Ellie Irons is an interdisciplinary artist and educator based in Brooklyn and Troy, New York. Ellie works in a variety of media, from walks to WIFI to gardening, to reveal how human and nonhuman lives intertwine with other earth systems.
Public Fieldwork in Many Meadows: Practicing Eco-Social Art in the (so-called) Anthropocene
This presentation explores the practice of socially-engaged, environmentally-oriented art in the context of the Sixth Extinction, through the lens of the author’s engagement with weedy plants and disturbed meadow ecosystems. Tracing a transdisciplinary path through early work in environmental science and landscape painting, the talk focuses on Irons’ current commitment to a form of artistic practice she calls “public fieldwork”. This form of art-making involves carrying out ecology fieldwork in public space as an artistic act. This mode of working allows Irons to explore the benefits of open, publicly accessible exchange between the arts and sciences and between human and nonhuman forms of life. After discussing her personal, research-based work with handmade plant pigments and urban land use patterns, Irons describes the development of collaborative projects: The Next Epoch Seed Library and The Environmental Performance Agency. In this work, Irons and collaborators investigate the potential of eco-social art to disrupt damaging human-centered narratives of earth systems, recasting social and ecological justice as integral to contemporary environmentalism. They find that using eco-social art to cultivate novel interaction with urban habitats can offer an alternative pathway into environmental consciousness that emphasizes multispecies solidarity and presents disturbed ecosystems as worthy of care and attention. Irons presents eco-social art as one of many practices that is well-suited to holding together contradictions and providing space to experiment with modes of striving for environmental justice and multispecies thriving in the face of climate chaos. Claiming the concept of “weediness” as a powerful metaphor for political and cultural resistance, these practices ask how solidarity with the nonhuman, particularly with often overlooked wild urban plants, might help us rethink environmental values under late Capitalism.