Art & Activism
Artists hold the potential to bring creative energy to issues and redefine public space in ways that stymie the scientist or the environmentalist and change the matter of fact. They are able to expose pertinent questions and bring light to issues by merely putting a new perspective on them without implying judgement or shame, thus safely bringing together wide and diverse interest and attention.
Beautiful Midden Project
Amigos Bravos is partnering with the Beautiful Midden Project in using art and education to inspire not only the people who are already eager to find constructive channels for acting on behalf of local wild and semi-wild places, but also the population that is alienated, disempowered or simply unaware of the damaging affects of degradation. The project provides a deep synergistic link between education, the arts and ecosystem restoration, an approach that we believe holds enormous potential for change.
The illegal dumping of trash and firing of lead based ammunitions into arroyos, across the mesas, along the rivers and in riparian zones has been a major problem throughout Taos County, New Mexico for many years. One site of intensely concentrated dumping is located at the end of County Road 110 south of Taos, in the area where the Rio Pueblo de Taos meets the Rio Grande. Many of the dumped materials are physical hazards potentially leading to entrapment of wildlife in addition to being toxic pollutants. Trash and its correlated toxins end up in the Rio Pueblo de Taos, then in the Rio Grande, and then downstream in reservoirs and irrigation systems, inevitably affecting the health of our public water and food sources.
The word “midden” is an archeological term that refers to a refuse heap. Beautiful Midden is by nature transformative. It is a collaborative arts and education initiative designed to unite the community in creatively addressing the systemic social issues that underlie causes of environmental degradation.
2013 presents a special opportunity to take the Beautiful Midden project to its next level of action. Beautiful Midden began as a featured project of ISEA2012, an international art conference that focused on the subject of “machine wilderness” (http://socialmedia.hpc.unm.edu/isea2012/). The kickoff was the installation of a can phone that stretched across the expanse of a trash filled arroyo, positioned as an artistic gesture of intent to begin a conversation with the community. The string of the can phone created an aeolian harp, using the natural force of the wind to create an etherial music that has indeed inspired many poignant conversations between individuals of all ages and walks of life. An exhibition of photographs, video and displays of re-contextualized “artifacts” found at the site were displayed at a gallery of the University of New Mexico and drew the attention of ISEA conference participants, UNM art students and members of the general public. As a healing gesture, a day-long vigil was hosted at the site and invited the people of Taos to bring what they do as offerings to the place. Songs, paintings, prayers, dances, and simple contemplative acts saw the sunset on that day.
Presentations of the project have been done at the Amigos Bravos conference “Spend it like Water” at the South Broadway Cultural Center in Albuquerque , Pecha Kucha night at the Penasco theater, and at the ISEA Housing Symposium at UNM Taos.
A documentary has since been produced (watch it at http://vimeo.com/53624955) to outline the project and is currently on display at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos. A free public showing of the documentary took place on November 10, 2012 in the auditorium of the Harwood, followed by a provocative panel discussion of the project. It involved educators, community organizers, local residents from diverse backgrounds, County commissioners, environmentalists and artists.
The pictures below and to the right illustrate the trash problem at the site, the string can phone and the ISEA artwork made from materials found in the canyon.