Heather Lineberry of the Arizona State University Art Museum in Tempe tells us about Defining Sustainability, a new exhibition at the museum. Native American conceptual artist Kade Twist talks about “Do You Remember When”, the installation he and his fellow Indigenous artists of Postcommodity created for the exhibition. Finally, Beth Paulson of Beyond Green describes the proposed permaculture garden for a hundred year old house that’s getting a deep energy retrofit in Easthampton, MA.
This week, the nations of the world convened for a summit on climate change at the U.N. in New York. President Obama addressed the assembly then and again on the following day. He said that the “magnitude of our challenges has yet to be met by the measure of our actions.” He went on to call for a cooperative effort of the whole world, not just the politicians, but ordinary people, to create the will to change.
But how does that will get created? What moves us to change the way we live from the unsustainable to the sustainable? We can scare people — there are scientists who say we have a mere four years window before climate catastrophe. But scaring people usually runs up against the natural human impulse to insert our heads firmly in the sand so we can avoid uncomfortable feelings. We have to coax hearts to raise heads out of the sand.
One way is through art. Art connects information with our emotions to create understanding that motivates us by touching us deeply. That’s what is happening right now at the Arizona State University Art Museum. The exhibition is called Defining Sustainability and we talk to senior curator Heather Lineberry.
We also talk to conceptual artist Kade Twist, a Cherokee. He’s part of a collective of interdisciplinary Indigenous artists called Postcommodity. The name “Postcommodity” describes a worldview the artists link to their Native American traditions, connecting the past, present and future.
Postcommodity has mounted an installation at the ASU exhibition, in the section called Native Confluence. The section is a forum for Indigenous artists to become part of the sustainability discourse in the region.
Kade says Western civilization drives climate change and unsustainability and is using the same commodity oriented world view to solve it. His collective’s piece, “Do You Remember When” presents a different world view. It’s a multimedia installation with ever-changing audio and a concrete piece as a “trophy” that reveals the earth underneath us.
Moving people through art is one way of getting the sustainability message out. Another is by example, marrying beautiful form with useful function. I caught up with Beth Paulson of Beyond Green at a party this week. It was to show off Beyond Green’s project of a deep enery retrofit on a hundred year old house in Easthampton, Massachusetts. She was demonstrating the permaculture garden — still very much in progress — for a steady stream of visitors.