ART 390/590 • Fall 2009
Instructor: Ying Kit Chan, Professor of Art
Department of Fine Arts, University of Louisville
Special Topic: Media, Issues and Sustainability
This special topic art course incorporated art, digital media, environmental studies, Web studies and ethical issues in a studio class. Each student created a website and maintained a blog which served as the central structure of the various forms of content.
The class began with studying the ideas and practices of environmental thinkers. The students read extensively the works of authors such as Henry Thoreau and Rachel Carson, and discussed ideas in environmental issues such as the principles of permaculture and the more recent book “Cradle to Cradle,” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.
Next, the students studied artwork produced by environmental artists. The class discussed the works of such artists from around the world as Agnes Dunes, Patrick Dougherty and the Trashformaciones Group. Students then produced several art pieces using natural or recycled materials. These art projects ranged from drawing with water to building sculpture with drift wood to making photographs with natural dyes to designing a green roof with 2-liter bottles.
The class discussed various events and reports on the subject of sustainability. Besides following world events, such as the much anticipated UN Copenhagen Climate Change summit, the class also focused concerns on regional or local matters, for examples: mountain top coal mining, the city's proposal of a no-idling zone, and exchanging information on local organic farms and health food markets.
Environmental ethics is a topic to which the class devoted much attention. The subject often involves social injustices. Disadvantaged people, communities or nations always bear the greater burdens, risks and hazards. This connection is apparent when examining such issues as clean water availability, energy consumption and carbon emissions, mountaintop removal, e-waste exporting and toxic dumping. The class learned that the remedies often involve complicated political and legal processes.
Throughout the course, students engaged in intellectual discourse to enhance their understanding of ethical responsibilities to others and the importance of conservation. Use of social media empowered students to express opinions and become accustomed to using the public forum for communication and social action.
The course was also complemented by a series of guest lecturers from various fields (art, geography, philosophy, history) who deepen the understanding of the subject matters. Topics ranged from sustainability and art to “Heidegger on technology and art” and from mountain top removal to urban drawings.
The course was an ambitious attempt to realize the holistic philosophy of education and to embrace the ethical turn in art. Students were challenged to think critically, to make connections in artistic, cultural and social issues, and to be passionate about the future of our planet. At a different level perhaps this was a new academic experience in which students have the opportunity to integrate classroom study with their everyday lives.
Guest lectures and field trip
Thursday, October 8 • 2:30 pm • lecture
Lori Rae Beck, artist and art administrator, Glassworks
Sustainability and Art
Thursday, November 5 • 2:30 pm • lecture
Osborne Wiggins, Department of Philosophy
Heidegger on Technology and Art
Tuesday, November 10 • 3:00 pm • lecture
Leticia Bajuyo, artist, Hanover College
Rewind Replay Reflect
Thursday, November 12 • 2:30 pm • lecture
Avery Kolers, Philosophy/Social Change Program
Justice and the Environment
Tuesday, November 17 • 2:00 pm • lecture
Clara A. Leuthart, Geography and Geosciences
Mountain Top Mining: Mountains So Low, Valleys So High
Tuesday, November 17 • 4:00 pm • visit
Kate Fosl, historian and director
Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research
Thursday, November 19 • 2:30 pm • lecture
Sun-chang Lo, New York artist