A nature under surveillance: deciphering the core functions of environmental arts

Nicolas Bullot

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


    The paper investigates the significance of environmental art in the context of an increased scientific and technological surveillance of nature. An artefact is often classified as a work of environmental art if it is an artistic artefact that addresses environmental themes or issues regardless the medium, style, and advocacy chosen by the artist. What are the functions that set works of environmental art apart from the functions of scientific enquiry into natural phenomena and environments? How can we identify such functions? A framework is proposed that addresses these questions. In contrast to ahistorical conceptions, we expand historical and psycho-historical theories of artefact functions to explain effects of environmental artworks that are reproduced over history. Reproduced effects are identified that tend to cluster together in environmental art: broadcasting and surveillance of environmental facts, emotions-manipulating processes, and reflection-triggering functions. In contrast to views that assume the axiological neutrality of environmental art, our account predicts that the core functions of environmental arts tend to be tied to normative attitudes. To illustrate this normativity, we discuss how environmental arts can help us track indicators of environmental crises, and how artists can act as agents of psychological, historical, and political environmental change.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationFuture nature, future culture(s)
    Subtitle of host publicationpeer-reviewed papers from the 2013 Balance-Unbalance International Conference
    EditorsSusan Davis
    Place of PublicationNoosa, Australia
    PublisherNoosa Biosphere Limited & CQUniversity Noosa
    Number of pages11
    ISBN (Print)9781921047732
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    EventBalance-Unbalance International Conference - Noosa, Australia
    Duration: 31 May 20132 Jun 2013


    ConferenceBalance-Unbalance International Conference
    CityNoosa, Australia


    • art
    • aesthetics
    • documentary
    • environment
    • functions
    • psycho-historical theory of art
    • surveillance
    • tracking


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