On the occasion of Wilkinson College’s Engaging the World: Leading the Conversation on Environmental Justice the Guggenheim Gallery is honored to present Old Growth - New Decay: Environmental Justice, Environmentalism and Sustainability.
As a society generally, and more specifically in the arts we have come a long way from romanticist notions of landscape and the concept of ‘nature’; in 2021 intact versions of the former are increasingly hard to find while it is uncertain whether or not the latter in its separation from human activity still holds any meaning. The ongoing impact of homo sapiens on their immediate environment as well as the planet is well documented and can be felt in many ways and places; be it water- or air-quality or the globally rising temperatures and subsequent changing weather patterns.
Situationist International writer Raoul Vaneigem remarked in 1961 in the Basic Program of the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism: “You don’t live somewhere in the city; you live somewhere in the hierarchy. At the summit of this hierarchy the ranks can be ascertained by the degree of mobility […]. “While mobility as an expression of power doesn’t hold the same significance as it did 60 years ago, considering the daily movement of middle- and lower-class commuters on congested freeways and crowded airports, the allocation of coordinates to power still rings true. Today at said summit the ranks can be ascertained by their degree of access to clean water, air, food and a moderate climate, which are tied to access to technology as well as geographically desirable locations. Subsequently not all populations are exposed to changes of the environment in the same way. Black, indigenous and other people of color are disproportionately disadvantaged when it comes to access to resources as well as the decision-making processes tied to these resources.
The works in the exhibition speak to the urgency of an international environmental agenda as well as the importance of environmental justice and a shared and just ecological agenda that emphasizes the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.