Our group started out the final project for our environmental justice class looking to explore art as a form of activism. During this project, we hope to learn about the work of contemporary artists who are pushing the boundaries between art and social justice, especially through the incorporation of the environment and public space. Each artist considers the environment and community in different ways, whether it be through trash art, installation, mural, or other mediums. Additionally, each artist provides us with a new lens into different communities, the environmental issues that they face, and the ways that art can both unite and divide a community. We will also consider how art can both empower and exploit individuals or communities.
We hope that our analysis of these artists will provide us with a lens into specific environmental justice issues. Additionally, it can provide fresh, creative ways of dealing with such problems that seem extremely overwhelming in our readings or class discussion. We hope that these artists will show us how art can be a tool for change, for reflection. Hopefully, learning about the process and execution of these art projects will provide us with guidance and inspiration for our own art project, which is the second step in our project.
In the second half of our project, we hope to take the challenges of art making—both in regards to physical production and thinking critically about issues—to create our own piece of trash art. In our work, we hope to think critically about the same questions used to analyze artists here in our blog: Is this art reflective of the problems faced by the community? Are we even a part of that community? How do the materials used reflect our views? Are we providing a solution to an environmental problem or simply challenging others to think about it? Are we creating more problems? Does this piece work to empower anyone? Or does it exploit them?
We hope that our project challenges our peers to think critically about the power of art. Indeed, we hope to utilize that power as well.
Art is not a mirror to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it. -Bertolt Brecht