` Anne-Katrin Spiess - Environmental Art

S. P. I. L. L.

Silent and Persistent Infusion of Life and Love

For the exhibition Gentle Actions in Oslo, Norway, in the fall of 2010, only a few months after the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I created an installation addressing oil spills around the globe.

At the center of the room was circle formed by round meditation cushions. The cushions were made from a synthetic (oil derived) fabric, and stuffed with recycled plastic bags (also oil derived). On top of each cushion was the image of a large oil rig. At the center of the circle sat a number of large glass “drops” containing either water, oil, or water contaminated by oil.

During the exhibition I would sit and meditate on a cushion. Visitors to the exhibition were invited to join me in the meditation, with the instructions to send positive energy and love to the fish, birds and all the beings that are affected by the oil spill. After completing their meditation, visitors were invited to share their thoughts in a log provided to document the exhibition.

CO2 Neutral Bicycle Journeys:
Green Horizons, Sublime Climate & Demo Eco M.O.

In 2007 I began what would become a series of "Carbon Neutral Journeys" traversing several states in North Eastern America. These journeys became not merely a gesture, but a ripple effect, my actions resounded. I was experiencing the effort involved in producing one's own power. My intention was not to proselytize, nor to make accusations. I was not promoting the bicycle as the sole mode of transportation, nor as a panacea to environmental ails. However, if people reconsider their options as autonomous capable, and responsible beings, the project is realized.

Journey #1: Journey to Green Horizons

The initial project was conceived for the environmental art exhibition, "Green Horizons" at Bates College in Maine. It was inspired by a sentence from the exhibition flyer announcing the show's intention to be "off the grid". I became intrigued by the possibility of traveling to Maine without producing carbon emissions. I researched various means of transport from New York City to Lewiston, Maine, and investigated how much CO2 would be produced along the way, were I to travel by plane, SUV, bicycling, walking, hybrid car, midsize car or bus. Since walking and bicycling turned out to be the two least environmentally harmful modes of travel, I chose to undertake the journey by bicycle. I commenced what could be perceived as a quixotical action where the journey is the art, the product is the process, and where slowness is the secret to a successful and mindful experiencing of the world around me. I performed an art action as a self-powered transport service. Upon arrival at Bates College I installed the bicycle and trailer (containing a tent, sleeping bag, emergency gear etc.), the video of the journey, and a chart drawn onto the wall, revealing the amount of CO2 that would have been emitted by the various modes of transportation.

Journey #2: Journey to Sublime Climate

The second phase of the project, extended the journey from Maine to the Cambridge School of Weston in Massachusetts for an exhibition opening in April 2008 titled "Sublime Climate". Fortuitously I again encountered individuals along the way who resonated with my mission and my message. I once again collected and displayed footage and documentation of my passage along with the bicycle and accoutrement.

Journey #3: Demo Eco M.O.

For the third leg of this journey I made myself available to deliver tools to and collect works from fellow artists in the exhibition "Demo, Eco, M.O." at Nurture Art in Brooklyn, NY, curated by Linda Weintraub. I dispatched art, art mediums, and art tools which were shared, exchanged, and donated. The data proving my thesis was shown similar to the previous incarnations, via documentary footage of the journey through the streets, going from studio to studio to conduct drop-offs and pick-ups, and a chart displaying emissions produced. Each collection trip was a unique articulation and interface with other artists and denizens of New York City.



Massive deforestation is taking place all over the planet in order to produce a completely superfluous set of implements: Disposable Wooden Chopsticks! For this exhibition I printed 5,000 flyers explaining the problem and asking restaurants to discontinue the use of wooden chopsticks and to substitute washable plastic or bamboo ones, instead.


“A Walk on the Beach”
Trash Collection Projects

On the occasion of the 2001 exhibition “FRESH KILLS: Artists Respond to the Closing of the Staten Island Land Fill” I decided that I should do a “Trash Collection Project” similar to the one I did in Utah in 2000.

My contribution to the exhibition, titled “A Walk on the Beach”, commemorated the closure of the largest landfill on the planet by collecting trash from South Beach, a surprisingly beautiful site with golden sand on Staten Island, NY. My findings were washed, sorted and then exhibited in tall glass containers in the gallery. In front of each container I hung a panel with text providing information on how we can considerably reduce our “footprint” on the planet by choosing products and packaging that are less taxing on the environment.



“Desert Highway Cleansing”
Trash Collection Projects

My original intention for this project was to document and study the natural elements of a remote area in the Canyonlands of Utah by photographing them inside clear containers which functioned as framing devices. During my explorations I encountered an inordinate amount of discarded industrially manufactured objects such as beer bottles, cans, etc. I felt it was necessary to document the dichotomy of man and nature and in doing so began what would become a series of “Trash Collection Projects”.

Later on, on a splendid stretch of desert highway 191 in Utah I noticed large amounts of litter on both sides of the road. I decided to “Adopt a Highway” and cleaned up the stretch between mile markers 176 and 177. I photographed every single object I picked up.