How is our understanding of the natural world deeply cultural? What is the impact of human activity and technology on this world? In the Ecology episode, artists Robert Adams, Mark Dion, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle and Ursula von Rydingsvard address the submission of wilderness by civilization, the foundations of scientific knowledge and mankind’s relationship to the Earth.
Ursula von Rydingsvard was born in Deensen, Germany, in 1942. Her massive sculptures reveal the trace of the human hand and resemble wooden bowls, tools, and walls that seem to echo the artist’s family heritage in pre-industrial Poland before World War II. She spent her childhood in Nazi slave-labour and postwar refugee camps, and her earliest recollections – of displacement and subsistence through humble means – infuse her work with emotional potency.
Mark Dion was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1961. His work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between “objective” (“rational’) scientific methods and “subjective; (“irrational”) influences.
Inigo Manglano-Ovalle was born in Madrid, Spain, in 1961 was raised in Bogota, Colombia, and Chicago, Illinois. Manglano-Ovalle’s technologically sophisticated sculptures and video installations use natural forms such as clouds, icebergs, and DNA as metaphors for understanding social issues such as immigration, gun violence, and human cloning.
Robert Adams was born in Orange, New Jersey, in 1937. His refined black-and-white photographs document scenes of the American West of the past four decades, revealing the impact of human activity on the last vestiges of wilderness and open space. Although often devoid of human subjects, or sparsely populated, Adams’s photographs capture the physical traces of human life: a garbage-strewn roadside, a clear-cut forest, a half-built house.
Art21: Art in the 21st Century is an award-winning series of 24 programmes in which 100 contemporary artists explain their creations, their creative processes, and their perceptions of art. Available for the first time on DVD in the UK, Art21 covers a wide range of artists and contemporary visual art.