March 29, 2016

Discussing KOTF: Investigating the role art can have in eliciting positive change

Lindsay Pichaske, Bust, 2014, earthenware, glaze
Lindsay Pichaske, Bust, 2014, earthenware, glaze. Photo by Dawn Whitmore

What is the most important part of being human? Albert Schweitzer, musician, theologian, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, felt that being ethical, having a reverence for life, is the trait most important for being counted as part of humanity.

In his 1954 Nobel lecture Schweitzer refers to the scientific and technological advances that give humanity ‘power’ over nature:


Man has become superman. He is a superman because he not only has at his disposal innate physical forces, but also commands, thanks to scientific and technological advances, the latent forces of nature which he can now put to his own use

– Schweitzer


Schweitzer’s  lecture was primarily focused on war, but we see very clearly how this line of thinking applies to much of humanity’s actions. We’ve watched as technological advances in the oil, logging, and real estate development industries have decimated the natural habitats of flora and fauna around the globe.

Talia Greene, Precarious Balance (Hawk with Passenger Pigeons), 2015. Digital Print on Phototex.
Talia Greene, Precarious Balance (Hawk with Passenger Pigeons), 2015. Digital Print on Phototex.

Advances in these industries have made life for Western civilizations kind of great, but generally this activity is riddled with unsustainable practices that deplete natural resources.

Ok, ok we know all that, right? Well, we say we do, but what are we actually doing to combat these issues? To reverse the ruining of our planet?

On April 2, come join us for a panel discussion on this very topic! Themes seen throughout King of the Forest: Adventures in Bioperversity will be examined, considered, and debated.

Together with artists and scientists we will dig deeper into some of the issues raised by the works and concepts in the exhibition.

We’ll hear from a variety of voices across the arts, sciences, and policy fields. The panelists are Sam Droege, Alison Parker, Selin Balci, Krista Caballero, Lindsay Pichaske, and Rachel Schmidt. Through the discussion, they will investigate the role that art can have in eliciting positive change in society.

One of the key topics on the agenda is the relationship between humans, animals, and the environment. Specialists in environmental conservancy will discuss whether human interaction with the environment (plant or animal kingdom) will change within the next 5 years.


However, the superman suffers from a fatal flaw. He has failed to rise to the level of superhuman reason which should match that of his superhuman strength

– Schweitzer


Duncan Marsh
Duncan Marsh

With a background in conservation, moderator Duncan Marsh, will be discussing the cost of humanity’s long-term abusive relationship with the planet.

Duncan is the Director of International Climate Policy for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), where he coordinates international policy work and leads engagement in international forums, most recently at COP21 in Paris.

Under Duncan’s guidance we will discuss strategies on how to slow extinction rates of animals, like the losses in native bee diversity. Two of our panelists, Sam Droege and Alison Parker, have overlapping interests in bees. With their in-depth knowledge on the subject, they’ll discuss the bee epidemic and whether our interventions in this area have helped or hurt.

Sam Droege, A Brilliant Blue, Augochloropsis sumptuosa bee
Sam Droege, A Brilliant Blue, Augochloropsis sumptuosa bee

Sam Droege is a biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, in Maryland. He monitors wildlife populations throughout the world, collects the data, and experiments with ways to conserve habitats.

He also creates macro portraits of bees, giving him a close connection with the visual arts. See more at the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab Flickr.

Alison Parker is an ORISE Fellow hosted by the Innovation Team in the Office of Research and Development at the Environmental Protection Agency. She is working to facilitate, expand, and promote citizen science and crowdsourcing approaches to environmental research. She has worked extensively in pollination biology and native bee research.

Rebecca Clark’s Bee series, some of which is on view in KOTF, is closely related to this area of conservation. She is very passionate about this work and writes in her artist’s statement: “[these drawings are] reminders in this age of ecocide that humans cannot live detached from nature.”


But the essential fact which we should acknowledge in our conscience, and which we should have acknowledged a long time ago, is that we are becoming inhuman to the extent that we become supermen

– Schweitzer


The remaining panelists are artists whose work explores the natural world, and each have a unique method of incorporating these themes into their artistic practice. They will discuss the importance of reflecting on the natural world in art.

Leslie Shellow, Entanglements, installation view. Photo by Dawn Whitmore
Leslie Shellow, Entanglements, installation view. Photo by Dawn Whitmore

Krista Caballero uses her artwork to inform viewers of the current extinction rates of bird species, and to explore issues of agency, survival, and environmental change.

In her collaboration with Frank Ekeberg, Birding the Future, they researched the extinction rates of birds, and translated the phenomenon into a multi-sensory installation. Read more about their collaborative work.

Another panelist and exhibiting artist, Selin Balci, explores scientific laboratory practices by using microorganisms as her medium. Her techniques combine scientific material and media with a creative and artistic expression. Read more about Selin’s work.

Lindsay Pichaske will also be sitting on the panel. Her sculptures of animals blur species boundaries and challenge the comfortable classifications of life. Her play on species identification will give us an opportunity to reconsider our perceived notions of hierarchy and power in nature.

Rachel Schmidt, Daydreams in the Anthropocene, installation view. photo by Dawn Whitmore
Rachel Schmidt, Daydreams in the Anthropocene, installation view. photo by Dawn Whitmore

Rachel Schmidt, former AAC Resident Artist, will also participate in the panel. Her engaging exhibition, Daydreams in the Anthropocene is a serene, isolated environment exploring a new geological era and the human interventions that have led to that era.

We’ll ask her to discuss her research into the concept of the Anthropocene, as well as the debates and concerns this term has caused among the geological community, and encourage us to question the role that humans have had in bringing about a potentially irreversible change.


…compassion, in which ethics takes root, does not assume its true proportions until it embraces not only man but every living being

– Schweitzer


Come hear this great group of panelists discuss the intricate and interlaced themes of King of the Forest. This will be one of the last opportunities to see the exhibition, because it closes April 3!
This will also be your last chance to see Rachel Schmidt’s Daydreams in the Anthropocene, on the Upper Level, and Instructor Select 2016, featuring work by AAC students and instructors, on the Lower Level.

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