Environmental Arts – Backgrounds


Environmental Arts Background

Syllabus Fall 2006

Instructor: Alan Prohm



Environmental Art Backgrounds (2cr)


Objectives:            To understand the historical background of the environmental arts and establish a critical vocabulary for approaching them in both theory and practice.


Content:            The emergence of modern environmental arts (land art, installation art, site-specificity, urbanist practices, etc…), out of mid-20th Century experimentalism in Europe and the US. Major trends of development from the 1960’s to the present. Consideration also of the role of artists in relation to the environmental and social justice movements, and to the emergence of the new “mental” environments of the digital age.


1 Intro: From Art Object to Land Art: How land art emerged out of minimalist sculpture

2 The Critical Logic of Land Art; Heizer, de Maria, Oppenheim and Smithson

3 Robert Smithson; The British Alternative: Richard Long, Andy Goldsworthy

4 From Gallery to Installation: the Emergence of Environments and Installation Art

5 Phenomenology and Institutional Critique: Strategies of Installation Art

6 From Public Sculpture to Site-Specific: The “Tilted Arc” Controversy

7 Functional Sites and the Un-Siting of Site-Specific; Identity Politics and Issue Art


8 Environmentalist Art: Alan Sonfist, Hans Haacke, Ana Mendieta, Agnes Denes

9 The Environmental Crisis (from Rachel Carson to Al Gore, through Schellenberger & Nordhaus) Changing Artistic Strategies; the Harrisons

10 Critical Urban Arts and Activism

11 Mental Environmentalism: Tactical Media in the Age of Pancapitalism

12 Community Art: the Artist as Consensus Builder

13 Two Critiques of Community Art: Critical Art Ensemble and Lucy Lippard

Paper Due


Environmental Art Backgrounds: A Rough and Partial Reading List

Out of the Box:

Fried, Michael. “Art and Objecthood”.   Art Forum 5 no.10, June 1967.

Greenberg, Clement. “Modernist Painting”.

Morris, Robert. “Notes on Sculpture 4: Beyond Objects”. Art Forum 7 no.8, April 1969.

Krauss, Rosalyn. “Sculpture in the Expanded Field.”


Installation Art:

O’Doherty, Brian. Inside the White Cube. Berkeley, 1999.

Bishop, Claire. Installation Art: Critical History. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Rosenthal, Mark. Understanding Installation Art: from Duchamp to Holzer. New York: Prestel, 2003.

de Oliveira, Nicolas. Installation Art.

de Oliveira, Oxley and Petry. Installation Art in the New Millenium. Thames & Hudson, 2003.


Site-Specific, Community and Location-Based Practices; New Genre Public Art:

Kwon, Miwon. One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity. MIT, 2002.

Lippard, Lucy. The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society. New York, The New Press, 1997.

Lacy, Suzanne: Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art. (1994)

Kester, Grant. Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art (2004)

Bourriaud, Nicolas. Relational Aesthetics. (1998) (not in our library, but can be found in Helsinki)

Miles, Malcolm: Art, Space and the City: Public Art and Urban Futures. (1997)

Critical Art Ensemble. “Resisting the Bunker” in Electronic Civil Disobedience: and Other Unpopular Ideas. Autonomedia, 1996. [critiques institution-mediated community-based art, proposes anarchic model of “nomadic” critical art as alternative] on-line at



“Environmental Art”

Sonfist, Alan, editor. Art in the Land: A Critical Anthology of Envrionmental Art. 1983.

Kastner, Jeffrey and Wallis, Brian eds. Land and Environmental Art. Phaidon, 1998.

Beardsley, John. Earthworks and Beyond. Abbeville, 1998.

M.J.M. Bijvoet: Greening of Art , 2000   whole book online at:


Sue Spaid: Ecovention, Current Art to Transform Ecologies


Robert Smithson. The Collected Writings of Robert Smithson.

Dennis Oppenheim. Collected Works.

Micheal Heizer.

Hans Haacke. London: Phaidon.

Agnes Denes. (I have a book on her work I can lend to someone interested)

Richard Long: Walking the Line. also Walking in Circles, and a monograph about him.

Alan Sonfist: Nature, the End of Art: Environmental Landscapes (2004)

The Yes Men: “Dow Ethics” spoof website and media stunt


Critical Art Ensemble. Flesh Machine. Autonomedia, 1998. on-line at


Amy Young. “The Fine Art of Creating Life.”

on Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison:   “Two Lines of Sight and An Unexpected Connection: The Art of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison”     By Arlene Raven on community arts network http://www.communityarts.net/readingroom/archivefiles/2002/09/two_lines_of_si.php print

Chapter on the Harrisons from Bijvoet’s Greening of Art  http://www.stichting-mai.de/hwg/amb/goa/greening_of_art_10.htm

“Newton Harrison, Helen Mayer Harrison: Peninsula Europe”   by Donald Goddard, 2003 http://www.newyorkartworld.com/reviews/harrison.




Luke, T.W., “Art and the Environmental Crisis: From Commodity Aesthetics to Ecology Aesthetics,” from Art Journal, Summer 1992, pp. 72-76. (Not in our collection)

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. 1962.

Merchant, Carolyn, ed. Ecology: Key Concepts in Critical Theory. New Jersey, Humanities Press, 1994.

Schellenberger, Micheal and Ted Nordhaus. “The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World”

Shiva, Vandana. Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge. Boston, South End Press, 1997.



Robert Smithson. “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey”, in The Collected Writings of Robert Smithson.

“Talking with Tony Smith” Dec. 1966 Artforum

Deutsche, Rosalyn. Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics.   [Tilted Arc controversy; Uneven Development)

Klein, Naomi. No Logo.

Lucy Lippard. “Street Art”

Jane Jacobs. The Death and Life of Great American Cities: The Failure of Town Planning. Random House, 1961.