Towards an eco-utopic consciousness.
Certain ecological actions today do not respond to a true awareness of waste production or suggest ways to counter it. Recycling for instance, far from being just an environmentally conscious sub-culture movement, is already part of the marketing engine of big corporations and an integral component of hegemonic economic and social structures. Its formal attributes (symbols, forms and colors) as well as prescribed actions (recycle, reuse, reduce) are repeatedly filtered through the mass media and packaged to the public as a form of social and cultural responsibility. We are told that we must partake in this activity to preserve the environment, and we do so willingly but unconscious of its true ultimate goal, when in reality recycling can be considered an undertaking of almost utopic proportions. In an interview with Alison Sky months before his disappearance, Robert Smithson defines recycling as “an attempt to reverse entropy” that might be just as difficult as “looking for needles in haystacks.”1 Perhaps what Smithson refers to is that although recycling attempts to reuse and reduce, the industry is still producing more objects that are perhaps not recycled after their re-production. Is it not more sensible to slow down the creation of additional waste at the level of initial production? It seems clear that as responsible individuals of society we must find ways to critically rethink our actions in regards to long-term sustainability.
With the project en(re), artist Teresa Mulet develops a series of actions that, parting from a typographic and functional design-based structure, create a relational space for interaction and awareness raising. En(re) is not just about recycling, but about rethinking and reformulating our thought process into actions; it is not an object or an aspiration, but a disposition in the present. In it, Mulet establishes relationships between function, language and thought through precise actions and discussions, where the written and verbal word serves as a catalyst for the creation of an eco-utopic envisioning; the possibilities that lie in reconfiguring our behaviors within the context of our contemporaneity. Albeit at first glance more in tune with a modernist spirit, it is in actuality very paradigmatic of our times. Writer and critic Boris Groys argues that it is the “reconsideration of the projects of modernism that makes us contemporary to our times. Being contemporary is not the same as being temporal: being ‘with the times’ is not the same as being ‘in the times’.”2 In en(re), both actions and words bring the participator and contributor of the work closer to the present while envisioning perhaps a more sustainable future.
In each action, Mulet privileges the prefix (re) to emphasize the project’s call to action and its typographical dimension, interweaving design, art and language. The collaborative actions go from active functionality to metaphorical linguistic word plays; the filling of en(re) furniture with plastic PET bottles, the sowing of words, and their consequent reaping. Within the backdrop of the natural landscape of Dorado, the actions performed alongside Mulet raise questions concerning our daily actions and preconceived notions on sustainability. Being ecologically conscious cannot be reduced to merely recycling materials. We must bring criticality into our actions, we must go back and reconsider the past and whimsically contemplate the prospect of renewed possibilities.
Carla Acevedo Yates
1 Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings, 2nd Edition, edited by Jack Flam, The University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California; University of California Press, LTD. London, England; 1996.
2 “Los Camaradas del Tiempo. Una conversación con Boris Groys.” La Tempestad Nov. – Dec. 2010: 83-84. Print.