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Fragile Ecologies


“The emergence of ecological art may be understood as part of a long tradition of artists responding to the environment.” This notion, proposed by Barbara C. Matilsky in her book ‘Fragile Ecologies’, redefines the understanding of when and how ecological art came about. Rather than believing ecological art to be a relatively new movement, riding on the back of environmentalism, Matilsky insists that its origins actually lie within the communities of the early peoples of the world; “The first works of art ever created – the cave paintings of western Europe – established harmony between people and animals.” She proposes the idea that indigenous cultures, which from a western perspective are viewed with preconceived ideas of smallness and localism, are actually the ones that think the biggest of all, they have always been aware of the intricate balance between people and nature, a web of connections which the western world is only just coming to terms with.



Relevant notes from the book 'Fragile Ecologies':

  • "artists are in a unique position to effect environmental changes because the can synthesise new ideas and communicate connections between many disciplines." Pg 3

  • Ecological art attempts to close the gap of the widening gulf between natural and urban ecosystems. Pg 4

  • "the first works of art – cave paintings – established harmony between people and animals." Pg 4

  • Environmental art – sensitize viewer to natures fragility

  • "artists and ecological artworks demonstrate that people can effect positive changes in their environment despite the enormity of the problems." Pg 112


Matilsky, Barbara C., and Queens M. Art. Fragile ecologies: contemporary artists' interpretations and solutions. New York: Rizzoli International, 1992.

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