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For scientists: Ecology is the study of
interactions among organisms and their
environment, such as the interactions
organisms have with each other and with
their abiotic environment.
Today the word ‘ecology’ is used in many contexts, and
this term encompasses a far wider set of ideas than an
external ‘nature’ or ‘environment’.
Recent ‘ecological’ art emerges from the age of the ‘postnature condition’ as announced by T.J Demos in Artforum
Ecology suggests interconnecting paradigms that may be
social, creative, psychological, environmental and
informational (Bateson, 1973; Guattari, 2000; Latour, 2004;
Morton, 2007; Fuller, 2007; Stengers, 2010).
For sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour, if the environment is
represented as a passive subject to be acted upon, rather than a
mutable, generative ecology, we analogically render it ‘speechless’
Bruno Latour, The Politics of Nature, 2004: 86.
Isabelle Stengers, ‘Introductory notes on
an ecology of practices.’
Stengers notion of ‘an ecology of practices’ is addressed to many diverging
practices and their practitioners as a ‘tool for thinking’ beyond disciplinarity.
Such tools operate at the level of slight shifts; the ‘minor key’ rather than the
‘major key’ that involves ‘thinking through the middle’ without deﬁning
“An ecology of practices does not have any ambition to describe things ‘as
they are’; it resists the master word of progress that would justify their
destruction. It aims at the construction of new ‘practical identities’ for
practices, that is new possibilities for them to be present, or in other words to
connect. It thus does not approach practices as they are -- physics as we
know it for instance -- but as they may become.”
Stengers, I, ‘Introductory notes on an ecology of practices.’ Cultural Studies Review. Vol 11, No. 1 March
How do you ﬁnd collaborators?
What are some of the constraints or risks in
cross or interdisciplinary collaboration?
What hierarchies still remain?
neighbourhood air (2011-2012)
Even in New Zealand, a small island state with limited
industrial activity and surrounded by a relatively pristine
environment, air quality regularly exceeds the National
Emissions Standards for nitrogen dioxide and particulate
matter. The global implications of ‘the age of atmospheric
toxins’ (Peter Sloterdijk) means that we can no longer rely on
our primary surroundings.
Brown haze is caused by Nitrogen Dioxide and particulate
matter. The air also contains other pollutants that are harmful,
but invisible, such as Carbon Monoxide.
Dr Jennifer Salmond, Urban Meteorologist, University of Auckland.
Dr Jennifer Dirks, School of Population Health, University of Auckland
Aeroqual technicians; Geoff Henshaw, Greer Laing, John Wagner
Chris Manford, Server Mechanism, Unitec
Jeff Nusz, freelance programmer.
Jason Johnston, Nick Farrands, sound composition and mastering
public contributions of air quality stories
The project utilized three SM50 air quality sensors from
Aeroqual connected to an Aeroqual AQM controller. The
controller was originally set-up to poll the sensors periodically
and save the results onto a memory card that would later be
removed and results analysed.
The sensor array was installed in a disused trafﬁc control hut
on Symonds St (Auckland CBD) measures common air
pollutants mainly emitted by combustion of fossil fuels;
NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide)
CO (Carbon Monoxide)
VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
as well as temperature, humidity and time of day.
Auckland Council Webcam image for photoanalysis, brown haze. Postcard Feedback.
chromatic hue / air quality / sound correlation
There are chromatic hue/ratings of haze severity has an
associated sound tone that gives a rating taken from
The sounds also represent the different gases that are
Aeroqual handheld sensors (SM50)
Here ready for permanent deployment in
California to monitor ozone exceedances.
Ground level ozone (the primary constituent
of smog) is not emitted directly into the
air like other pollutants. Ozone is created
by sunlight acting on Nox and VOC in the
CO2, Carbon Dioxide is released when
Fossil fuels are burned. The increase in
CO2 in the atmosphere is causing
Commercial visualisation using Aeroqual sensors in real time (Spain)
neighbourhood hope index (work-in-progress)
Historically and today the airshed above Christchurch has a problem of regular
exceedances of particulate matter (PM10 ).
Can this be ameliorated in the emergent smart infrastructure of the transitional
city in Christchurch, where the instrumental measurement of trafﬁc ﬂows, water
quality, air quality and urban weather can be monitored by such devices as the
SM50 air quality monitors.
Atmosphere or air is considered in social terms as well as in bio-physical terms,
ie the phrase ‘an air of calm’; community hopes and fears, ‘neighbourhoods of
an uneasy interface between media art, social research and information
Christchurch today postcard collection of stories about air quality
Andrea Polli; a simple, real time animation of particulate pollution levels in San Jose.
The number of ‘drops’ on the screen is linked to current levels of particulate matter.
This site also provides links to archived air quality information from the local Bay Area
Air Quality Management District and national Air Now program.
Theorist Jennifer Garbys suggests that sensors provide orders of
sensation that ﬂow beyond the body to the urban infrastructure
itself as an automatic, ‘collective’ sensorium.
She suggests that by managing urban environments sensors
effectively make environments that construct or recast orders of
She asks, “Can sensor networks, as one of the more pervasive of
these technologies, eventually realign our sensory taxonomies, so
that sight, touch, smell, taste and sound are augmented and
extended by registers of light, temperature, location and motion?”
Jennifer Gabrys, ‘Automatic Sensation: Environmental Sensors in the Digital City’, Berg:
The Senses and Society vol.2 no.:2, 189-200 (July 2007)
Amy Balkin, Public Smog website, ‘Let’s make the atmosphere a World Heritage Site’
“Sensors are not prostheses to the body, in the literal sense but
prostheses to the city”
According to Jennifer Garbys in artworks [such as Public Smog] or in
scientiﬁc representations [airbase] different cities emerge,
“ where the sensors do not just simply replace or extend the limitations
of the human senses but “articulate and shift the ﬁeld of sensory
Body of Water, A Manukau Harbour event, Cardwell Art Collective, Water and Weather group
Water and Weather group also includes: Eu Jin Chua, Lisa Reihana, Dr Ruth Watson,
Dr Sarah Treadwell, Nicholas Spratt, Janine Randerson.
Supported by Creative Communities funding and Te Tuhi Gallery.
AUT School of Engineering's design and creative technologies lecturer Boon-Chong Seet explored the
idea to tag a body of water which is moving - to follow the journey of rainwater and sewage into the
harbour, using a radio frequency identiﬁcation (RFID) chip.
can artists achieve by working with ecological issues?
The small-scale and situated project, rather than the large conceptual
scheme, may be appropriate to an interdisciplinary art practice.The
modest approach to collaboration between artists, scientists and
community groups and ‘things’ is less about dismantling than
providing the conditions for interconnections.
Dialogue and alternative affects to the representational strategies of
mainstream media around key ecological issues.
“Rather than remaining trapped within reductive paradigms, ecological
artist’s platforms draw attention to the intricate and inextricable
relations between the social and ecological. …And precisely through
this complexity, a more radical, just and sustainable ecological politics
Emily Eliza Scott, ‘Artist’s Platforms for New Ecologies.’ Third Text, Jan 2013