toward sustainable practices that will benefit both the economy and the environment. This group, now known as the Brundtland Commission, first worked to define sustainable development and art. So in 1987, they created guidelines that people still use to anchor environmentally conscious decisions in various industries. According to the guideline, “Sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Since then, the artists have embraced this definition to understand their individual impact on the environment. The idea of sustainability in the field of art has resulted in groundbreaking works that leverage distinct media and send important messages about climate change, political policy, and social injustice. With the help of sustainable contemporary art, artists hope to change how they make their work and inspire social and cultural change too.
But just how has its definition transformed and gotten a new meaning in recent years? How are artists and institutions alike changing the way that they create art? To understand this, let us understand how sustainability and art go hand-in-hand.
The term “sustainability” has various meanings when it comes to art. Public opinion on this social and economic movement has expanded dramatically in the past few years. Though the Brundtland Commission was an important first step towards a fundamental change, policies and regulations to reinforce sustainable practices continue to evolve in the years since. It rewards those who religiously follow sustainable practices and encourage adoption.
In 2015, the United Nations created the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It outlines seventeen core goals across various categories to help the world become a more environmentally friendly, prosperous, and peaceful place. Though the policies are evolving at a high level, the idea of sustainability also impacts the daily lives and work of individual artists. While sustainable art isn’t the most lucrative field, it offers perspective on the world in its current state, suggests potential solutions, and raises awareness for issues that artists are passionate about.
Since the inception of traditional art, a lot has changed, thanks to the introduction of sustainability. Now, let us understand how sustainability in artworks has inspired social consciousness.
Although many artists have started adopting eco-friendly practices, some cultures have already implemented those principles for centuries. For example, in Japan, Furoshiki is a form of fabric folding that emerged during the Nara period (710-794). It was a way to protect valuables in transit. However, art has recently caught on as a sustainable and beautiful method of carrying necessities and wrapping gifts.
Outside of cultural movements, artists worldwide have taken up the idea of sustainable art in various ways. Some works, such as John Sabraw’s Toxic Sludge paintings, employ actual pieces of polluted earth as their medium for art. Others use traditional materials to raise awareness of a particular issue. For example, Paulo Grangeon’s 1,600 Pandas. It installed paper-mache sculptures in a highly visible public space to confront human impact on endangered species.
Now that we know how sustainability has impacted social behaviour in terms of art let us see the different types of artforms.
Sustainable art comes in a variety of forms based on the materials used and the purpose behind the piece. Let us see some of the prominent types of sustainable art:
The idea of making a piece of clothing that, at the end of its lifecycle, you can transform, reuse or recycle back to its original form is called Closed-loop fashion. By making a closed loop within the manufacturing industry, clothing brands can aim to bring sustainability and eco-friendliness into the fashion industry.
Ecological art varies from many other forms of sustainable art as it prominently focuses on restoration and activism. Art from the ecological movement tends to make a strong statement about ethics, civic responsibility, or social injustices. Unlike other works of art that highlight a growing concern, this artform aims at improving some aspects of it, however small.
Also known as Earth Art, Eco-Art and Earth Works, land art first emerged due to the conceptual art movement in the 1960s and 1970s. It uses materials from nature to create artwork woven into the fabric of the land.
These are some of the important types of the sustainable artform.
Eco-friendly art and Sustainable practices have expanded in recent years as society started becoming more conscious of their impact on the environment and the future of Mother Earth. While sustainability demands a reconsideration of how we consume, manufacture, and design art and objects, it also offers ample opportunity for artists and designers to rethink their approach. Sustainable art has the potential to blur the line between design and science, thereby benefiting both the audience and the environment.
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