ART3807/3842 Art and Ecology

Anthony Castronovo, Professor
The University of Florida
Spring Semester 2010
Meeting Times: T R 8-10 (3:00-6:00 PM)
Classroom: FAC B-001
Office Location: FAD 337
Office Hours: T R 2:00-2:45 or by appointment

"The Twentieth century will be cheifly remembered by future generations not as an era of political conflicts or technical inventions, but as an age in which human society dared to think of the welfare of the whole human race as a practical objective."
Arnold J. Toynbee, English historian (1889-1975)

"The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible."
Allan Kaprow

“To experiment is at first more valuable than to produce; free play in the beginning develops courage.”
Josef Albers

This course is an in-depth, interdisciplinary exploration of the contemporary field of artists whose work relates to ecology, the environment, and sustainability. The implications of the term ecology cast a wide net across popular culture, and examples can be found in virtually all aspects of our lives. For this reason we will use popular media such as documentary films and the internet as a source of inspiration and a stimulator of dialogue. The key to all of this is active immersion, including our group dialogue, but especially through an interaction with the local ecology. Field trips with naturalists, biologists, and other artists will supplement the classroom discussions. Projects will be interdisciplinary in nature and students will develop their own particular media in relation to their own specific interests related to Art and Ecology. Collaboration, experimentation, and public interactions will be highly encouraged!

Ecology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the interactions between organisms and their environment.


There is no set list of materials for the course. This is an interdisciplinary course and students are expected to work in whatever media they see fit. Different materials will be needed as per each individual project requires.

Massive change. Mau, Bruce, and Jennifer Leonard. 2004. London: Phaidon.

Additional TEXTs:
Beyond green: toward a sustainable art. Smith, Stephanie. 2005. [Chicago, Ill.]: Independent Curators International.

Land art: a cultural ecology handbook. Andrews, Max. 2006. London: RSA.

Spectacle. Mau, Bruce, and David Rockwell. 2004. London: Phaidon.

Omnivore's Dilema. Pollan, Michael. 2006. New York: Penguin.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. McDonough, William and Michael Braungart. 2002. New York: North Point Press.

Other Resources:
designboom | delicious | TED |  Worldchanging | BoingBoing | detournement | Hyperbolic Crochet



PARTICIPATION This semester will be both challenging and highly rewarding in many ways. As an interdisciplinary course we will not be focusing on specific technique or media as much as we will push to develop concept and use whatever media the student feels is most appropriate for their concept. Furthermore, this course should be seen as an advanced course and it is up to the students to develop and explore their own specific interests about art and ecology. We will be heavily involved in readings and discussions as the core of this exploration together. In addition, we will explore the local environment, its history, issues specific to North Central Florida, and so hiking, canoeing, and other outdoor activities will be a significant part of our experience.


Attendance is required at all classes, critiques, campus lectures, and field trips. More than three absences over the semester will result in a grade reduction of one letter grade from the semester average. Your letter grade will continue to drop with each accumulation of more than three absences. Three significantly late arrivals (15 minutes or more) or early departures (ditto) will constitute one absence. You are expected to work on projects during class time, which includes having materials needed. Working at home is not considered attendance. Attendance at all critiques is mandatory. If you are not present for critiques your work will not be critiqued by either the professor or the class as a group.

If you are absent for a valid reason (illness with documentation, military obligations, observations of religious holy days of your faith, participation in official university activities, or court imposed obligations) you must call or email the professor prior to your absence and you must contact the professor on the day you return to make-up missed assignments. Please be in class on time because all announcements, lectures, demonstrations and presentations will take place at the beginning of class.


Projects must be completed by the due dates. Due dates will only be delayed for the class as a whole, not for individuals. Projects completed late will receive a grade reduction commensurate with the reason for the lateness and with the extent of the lateness. A schedule of due dates will be given out with each project.


Critiques are an essential part of the practice of art and require a strong commitment on the part of all students and the professor. Critiques are exhausting but very beneficial. Critique is the educational equivalent of exhibition. Therefore, work must be ready for critique and you must be in attendance at critique. (See attendance above) ACTIVE AND THOUGHTFUL participation is required. Physical attendance alone does not constitute participation in critique. You will be graded on the quality of your participation in critique.


Readings, slides, and videos are required with each project and responses are due in writing or in presentation format on the date assigned. Since readings are selected because of their relationship to the concepts underlying each project, they are meant to be completed at the beginning of each project and, for that reason, written responses will not be accepted any later than one week after the deadline. Late responses will receive a reduced grade. In no case will late responses to readings be accepted after the project itself is due. Reading materials will be linked as pdfs to be downloaded. You can either print these out or read the articles on your computer. In either case, take thoughtful, detailed notes and cite relative page numbers for speficic points of interest.


We will look at the work of many artists and will expand this list as we go:

Miss Rockaway Armada | Eduardo Kac | Helen and Newton Mayer Harrison | Merle Ukeles | Oron Catts | The Yes Men | Mark Dion | Steven Seagle | Mel Chin | The Center for Tactical Magic | The Center for Land Use Interpretation | Olafur Eliason | Hans Haacke | Hugh Pocock | Nils Norman Amy Franceschini | FutureFarmers | The Canary Project | Nis Romer | FreeSoil | Amy Balkin | Not a Cornfield | Phoebe Washburn | Dan Peterman | Andreas Siekmann | Learning Site | Material Exchange | Guy Ben-Ner | Tue Greenfort | Natalie Jeremijenko | Mary Mattingly | Bruce Mau and The Institute without Boundaries | Massive Change | Biomimicry | public smog | Andrea Polli | Beatriz da Costa | Singapore +1 | HWKN


Your work will be evaluated on the basis of the following criteria of requirements and expectations:

  1. Fulfillment of the project objectives as established with each Project
  2. Attention to craftsmanship
  3. A spirit of investigation and experimentation
  4. Conceptual rigor
  5. Material inventiveness
  6. Physical investment: The sweat factor
  7. Overall aesthetic and conceptual quality of the work


Official Breakdown:

FINAL SEMESTER EVALUATIONS will be averaged as follows:

CRITICAL DATES are provided with each project description. All projects are due on the due dates given in the project descriptions. Final critique will be held on the last day of class of the Fall semester.


The Department of Art and its faculty assume no responsibility for any materials or projects left in the classrooms. It is each student’s responsibility to remove all materials and projects from the classrooms after the course has concluded. If the student needs to make individual arrangements with the instructor to keep any materials after the class has ended, it is the student’s responsibility to make these arrangements, with the instructor’s approval. Student grades may be withheld for failure to do so. Any artwork, supplies, or other materials left in the classroom after the semester has concluded, without prior specific arrangements with the responsible faculty, will be disposed of.

Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register with the Dean of Students Office. The Dean of Students Office will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to the Instructor when requesting accommodation.

Turn off your cell phones upon entering the classroom. Absolutely no cell phone use in the classroom or sculpture shops. Please retreat to the hallways or outside for emergency calls. Student acknowledges the cell phone termination policy and accepts destruction by smashing of their cell phone in instances of repeat offenses.

University of Florida honesty policy regarding cheating and use of copyrighted materials applies. See student handbook.


Jan 5• Introduction to the course and each other, first reading assigned for next class meeting, a general overview of our subject area and a few artists. ASSIGNMENT FOR THURSDAY: think of a story to share with the group, an experience that relates to ecology, something that happened to you and made you more aware of your environment, or perhaps an experience of nature that affected you. READINGS FOR THURSDAY: The Future of Life, E.O. Wilson

Jan 7• Stories exchanged, Discussion of reading, videos: deep field, e.o. wilson on TED, planet earth. READINGS FOR TUESDAY: Plan B HW: The Yes Men Fix the World at the Hipp- anytime before next Thursday

Jan 12• Discuss Plan B, look at the work of contemporary artists, discuss student research presentations, video: An Inconvenient Truth HW: the Greening of Art and There, Now: From Robert Smithson to Guantanamo

Jan 14• Talk about canoe trip details, Group Discussion: the Yes Men.... look at the work of other contemporary artists, start a blog, look at footprint calculator READINGS FOR TUESDSAY: foreword and first two chapters of Massive Change HW: work in sketchbooks developing drawings, ideas; Use the footprint calculator and consider ways to reduce your footprint; THINK of ideas for a collaboration.

Jan 19• Discussion of HW, first two chs of Massive Change. Letter Writing! Video: Manufactured Landscapes

Jan 21• Discussion of chapter 3 of Massive Change. Tree walk and discussion with Erick Smith UF Tree List

Jan 26• Discussion of chapters 4, 5 of Massive Change. Proposals due, group brainstorming/discussion

Jan 28• Discussion of chapters 6, 7 of Massive Change. Proposals due, group brainstorming/discussion

Feb 2• GUIDED canoe adventure with naturalist Lars Anderson

Feb 4• Discussion of chapters 8, 9 of Massive Change. Work/Studio Day

Feb 9• Discussion of chapters 10, 11 of Massive Change. Work/Studio Day. HW: Each of us will create a post, and post 2 comments in response to someone else. This blog should be seen as a collaborative open space to talk about ideas we come across, so let's try to generate some dialogue here!

Feb 18• Critique•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Feb 23• Look at the work of various artists, discuss strategies, tactics, evaluate implementation; view work by Mark Dion, Mel Chin, and others artistsrespond. We are moving ahead with the show at Wild Iris for March, if you are interested in the Koppers Superfund, research can begin with Protect Gainesville Citizens. REQUIRED Film Screening and Artist Lecture 7 p.m. at the Harn Johan Grimonprez, Double Take. For more info about the Project Europa Exhibition at the Harn click here and here

Feb 25•More artist examples; Video: Manufactured Landscapes; Meeting 7:30pm at Wild Iris about Koppers

Mar 2•Independent Work Day- No Class Meeting

Mar 4• Discuss show at Wild Iris. Proposals Due, one full page written, at least two drawings, two other images. These should be digital, email to me by Mar 7. Group Brainstorming, everyone should be able to talk about their idea, with drawings; though I've extended the actual proposal being to me by Mar 7.

Mar 25• Collaborative Work Day, prep for opening at Wild Iris

Mar 30• Discussion of last minute needs for show, food list, etc. Work Day

Apr 1• Meet at Wild Iris to hang the show, Opening Apr 2 from 7-10pm

Apr 3• Collaborative Creek Cleanup with Current Problems, from 9-12

Apr 6• Moth Presentation

Apr 13• Video: finish Examined Life, King Corn, walk to Reitz for Opening

Apr 15• Video: finish King Corn, Botany of Desire

Apr 20• Last Day, digital files for archive submitted, Ray Kurzweil , summary, remarks.