Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Interdisciplinary artist Ellie Irons to speak at Pratt Institute on November 9th

Posted 20 Oct 2017 / 0

I am very excited to announce that artist Ellie Irons will speak at Pratt Institute on November 9th, 2017 at 6 pm in ARC Building Room E-02. Her talk is entitled Public Fieldwork & Weedy Resistance: Practicing Social-Ecological Art in the (so-called) Anthropocene and will provide a tour of her diverse individual and collaborative works of what she calls “social-ecological art”. I had the privilege of meeting Ellie at an art-science session at the 2017 Ecological Society of America meeting, and was delighted to learn that she is a Brooklyn local. We’re lucky to have her visiting Pratt.

Ellie has a background in Environmental Science as well as art, and although her work is clearly in the realm of art rather than science, her engagement with botany and ecology is profound. She has a particular passion for biological examples of “weedy resistance“, species which manage to thrive in spite of being regularly removed, poisoned, and displaced by human actions. She’s also used a biologist’s conception of field work to find new ways of interacting with the human-impacted environment.

What I find really impressive is the array of different projects that have emerged from Irons’ “social-ecological” approach. She’s created protected spaces where weeds can grow and be appreciated apart from both the neglect and the removal that humans normally reserve for such species. She has tethered her painting to the survival of weeds by using only pigments derived from collected feral plants. And she has chronicled the rise and fall of these weedy resistors across the (supposedly) vacant lots of Brooklyn, ready to advocate for these hearty survivors.

Irons has also teamed up with other artists, educators, and activists to form two collectives dedicated to ecological and environmental art projects. The Environmental Performance Agency emerged in response to the proposed defunding of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and uses a variety of interactive projects to explore our conceptions of our environment, what performance we expect from and in response to that environment, and what our sense of agency is in relation to that environment. The Next Epoch Seed Library (which previously participated in a Pratt Manhattan Gallery show) is a seed bank dedicated to preserving and propagating weedy urban species. Volunteers collect seeds that do well in human-dominated areas and create seed packets that can not only be archived but also distributed to people who wish to support the weedy resistance.

Through these diverse works, Irons is questioning the Anthropocene (both the epoch itself, and this name for that epoch) while also trying to make sense of it. She’s asking us to consider questions that we generally don’t ask ourselves in a time period that we have decided is of our species and perhaps for our species. Are we really able to dominate nature, or do other organisms resist our attempts to dominate? Should we be in the business of deciding which species should survive and which should not? Can we find a way to co-exist more harmoniously with nature not only as it is but also as we have impacted it?

Please come see Ellie speak at Pratt! The event is free and open to the public, and there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion following her talk.

Here’s the official description of the event:

In this ArtSci Affair lecture, interdisciplinary artist Ellie Irons explores the practice of socially engaged, environmentally-oriented art in the context of the 6th Mass Extinction, through the lens of her own engagement with weedy plants and urban ecosystems. The talk will trace her transdisciplinary path through early work in environmental science and landscape painting to her current commitment to a form of artistic practice she calls “public fieldwork”. Throughout, Irons will investigate the benefits of open, publicly accessible exchange between the arts and sciences, and between humans and nonhumans. In addition to discussing her personal, research-based work with plant pigments and urban land use patterns, she will also describe the development of collaborative projects like The Next Epoch Seed Library, Weedy Resistance, and The Environmental Performance Agency. In each of these projects Irons and her collaborators investigate the potential of social-ecological art to aid in disrupting damaging human-centered narratives of earth systems, recasting social and ecological justice as integral to contemporary environmentalism. Claiming the concept of “weediness” as a powerful metaphor for political and cultural resistance, these projects ask how solidarity with the nonhuman, particularly with often overlooked wild urban plants, might help us rethink environmental values under late Capitalism.

And here’s the poster for the event:


Thanks so much to Agnes Mocsy‘s ART.SCI AFFAIR and the Pratt Senate’s Academic Initiatives Fund for supporting Ellie Irons’ visit!

A Major Post, Activism, Adaptation, Biodiversity Loss, Climate Change, Commensalism, Community Ecology, Competition, Department of Mathematics & Science, Ecological Restoration, Ecology, Ecosystem Services, Grasslands, Habitat Destruction, Habitat Fragmentation, Invasive Species, Mutualism, Pollination, Pollution, Pratt Academic Senate, Public Art, Public Outreach, Resilience, Science in Art & Design, Sustainability, Sustainable Urban Design, Temperate Forest, Urban Ecology, Urban Planning

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