Time Landscape – Exploring the artistic, urban, and ecological potential of a living monument

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Volume Title
School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Date
2023
Department
Major/Subject
Mcode
Degree programme
Master's Programme in Creative Sustainability
Language
en
Pages
96
Series
Abstract
Using Alan Sonfist’s environmental public art piece and natural memorial ‘Time Landscape’ as a catapult for exploration, I tie in themes ranging from the significance of public art and the design of sustainable urban systems to the act of memorializing and conserving nature – all in an attempt to better understand the artistic, urban, and ecological potential of the living monument. The thesis traverses terrain – both informational and geographic – ultimately offering an interdisciplinary view of Time Landscape and how it can inspire sustainability work in a variety of fields. Chapters follow the interpretation of Time Landscape – and the learnings contained within each thematic lens – in three parts, aptly titled ‘Expanding Art’, ‘Keeping Time’, and ‘Preserving Landscapes’. Each section presents learnings and academic discourse showcasing connections to the broader context of creative work and sustainability. This tripartite examination of the piece serves as testament to its multimodal function, as well as its link to a variety of wider issues and phenomena relating to art, ecology, and urbanity. The first chapter, ‘Expanding Art’, delves into the artwork’s conceptual framework and perception as both public and environmental art. Tying in learnings from the artist behind the piece, along with the site-specific and historical context of New York City’s art scene, the first chapter examines the role of art in the era of the climate crisis. At the conclusion of the chapter, a comparative art analysis enables the cross-examination of motifs and themes present within the wider world of environmental art and more specifically within Time Landscape. ‘Keeping Time’ – the following and second chapter – explores various temporal realities relating to Time Landscape. Topics range from an examination of Manhattan’s eco-historical timelines to the importance of commemorating nature through ecological sites of remembrance, as well as the ways in which human society has lost and can reconnect with the pulse of ecological time. Discussion is then wrapped up through a methodological exercise in which the concept of ecological time is first experienced though, then documented within Time Landscape as a repeat photography project. The third and final chapter, ‘Preserving Landscapes’, explores themes and topics relating to landscapes, nature, and their conservation. First probing through the philosophical landscape of human-nature relations, discussion then focuses on the urban landscape and how nature can be reintroduced through various methods like rewilding. Positing nature as a source of identity and heritage, the following segment investigates the ways in which landscapes can become both biocultural heirlooms and tools for nation-building. Bringing the chapter to a close, a speculative design proposal reinterprets the concept of Time Landscape in another setting. All in all, the multi-lensed exploration of Time Landscape in this thesis provides a rich and textured understanding of the ways in which art, urban design, and environmental conservation may intersect. The thesis expands the interpretation of a living monument beyond mere ponderings, instead directly pointing its relevance in the broader context of sustainability and environmentalism. As such, it offers suggestions on how artists, designers, and various professionals can approach environmental challenges in their work. As we confront a rapidly changing world, I hope this thesis can offer a gentle guide for navigation, lighting a plausible way forward with the help of meaningful action, art, and design.

Käyttäen Alan Sonfistin Time Landscape -ympäristötaideteosta ja luontomuistomerkkiä katapulttina tutkimiseen, tarkastelen teemoja julkisen taiteen merkityksestä aina kestävien kaupunkijärjestelmien suunnitteluun sekä luonnonsuojeluun sekä sen muistamiseen. Lopputyö tutkii kyseisen elävän muistomerkin taiteellista, urbaania ja ekologista potentiaalia, tarjoten monialaisen tulkinnan Time Landscapesta ja siitä, kuinka se voi inspiroida kestävää kehitystyötä useilla eri aloilla. Luvut seuraavat Time Landscape -teoksen tulkintaa – sekä sen sisältämiä oppeja temaattisten linssien läpi – kolmessa osassa, otsikoiden "Expanding Art“, "Keeping Time" ja "Preserving Landscapes” alla. Luvut esittelevät kestävyyteen liittyviä oppeja ja akateemista diskurssia, ottaen huomioon Time Landscape -teoksen laajemman kontekstin. Teoksen kolmiosainen tarkastelu osoittaa sen yhteyden useisiin laajempiin aiheisiin sekä taiteeseen, ekologiaan ja kaupunkilaisuuteen liittyviin ilmiöihin. Se antaa myös rikkaan ymmärryksen tavoista, joilla taide, kaupunkisuunnittelu ja ympäristönsuojelu voivat sekoittua keskenään, sekä tarjoaa ehdotuksia siihen, miten taiteilijat, suunnittelijat ja erilaiset ammattilaiset voivat lähestyä liitännäisiä ympäristöhaasteita työssään.
Description
Supervisor
Jalas, Mikko
Thesis advisor
Lehtinen, Sanna
Keywords
environmental art, urban rewilding, natural heritage, living monuments, landscape ecology, biocultural conservation, land art, time capsules
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