a manifesto for frogs
Sometimes the art world can cause one to put things into proper perspective. This: some jerk put pink food colouring into a geyser in Iceland. When they first discovered the geysers a century ago, people tried all sorts of things; soap, gold, magic crystals to see what would happen. Move forward however and we all have a better understanding of how pouring artificial chemicals into a natural wonder like a geyser is a bad idea. This has made me very, very angry and I even wrote a screed on Facebook, but then I took it down because I don’t want to add to the persistent negativity which seems to rule social media. I am still pretty steamed though and this is why:
Artists don’t have special rights. Artists should never be allowed to interfere with anything in the wilderness. They can copy what they see, they can imitate what they hear but they should never be allowed to change or alter any eco-systems anywhere. If they do then they should be treated as polluters.
Ok, I got that off my chest. I have this fear that since we no longer believe that art is a skill or a profession and that it can just happen anywhere at any time, we have left public spaces vulnerable to all sorts of insult. While I completely agree with civil unrest and even riots to a certain extent as well as interventions in places where a solid case can be made to interfere with business as usual, I will not stand for the art community messing around with the planet’s natural phenomena.
Years ago I did a residence in Iceland. I found the landscape and lack of night disorienting and improbable. However the struggle I had trying to make paintings based on it’s luminous, unworldly rocks and glaciers helped turn me into a visual artist. I had a huge threshold of understanding and fear to overcome and I did. I have loved the place ever since. At that time some young and hip British artists also shared the residency. They had an art exhibition and in it they put brightly coloured balls into tidal pools around the residency. The balls were suspended by fishing wire and floated on the surface – the bright colour in contrast to the earthy tones of the pools was striking. My partner however had major misgivings regarding what they were doing as he thought these pools had wildlife in them and the wires could cause problems. Everyone felt he was being very compassionate etc. but they went ahead with the installation anyway. The next day after the opening a duck drowned because it was strangled in one of the lines. It was a very unfortunate event and the artists were mortified. They thought they had taken every precaution.
The thing is, you can’t think of everything when you are dealing with the natural world. This is why we have biologists and scientists in many fields who track how the world evolves. It’s a complex, fragile and mysterious system. This is why people like my partner has spent a huge portion of their lives fighting against all sorts of commercial interests who would like to just run roughshod over the environment to meet their own needs. Artists who engage in activities that can have potential harm to an ecosystem are doing the exact same thing.
I don’t give a rat’s ass that your artistic expression entails you to colour a natural water regime pink or that your canvas is “the natural world”. Stop interfering with something that is ancient, poetic, powerful and better than anything you will ever create.
I love frogs. If an artist came near the wetland across from my home and dyed it pink I might end up in jail. I give you the frog manifesto:
Leave us alone
Just enjoy what we do from a distance
We are sentient
Don’t ruin our homes or habitats
What you think you know about us is a fraction of our reality
If you are an artist, don’t exploit us for your glory
If you are an artist, use us to help us
Let us do this: