Taney Roniger/ Since we’re on the subject of practice, I want to reintroduce a question Eve Laramee brought up early on in this discussion, which was: Is there a place for activism within sci-art? Given Eve’s own work as an environmental artist and activist, I think the answer is certainly yes. But I wonder if anyone would care to speculate about some of the complications inherent in this kind of work. It seems to me that when one’s explicit intention is to educate or raise awareness, it becomes especially important to get the science involved right and to relate it unequivocally. This puts considerable pressure on the artist – and on the art. From what I’ve seen, much of the work that falls under the activist art rubric suffers from a certain heavy-handed didacticism and a concomitant diminution of aesthetic complexity.
One example that comes to mind is Maya Lin’s What is Missing project, whose purpose is to raise awareness about species loss and habitat degradation. It can be argued that this project is meant less as a work of art than as a public memorial of sorts, but I’ve seen parts of it installed in galleries. In the latter context it has struck me as fatally didactic, so little did its embodiment as a work of art do to move me. (Frankly, rather than having to stand there reading the various litanies, I’d much rather have been handed a pamphlet to take home. And I have never, I must confess, been moved by a pamphlet.)
Perhaps others can offer some examples of more successful projects.