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Planetary Forecast: The Roots of Sustainability in the Radical Art of the 1970s

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This article explores the extent to which ecological awareness and the specific concerns of environmental sustainability are manifest in the critical writings of artists and curators in the early 1970s. Many of the issues later identified by theorists of sustainability, such as consideration of social equality and genuine democracy, as well as the recognition that quality of life is not just a matter of monetary income, were extensively explored in the radical art of the period. While Gustav Metzger was writing about the ethical issues raised by technological innovation, on the other side of the Iron Curtain curator Laszlo Beke focused on the overproduction of art objects and Slovak artist Rudolf Sikora published the Limits of Growth (1972) in samizdat. These prophetic art texts are now ripe for rediscovery in the context of current attempts to grapple with the social and ecological consequences of neoliberal globalisation and its crisis.
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Keywords: 1970s; Sustainability; art; artists; contemporary; critical; curators; ecology; radical; writings

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2009

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