Evolution of Sustainable Art
The expression sustainable art has been encouraged as a sub discipline of art that is different from environmental art in its approach and underlying principles. The principles of sustainable art are the same as that of sustainability viz. ecology, social justice, non-violence, and grassroots democracy.
Sustainable art may also be defined as art that is created with concern for a wider impact of the work and the response it garners in context of its biophysical, social, historical, economic and cultural environments.
As per the art historians and curators, the roots of sustainable art may lie in the conceptual art of the late 1960s and early 1970s that stressed on dematerialization and rebelled against the functioning of the art system. The emergence of the concept of sustainability has also been connected to the end of Cold War in 1989 and the advent of a new cognizance of the universal character of ecological and social concerns. It adopted a critical outlook towards the practitioners of Land Art of the 1960s, who practiced their form of art with little or no concern for the impact they had had on the environment. There have been other variants of the term Sustainable Art like ‘Sustainability Arts’, ‘Arts and Sustainability’, some artists have however rejected this terminology completely and prefer to term it as ‘ artistic work that inspires us to think about sustainability.
Sincere discussions of the connection between contemporary art and philosophies of sustainability emerged all across Europe in the early 2000s. Some of the prominent examples are, the conference of the German Society for Political Culture in January 2002, at the Art Academy of Berlin, the International Symposium on Sustainability and Contemporary Art that was organized at Central European University, in Budapest in March 2006. This symposium was the first in a series of international symposia organized to bring together contemporary artists, philosophers, environmental sciences and activists on a common platform around issues like ‘Exit or Activism’ (2008), ‘Hard Realities and the New Materiality’ (2009) and ‘Art, Post-Fordism and Eco-Critique’ (2010).
In this rising field of sustainable art some of the pioneering literary work includes ‘Kultur – Kunst – Nachhaltigkeit’ (2002) by Hildegard Kurt and Bernd Wagner, ‘The Principles of Sustainability in Contemporary Art’ (2006) by Maja and Reuben Fowkes and ‘Art and Sustainability’ (2011) by Sacha Kagan. A compilation of multidisciplinary summaries of the arts and cultures in context of sustainability is offered under the title of ‘Sustainability: a new frontier for the arts and cultures’ (2008) edited by Sacha Kagan and Volker Kirchberg.
Exclusive exhibitions dedicated specially to ‘Sustainable Art’ like ‘Beyond Green: Towards a Sustainable Art’ organized in November 2005 at the Smart Museum in Chicago have promoted the cause and brought some spotlight on it.