Revisiting an artist/engineer/social activist’s open call for rethinking environmental health via participatory art practice
“People who come to the clinic are called, not patients, but impatients, because they're too impatient to wait for legislative change to address local and environmental health issues,” Natalie Jeremijenko asserts to the audience of the Business Innovation Factory-5 Summit. A partner event to the renowned TED conferences, Business Innovation Factory (BIF) is a platform for innovative thinkers who tackle large-scale issues, providing innovative solutions to common system flaws. Despite being delivered in October 2009 (nearly five years ago), Jeremijenko’s lecture still retains valuable and relevant concepts, which are applicable to the emerging interdisciplinary character of art today.
By Allison Palenske
Currently an associate professor at NYU’s Visual Art Department, Jeremijenko is a modern day Renaissance woman, mothering a medley of projects that all share the commonality of bringing people more strongly in touch with the world that they inhabit. The clinic Jeremijenko mentions to the BIF-5 audience is that of NYU’s xClinic—an environmental health clinic and lab. Prescribing an onslaught of witty, and sometimes loony, participatory and performance art solutions, the xClinic seeks to change the human relationship to health care methodologies, as well as perceptions and interpretations of environmental health. Some of xClinic’s prescriptions include--
What becomes clear through Jeremijenko’s dialogue is her tenacity and unique approach to merging the fields of art and science. For Jeremijenko, this collaboration is a necessity, not a trend. Her creations make art seem pragmatic, and science visually appealing. This symbiotic process of collaboration and translation engenders inclusivity, while also inciting environmental activism and shifting the aesthetic of participatory art practice. For Jeremijenko, art is a process, not a product. Jeremijenko’s theories and proposed actions are the antidote to the segregation of arts and sciences, a proposal for a RE-renaissance of sorts. The effects of such an interaction between artists and scientists, exemplified by the xClinic, are phenomenal, providing optimism for the grim ecological realities of our time. By providing projects that embody the tangibility of change, large global-scale problems are given localized solutions.
Natalie Jeremijenko’s lecture is available via the TED website.
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