Beyond the Mirror: Indigenous Ecologies and ‘New Materialisms’ in Contemporary Art

Jessica L Horton & Janet Catherine Berlo


Many Native North American artists working today do not accept the terms of ongoing negativity. Recent works by Durham, Rebecca Belmore, Will Wilson and Jolene Rickard share a concern with the liveli- ness of matter that can provide the grounds – at times quite literally – for looking beyond the mirror. While there is evidence of the indigenous phi- losophical precepts that inform the work, the artists locate their practices in an extensive and shared contemporary landscape that includes the space of exhibition, thus short-circuiting a romantic gaze that might locate indigenous art or bodies in nature somewhere else. Their works issue an invitation to a wider audience – including us, a pair of non-Native, English-speaking scholars writing this article – to seriously consider the relevance of indigenous intellectual traditions to the contem- porary global challenges of co-habitation.

Certainly, the four artists’ work dovetails with a wider trend in eco-art that TJ Demos describes as ‘comprehending ecology as a field of interlink- ing systems of biodiversity and technology, social practices and political structures’.15 But a systems approach to the environment can still support forms of anthropocentrism, so long as humans are treated as privileged arbiters of the future. In each of the four projects we discuss, artists grant environmental entities the agency to push back, to punish or reward human activity, to remind people of their precarious position in a relational world where allies are essential to flourishing, as the quotes that open this article emphasize. In lieu of an exhaustive account of these works, we focus on a single material agent in each project, tracing its complex forms of movement and affiliation into spaces of exhi- bition. Seeking to bind viewers into a shared fate with material friends and foes, the following works raise the possibility of an ethics premised on mutual recognition and shared livelihood.

In stone, a substance that is indigenous to every place on the globe, Durham has found a material ally to match the mobility of contemporary art and commerce.16 In Encore Tranquilite ́ (2009), the artist staged an encounter between a giant boulder and single engine aeroplane in an aban- doned airfield outside Berlin. In a widely published story, the antiquated ex- Soviet plane was deemed unsafe by European standards and was slated for sale in Africa, tying its fate to the ethical failures of the neocolonial market- place.17 The boulder came out on top, nearly splitting the plane in two. The implied buoyancy of substrate worked against European metaphors that link it to inertia: ‘stone dead’, ‘stone faced’, ‘stone cold’. While Franke reads Durham’s many works with stone as staging the disruptive force of Europe’s repressed ‘other’, we emphasize an equally affirmative strain: the lively rock acted as an unexpected ally in a tale of global injustice, a potential saviour of countless undervalued human lives that demanded acknowledgement for its intervention before the eyes of viewers. When stone and splintered plane were relocated to the foyer of the Muse ́e d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris for Durham’s 2009 retrospective, ‘Rejected Stones’, the materials indexed an encounter that took place in the past.18 Visitors could only scan the scene for clues: Did the stone fall from above or sail through the air? Was it local to Europe or a hit man from Africa? Was the plane it targeted in motion, empty, defunct? Here, material evinced not only liveliness and ethical orientation, but also the ability to know things, marking the limits of viewers’ capacities to control their sur- roundings. Durham lets stone tell its own part in the story.

While relating to Durham’s work does not necessarily depend upon recognizing indigenous influence, highlighting such connections across the intellectual boundaries we have described can certainly enhance an understanding of its philosophical and political dimensions. Personified stones are a well-established feature of indigenous landscapes across the Americas, appearing at travellers’ shrines, in sentient architecture, or as people temporarily stilled: Durham has written of Indian pilgrimages to the sanctuary of Chalma in Mexico, during which ‘those who give up or try to stop or turn back become stones’, awaiting new life via the decisive kick of a future pilgrim. In a famous 1960 essay that we quote in the epigraph, anthropologist A Irving Hallowell likewise recounts Anishi- nabe peoples’ understandings of stone as ‘other-than-human persons’ whose animate potential can be latent or active. Anishinabe language grasps stones in a state of becoming – a concept communicated word- lessly in Encore Tranquilite ́, where resting stone threatens to spring back into action.20 Durham (who is Cherokee, but widely intellectually engaged with transnational indigenous materialities) articulated a politi- cal role for animate stone under colonial conditions in a poem published in 1983, following his involvement in the American Indian Movement (AIM). ‘They Forgot that Their Prison is Made of Stone, and Stone is Our Ally’ was inspired by the incarceration of AIM leader Russell Means.21 In it the stones spoke ‘the language of the Sioux; what other language could a South Dakota stone speak?’.22 Conversing with the walls allowed the jailed man to forge sustaining networks of communi- cation and alliance, thus keeping objectification at bay. While Durham’s early poem described the stones’ address in English, his work since the late 1990s foregrounds a materialist language of collision and debris – one in which the agency of stones no longer needs linguistic translation to be ‘read’ by international visitors.23 If befriending stone could help humans shed their shackles in what Michel Foucault deemed the quintessential architecture for modern surveillance, the prison, then why not also in the neocolonial marketplace – and the modern museum?

Jessica L Horton & Janet Catherine Berlo (2013) Beyond the Mirror, Third Text, 27:1, 17-28, DOI: 10.1080/09528822.2013.753190

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Gender and Racial Bias in Design Juries

Mark Paul Frederickson Source: Journal of Architectural Education (1984-), Vol. 47, No. 1 (Sep., 1993), pp. 38-48 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Inc

This study assesses the participation and interaction of various participants in the design jury process, that is, male and female jurors, male and female students, and racial minority students. Several consistently biased practices and procedures in design juries are identified and statistically examined. The findings presented here have been distilled from one portion of an ongoing comprehensive investigation of the inner workings and educational efficacy of design juries in architectural education. Initial portions of the overall research program were conducted by Mark Frederickson and Marvin Adelson at the University of California, Los Angeles. Investigation of studio education and review processes continues under Frederickson's guidance at the University of Arizona. THROUGH THEIR USE OF THE JURY SYSTEM, DESIGN EDUCATORS IN ARCHI- tecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and several studio arts share a fundamental method of evaluating design projects and render- ing feedback to students concerning their performance and abilities. The jury is a core element in many of these design curricula and a critical educational vehicle in which students verbally and graphically present their design work to an assembly of design teachers, visiting professionals, and student peers. It is a forum for building and com- municating ideas. Although intrajury communications are often flawed, I believe design juries to be rich in educational potential.1 After witnessing and participating in design reviews that were quite wonderful in their in- sight and thoughtful manner of communication, it became apparent to me that these few occasions deserved careful study, especially be- cause most juries appeared rarely to operate at, or even near, their full potential. For the past four years, Marvin Adelson and I have been in- vestigating both the potentials and the defects of jury environments in architectural design curricula. During the conceptual stages of our re- search, we initiated pilot studies as a means of ethnographically ex- ploring the subject.2 Early observations indicated that many problems seemed to be linked to interpersonal communications. One portion of this study revealed particularly destructive prejudicial behavior among and between jurors and students of different gender and race-biased conduct that likely discourages many of our most intelli- gent female and minority students from continuing on in school and the profession. There have been several interesting studies on studio education and the processes of designing and learning to design,3 but our initial literature review revealed little formal research on design juries except that of Kathryn Anthony. Her studies of design juries break new ground by refusing to accept the jury as sacrosanct. Although our study focuses much of its effort on the dynamics of intrajury commu- nications, Anthony's comparisons of faculty, student, and practitioner perceptions of the efficacy of the jury were helpful in establishing the need for more research in this area.

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Patterns of Neighboring: Practicing Community in the Parochial Realm

Margarethe Kusenbach

NEIGHBORING AND COMMUNITY The worlds formed by intimate interaction and primary relationships have been thoroughly studied and theorized throughout the history of sociology. In recent decades, urban scholars have provided solid descriptions and analyses of the social sphere dominated by strangers, the public. In the past, sociologists have also investigated a third social realm quite extensively, one of “communal” or “parochial” interaction and relationships. However, theorizing in this particular area remains underdeveloped. In this article, I aim to advance scholarly understanding of this realm by investigating the normative patterns of neighboring.

The conceptual gap noted above is significant because communal interaction and relationships make up a substantial portion of everyday social reality. We all engage in communal interaction, for instance, neighboring; we all develop and sustain communal relationships, whether they are with neighbors, coworkers, or other kinds of acquaintances. Arguably, most of our life outside the home takes place in communal territories such as neighborhood streets, workplaces, coffee shops, and bars— the latter two niches carved out from public territory, aptly named “third places” by Oldenburg (1989). From Lofland (1973), we also know that people tend to transform public territories into more homey environments in order to maximize personal comfort and benefits. Far from being derivations of the private or the public, communal worlds are distinct, vital, and ubiquitous fixtures of everyday social reality, deserving of independent investigation and theorizing. One aim of such inquiry is to shift sociologists and others’ preoccupation with the dichotomy between “public” and “private” (Sheller and Urry 2003) toward a more complex and more accurate conception of social reality. Building on Hunter’s (1985) model of three social orders, Lofland (1998) provides a new “rudimentary geography” of the lifeworld as a composite of three social realms: the private, the parochial, and the public. She defines realms as social territories, each characterized by a distinctive “relational form” that refers to how individuals interact with one another. An intimate relational form indicates the existence of a private realm, a communal relational form suggests a parochial realm, and a stranger or categorical relational form corresponds with a public realm (p. 14). While, theoretically, any realm can appear anywhere, empirically, certain environments tend to anchor specific realms: “To oversimplify a bit, the private realm is the world of the household and friend and kin network; the parochial realm is the world of the neighborhood, workplace, or acquaintance network; and the public is the world of strangers and the ‘street’” (p. 10). Lofland’s new geography of the lifeworld is tremendously helpful in identifying and overcoming misconceptions in past studies of urban life. Most revealing is her observation in a footnote that Chicago school ethnographies, while routinely considered to be the quintessential body of research on urban and thus public life, are in fact rooted in neighborhood environments dominated by communal forms of interaction (p. 22; cf. Lofland 1983). Elsewhere, she suggests that most of what sociologists diagnose to be calamities of the public realm are actually social control problems pertinent to the parochial realm (Lofland 1994:30). In short, one payoff of a more-differentiated social geography is a better understanding of social territories— their boundaries, structures, functions, and problems—as expressed through interpersonal conduct. Perhaps even more important, by emphasizing social interaction, Lofland’s model can inspire a paradigm shift in the conception and study of “community.” Despite the legendary ambiguity of the concept of community, previous overviews (Altman and Wandersman 1987; Driskell and Lyon 2002; Hillery 1955; Hunter 1975; Karp, Stone, and Yoels 1991; Lyon 1987) largely agree on three basic components that have dominated definitions of community in the past: first, the presence of a shared territory; second, the presence of significant social ties; and third, the presence of meaningful social interaction. I argue that most scholars of community have prioritized the first and second elements—either separately or in combination— over the remaining one. Proponents of a predominantly territorial definition of community have long diagnosed and bemoaned the continuing “eclipse,” or “loss,” of community in our society (e.g., Nisbet 1953; Putnam 2000; Stein 1960; cf. Lyon 1987 for an overview). Over the last three decades, Wellman and other promoters of social network theory (Hampton and Wellman 2003; Wellman 1979, 1996, 1999, 2001; Wellman and Leighton 1979; Wellman and Wortley 1990) have developed an alternative approach that considers community to be “transformed,” “liberated,” or even “saved” instead of being lost. This definition virtually abandons a territorial understanding of community and provides for a radical despatialization and individualization of the concept. Between these two opposing positions stand the many urban scholars who embrace the conceptual gains the social network approach has made, yet who are not ready to fully retire the spatial reality of communities (e.g., Hunter 1974). Numerous empirical studies have substantiated the existence of functioning neighborhood communities. In fact, a recent shift toward community optimism and chronicling neighborhood success stories can be observed among urban scholars of various convictions (Hoffman 2003; Keller 2003; Putnam and Feldstein 2003). Compared with the scholarly attention paid to shared territory and social ties, the third definitional element of community, social interaction, has been relatively neglected. Beyond establishing the existence of parochial social relationships, few urban scholars have focused on examining the exact “nature of social ties” (White and Guest 2003:241) in neighborhoods or, in other words, the patterned social practices and interpretations that generate and sustain social ties. Lofland’s model, while resonating with previous work by urban scholars in the symbolic interactionist tradition (Karp, Stone, and Yoels 1991), provides a fresh impulse for such an investigation. Defining community as a genre of social conduct calls for microscopic analyses of the snippets and strands of communal interaction as the smallest building blocks of community “DNA.” Such a “community magnified” perspective will ground and hopefully invigorate ongoing debates. It will enhance the investigation of “interaction spaces and urban relationships” that Lofland (2003:949ff.) identified as one subarea of urban sociology that particularly benefits from symbolic interactionist scholarship. In more detail, such a perspective can advance theorizing and research beyond current limitations in at least two ways. First, it encourages the inclusion of seemingly nonsignificant interaction and relationships, thereby filling a noticeable conceptual void. Second, it allows one to problematize the nontrivial role of territory for community, not as externally fixed space but as places, that is, complex and layered chunks of environment ripe with individual and collective meanings. Yet of what does the work of neighboring actually consist? What is neighboring? In 1968 Keller offered a basic definition of the concept that is still useful today:

“Neighboring refers to the activities engaged in by neighbors as neighbors and the relationships these engender among them” (p. 29). Informed by Keller’s definition, and Warren’s (1981:73) reminder that neighboring actually follows rules, I define neighboring as a normative set of interactive practices that characterizes neighborhoods as one kind of parochial territory. Generally speaking, I view neighboring as a vital ingredient in the development of local community. Below, I analyze four distinct practices individuals enact to treat each other “as neighbors”: friendly recognition, parochial helpfulness, proactive intervention, and embracing and contesting diversity. In the following pages, I briefly review the literature, describe my research methods and settings, present my analysis, and conclude with a summary and some general comments.

Source: Symbolic Interaction , Vol. 29, No. 3 (Summer 2006), pp. 279-306 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction

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Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology

TJ Demos

This special issue of Third Text, dedicated to contemporary art and the politics of ecology, investigates the intersection of art criticism, politico-ecological theory, environmental activism and postcolonial globalization. The focus is on practices and discourses of eco-aesthetics that have emerged in recent years in geopolitical areas as diverse as the Arctic, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Europe and Mexico. The numerous contributors address new aesthetic strategies through which current ecological emergencies – including but not limited to the multifaceted crisis of climate change – have found resonance and creative response in artistic practice and more broadly in visual culture. Numerous key questions motivated our investigation: If ecological imperatives are frequently invoked by governments, corporations and certain strands of environmental activism in the name of a post-political ‘green’ consensus for which nothing less than the life of the planet is at stake, how might critical art contribute to an imagination of ecology that addresses social divisions related to race, class, gender and geography in the North and South alike? How might the concept of biopolitics, as elaborated by figures ranging from Bruno Latour to Vandana Shiva, enable a rethinking of hitherto articulated discourses of eco-aesthetics, especially as regards the relationship between ecological art and eco-feminism, or the art and ecology of democratic political composition? How might cultural practitioners contest the financialization of nature by neoliberal globalization, as analysed in Marxist approaches to political ecology, and how might they provide alternatives to the economic valuation of nature or promote a new articulation of the commons against its corporate enclosure? To what extent are recent philosophical writings associated with the so-called ‘speculative realism’ movement (for instance, those of Robin Mackay, Ray Brassier, Graham Harman, Quentin Meillassoux, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Timothy Morton) pertinent to contemporary endeavours in rethinking ecology and activism, considering nonhuman environmental agency, or positing experimental aesthetic approaches to species extinction? How have recent international exhibitions and environmental summits represented sites of conjunction for the innovative investigation of art and ecology? And lastly, how have critical artists engaged an expanded field of ecologically oriented media activism, encompassing websites, documentary films, protest activities, academic research, political forums and various combinations thereof? Such a list of queries comprises an admittedly ambitious (and no doubt impossible) set of research goals for a single issue of a journal to satisfy; equally impracticable has been the commitment to research an inclusive global coverage of practices – still, the impressive results presented in these pages address more than a few of these pressing matters of concern.1 Representing a number of distinctive initiatives that exceed any single approach, the articles commissioned for this special issue from leading and emerging artists and scholars at the cross-section of art and ecology are exemplary of some of the new and innovative ways of conceptualizing and responding to these questions.

Third Text, Vol. 27, Issue 1, January, 2013, 1–9 Third Text ISSN 0952-8822 print/ISSN 1475-5297 online # Third Text (2013)

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Sacred Geometry


Geometry can be referred to in the "sacred" sense as the realm of irrational numbers which derive from nature. More than just shapes such as rectangles, squares, circles, etc., "sacred geometry" makes explicit those fundamental mathematical laws and principles which govern nature. Wittkower asserts that Plato, following in the tradition of Pythagorus, "in his Timaeusexplained that cosmic order and harmony are contained in certain numbers." (Wittkower, p.105, 1988) He also states:

Probably continuing Egyptian usage, Pythagoras applied theoretical findings to natural phenomena and discovered wonderful and unexpected regularities and relationships. His observations led him to believe that certain ratios and proportions embodied the absolute truth about the harmonic structure of the world. (Wittkower, p. 147, 1988)

Seyyed Hossein Nasr makes reference to the relative importance of "sacred geometry" in the preface to Keith Critchlow's Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach. Although his relationship of "sacred geometry" is through Islam, one can still extract useful notions as to its importance, especially in the religious world. He asserts:

There is within the spiritual universe of Islam a dimension which may be called "Abrahamic Pythagoreanism", or a way of seeing numbers and figures as keys to the structure of the cosmos and as symbols of the archetypal worlds and also a world which is viewed as the creation of God in the sense of Abrahamic monotheisms.

Here, we have the general description of "sacred geometry" and its relative importance to certain scholars. Judging from their interpretations, there exist an unseen connection between the universe, as well as those things that fall under its domain, and "sacred geometry". The possibility of this "invisible relationship" makes available the coexistence of a cosmic, universal order and harmony within nature. Again, the common denominator being those numbers consistently found within nature being the "gateway" towards the understanding of this relationship.

Relationship to the Universe and Nature

It has been mentioned that "sacred geometry" is found within numerous aspects of nature. One example of this link is in the growth of plants. Ardalan and Bakhtiar explain how the grow of a plant relates to the harmonious, rhythmic progression of the so-called Fibonacci series. The stem of a plant rotates as it grows. As it climbs during its growth, the spiraling relates to the fraction of a complete rotation, from one leaf to the next, around the stem. The fraction of growth is proportionate to the so-called Fibonacci series. (Ardalan and Bakhtiar, p. 25, 1973) Many other examples could be referred to here such as the spiral ratio of pine cones. Also, the horns of some animals and certain shells relate to the golden proportion or logarithmic curve. Thus, it can be assumed that the argument of "sacred geometry" and nature's relationship is, indeed, possible.

From these examples, the following becomes increasingly apparent. There is an interconnection between the universe and nature with harmony and proportion. If so, it becomes possible that harmony and proportion are the fundamental "laws" which govern the grand "cosmic order" within the universe. They allow for the general comprehension of the assumed "universal order". This suggested theory is extended to the architectural expression via the use of "sacred geometry" which are spefically inherent in nature. De Lubicz asserts that proportion belongs to geometry and harmony. "Proportion is the comparison of sizes; harmony is the relationship of measures; geometry is the function of numbers." (de Lubicz, p. 61, 1977)

Thus, one can postulate as to whether the basic, underlying principles of the universe are all the same. If they are, then an analogy can be drawn from one relationship to the next. We see in living organism, in some form or fashion, a cyclical nature. "...the cycle of fertilisation, birth, growth, maturity, senescence, death, and renewal is common to all hierarchies." (West, p.92, 1993) In a similar tone, Wittkower provides an insightful perspective. Here he concludes that "...the Renaissance attitude to proportion was determined by a new organic mathematical approach to nature in which everything was related to everything by number." (Wittkower, p. 152, 1988) Within this everything is related to everything approach is the ordering principle of hierarchies. If true, these hierarchies provide a further inter-relationship to the natural order of things. Again, West asserts:

Individual man is a hierarchical organism, or unity. He is part of a higher organism or unity: mankind. Mankind is part of organic life, which is part of earth, which is part of the solar system, which is part of our glaxay. Each represents a higher hierarchy or realm, with inferrable higher degrees of sensitivity and sentience, etc. (West, p. 92, 1993)

Relationship to Man

We can infer, from the above, that man is related to nature as is nature to the universe. Therefore, man is related to, or an analogy of, the universe. As with the universe, man, too, is bound by the underlying principles of geometry which manifest themselves everywhere. Adds de Lubicz, "but if a man constitutes an ensemble, a Unit that has its harmony, he is himself part of a whole. He cannot be born without being in relationship with his environment, and this environment extends as far as the solar system." (de Lubicz, p. 61, 1977) This relationship finally provides a comprehensive glimpse of the cyclicle nature of the natural order and universal continuum. 

Relationship to Architecture

In the grand scheme of things, geometry makes itself visible, time and time again, once the outer layers of implicity are uncovered. If geometry is found within so many aspects of the universe, then it is logical to conclude that its use in architecture is just as feasible. If used in architectural design, geometric principles will provide an extension from the harmonious, rhymic, natural order of the universe to the architectural artifact. In a similar fashion, Wittkower states that:

We have already seen that the architect is by no means free to apply to a building a system of ratios of his own choosing, the ratios have to comply with conceptions of a higher order and that a building should mirror the proportions of the human body; a demand which became universally accepted on Virtruvius' authority. As man is the image of God and the proportions of his body are produced by divine will, so the proportions in architecture have to embrace and express cosmic order. (Wittkower, p. 104, 1988)

Just as geometry enables the universal continuum to exist, architecture serves as the edifice from which geometry can extend itself to the man-made world. It has been suggested previously that geometry has continued to display itself in the architectural design. Many cultures have embraced its use to manifest beautiful architectural expressions. Wittkower suggests that "all higher civilizations (classical) believed in an order based on numbers." (Wittkower, p. 146, 1988) He goes on further to assert that geometry was instrumental in Greek and Renaissance aesthetics. He notes how the Renaissance artists and architects believed in an all embracing numerical harmony in terms of the Pythagorean-Platonic tradition. As well, Kemetic architectural design readily utilized geometric principles to articulate the natural order.

We have seen where numerous civilizations of antiquity incorportated geometric principles within their architectural design scheme. This insight allows a full circle return to the universal continuum. The suggested theory that there exist a cosmic or natural order is extended to the architectural expression via the use of these fundamental principles. Thus, incorporated within its confines are the notion of a universal law of harmony, proportion and man. All intertwined within the weaving web of the ever, encompassing universe. Our task now is how to manipulate geometric principles in order to extend this universal continuum to architecture.