Where ecology is understood to articulate relationships between living organisms and their environment (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary), the turn in formally innovative aspects of sculptural and architectural practice toward performance and performativity can be closely aligned to the emergence of an ecological model and metaphor in the arts. Invariably manifesting itself at the cusp of performance practice, the articulation of objects, materials and locations in visual art and architecture in terms of events has consistently implicated the viewer in processes of continuous exchange with their immediate environment, even realising, in bodily confrontations with materials or an acting out of place and space, a ‘performed ecology’ of the subject. Approaching the environment as a complex inter-relationship of active systems, these practices prompt understandings of the interdependence of organism and environment, of performance and meaning, of the ubiquity of processes of change, as well as the possibility of disequilibrium and radical transformation. In relation to the reconception of sculptural practice from the late 1960s, and while reflected in North American Land Art and Body Art, these exchanges between the body and the material environment are exemplified in the ‘anthropological’ concerns of the Italian arte povera movement, in which inter-relationships between organic and inorganic, body and material, are exposed through radical exchanges and reversals. In contrast, more recent architecturally based interventions into the built environment by the artist Krzysztof Wodiczko and the architect Bernard Tschumi have articulated an anthropology of the city, revealing the place of the body in the environment through enacted space and site.
Performing Nature The essays in this volume explore the borderland between ecology and the arts. Informed by psychoanalysis and cultural materialism, contributors to the first part, 'Spectacle: Landscape and Subjectivity', look at ways in which particular social and scientific experiments, theatre and film productions and photography either reinforce or contest our ideas about nature and human-human or human-animal relations and identities. The second part, 'World: Hermeneutic Language and Social Ecology', investigates political protest, social practice art, acoustic ecology, dance theatre, family therapy and ritual in terms of social philosophy. Contributors to the third part, 'Environment: Immersiveness and Interactivity', explore architecture and sculpture, site-specific and mediatised dance and paratheatre through radical theories of urban and virtual space and time, or else phenomenological philosophy. The final part, 'Void: Death, Life and the Sublime', indicates the possibilities in dance, architecture and animal behaviour of a shift to an existential ontology in which nature has 'the capacity to perform itself'.