6 – 22 October 2004
The expression, environmental art, is bipartite. The first part, environmental, means the various sensory observations made of our immediate environment. The environment is then a combination of space, place and landscape. As observers, we are part of the environment and the environment is part of us and our thoughts. Consequently, when we change our environment, we also change our thoughts.
Environment also means responsibility, implying concern for what people do or not do to the environment. The environment is a space in which we function as active agents, transforming it. The environment is the result of our actions.
Art, the second part of the expression, means freedom and doubt. Its possibilities include the whole spectrum of emotions and knowledge. Art marvels, argues and questions. Art represents the irrational and unforeseeable opportunity. It is an unending process. Literally, therefore, environmental art is where responsibility and freedom, reality and dreams meet. Nature, untouched environment, is a myth, a kind of background horizon against which all our deeds are delineated. This horizon defines the nature and extent of our deeds. Environmental art clearly emphasises the simultaneity of our aesthetic and ethical choices. We are forced to justify our deeds in respect to the environment. Environmental art is man's actions in the environment. Through our deeds we are active influencers in our environment.
Place is a moment bound to the environment, born via the experiencer. When we change the place, we change our thinking. Place is the sum total of all our sensory experiences, a moment in the world. We carry with us the history of different place experiences, created on the basis of our spatial experiences, our personal state of mind.
With globalisation, our experience of the environment widens. Choices are also to be seen as global actions. Movement, changing place, has come to be one of the basic forms of experiencing the environment. Moving from one place to another is an everyday experience. The hour spent in a train is always a new and different chapter in our experiential history. It is, however, almost impossible to master the many questions relating to our environment. Globalisation takes decision making out of our hands. Today, such matters as transportation, building, farming, forestry, etc., are among those we have precious little control over.
Movement and many others of our choices are global deeds. Our actions depend on our viewpoint, how we are situated in the world. The choice of viewpoint leads to an emphasis on seeing. At its best, seeing is a perception of the world and the environment. At its best, environmental art is the realisation of seeing.
The environment, space, place, landscape and nature form a framework that, irrespective of viewpoint, acquires its individual shape in all our minds. The environment is an image produced by the senses that is the only possible one at that precise moment in existence.
Artist, Environmental Art Professor
Professor Markku Hakuri, Environmental Art Professor of the University of Art and Design UIAH, Helsinki has recently been a guest of the School of Art and Culture at RMIT. As part of his visit to the School Professor Hakuri installed a work titled Beyond Horizons in the Faculty Gallery in Building 2, Bowen Lane.
Professor Hakuri's exhibition also includes photographs of works he made with post-graduate students as part of the Environmental Art Program at UIAH.
Beyond Horizons opened on 7 October and was well received and attended by students and academic staff, but also by many representatives of the local Finnish and Scandinavian communities.
Her Excellency Anneli Puura–Märkälä, Ambassador of Finland in Australia, formally opened Beyond Horizons. Her husband Dr Hannu Märkälä also attended the opening.
Vice Chancellor, Chris Whitaker spoke enthusiastically about the strong relationship between RMIT University and the University of Art and Design UIAH, Helsinki. He particularly recognised the cultural strengths that have developed over a number of years as a result of collaborations between the two great Universities and their art schools.
Associate Professor Sandra Martin, Head of the School of Art and Culture, and Peter Westwood, Head of International Projects in the School welcomed Professor Hakuri to RMIT. Peter Westwood, curator of the exhibition, spoke about the engaging nature of Professor Hakuri's environmental practice.
Professor Hakuri presented a talk for students and the general public in the Faculty Gallery on Wednesday 13 October. The presentation touched on some of the work he has undertaken with postgraduate students in arctic and wilderness regions in Finland. The talk was well attended by academic staff, students and academics and students from a number of other universities.
Professor Hakuri has taught at the Fine Arts Academy and the Theatre Academy, Finland, and over many years at the University of Art and Design UIAH. He has been invited as a visiting professor to the USA and France, and has participated in environmental art conferences in Finland and abroad, and through his work and his writing has contributed to the ongoing international debate on the environment and international contemporary art.