Back in April 2017 PhotoWorld China published an interview about our environmental art by Alasdair Foster, a cultural development consultant based in Sydney, Australia. This is his introduction:
The forms and processes of Nature are not shaped by design, but by time. Yet, when viewed as pieces of design, they prove both elegant and efficient.
While human designs are created by intention, natural design evolves simply by being sustainable. But if natural design takes time – eons of it – human design is impetuous and short sighted.
This has been especially so since the age of industrialisation, for the aim of human industrial design is money and instant effect. It travels the shortest distance between wanting and making; and when wanting fades and making proves imperfect, the product is cast aside and the voracious appetite of humanity pushes onward, making more and more things, using more and more resources, creating more and more waste.
Such a design process is called a ‘linear system’ and it follows a ‘take-make-discard’ model of production. Natural processes, on the other hand, test every variation that arises in the crucible of time. What does not prove efficient and maintainable dies away simply by the fact that it cannot be maintained. What is left, after the test of ages, is design which is not only efficient, but sustainable. To be sustainable, it cannot be wasteful as are the processes of industrial humankind. It must extract maximum effect from minimum materials and energy; and it must recycle perfectly, as the dying remains of one natural form become the means by which another comes into being.
Such a design process is called a circular system and it follows a restorative and regenerative model of production.
The New Zealand artists Martin Hill and Philippa Jones have been collaborating over two decades on the creation of ephemeral sculptures and land installations, which they then preserve as photographs. Their images speak to these concerns for sustainable design and circular systems, urging us to recognise the wisdom time has bestowed on Nature and to understand that we too can learn and adopt its processes.
This is no idle matter for, as we are now becoming increasingly aware, the stability of the macro-systems of climate and environment, which form the very space in which we all live and air we breathe, are under severe threat from the intense and wasteful linear systems of the past few hundred years.
So intense is this change, that archaeologists and geologists used to measuring the geochronological epochs in millions of years, have named this newest geological era the Anthropocene, because it is the period during which industrialised human activity has become the dominant influence on climate and the environment. On its current trajectory, the Anthropocene promises to be very short indeed. Unless we change the ways we live, and learn from the efficiencies and cycles of natural systems, our linear design will drive us straight to oblivion.
Nonetheless, the art of Martin Hill and Philippa Jones displays great peace and poetry. They address these threatening and potentially overwhelming questions through installations and images of great stillness and simplicity. Their sculptural forms harness the very processes they wish to promote, creating images that are both symbolic and elegantly demonstrative of Nature’s circular systems and
truly sustainable design.
Below, the article, including an indepth interview as it appeared in China: