Performed Ecologies: Body, Material, Architecture
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.
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