Utne Blogs > Environment

Art Spotlights Endangered Sites

by Miranda Trimmier 

Tags: Environment, wilderness and wildlife, international, conservation, art, artists, museums, Human and Nature exhibit, World Heritage Sites, Xu Bing, Ann Hamilton, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Rare, Orion magazine,

mount kenyaIn an unusual collaboration, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, and the conservation group Rare teamed up with individual artists to draw attention to eight United Nation World Heritage Sites, reports Orion magazine. All of the sites are threatened in some way—by lack of funding, floods of tourism, climate change, and a host of other pressures.

At the outset, many of the artists worried that they’d be forced into unimaginative advocacy work. “I remember thinking, ‘Do they want me to go make work about tortoises?’” said installation artist Ann Hamilton. “I mean, that is not exactly what I do.” But the museums and Rare allowed them room to respond as they saw fit. The resulting pieces highlight local issues in smart, sensitive ways.

Xu Bing, for instance, held workshops in primary schools near his site, Mount Kenya National Park. He told stories and drew pictures with the children to connect them more personally with the park, and then set up a website to auction off their work. The proceeds benefit a local organization that uses the money to replace trees lost to deforestation on Mount Kenya. 

Check out the article to read descriptions of the other projects, watch interviews with the artists, and browse a slideshow of the art. The pieces have been gathered as an exhibit, “Human/Nature: Artists Respond to a Changing Planet,” which is currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Image courtesy of John Spooner, licensed under Creative Commons.