East Asia and the Eco-polis

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Art / Chinese Avant-Garde / East Asian modernity

In the following article [“Road Toward the Ecopolis: In Architecture, Art and Design, Environmental Knowledge [Bewusstsein] Will Take On New Aesthetic Worth”], which I translate here, author Eva Karcher describes a road to a new ecological aesthetics, its impact on modern designers, and the inevitability of new eco-features of future cities.

[On a side note, the article appeared in this weekend's edition of the Suddeutscher Zeitung (South German Post) of Munich.  In my view the SZ is the superior newspaper on the planet and which on a daily basis makes the New York Times look like fish wrapping and Le Monde look like a silly tabloid.]

More to the point for this blog, these ecological ideas appear to be driven by European firms and planners, but it appears most likely for them to be implemented in East Asia foremost.  Beijing and colleagues like Bao Maohong are no doubt taking note of the innovations.

Here is my translation of Eva Karcher’s “Road Toward the Ecopolis”

Why does the shark, which the British star-artist Damien Hirst installed in preserving formaldehyde and presented in a glass aquarium, seem to look so suddenly old?

To recall: This transitory work, which hedge-fund manager Steven A. Cohen supported in 2004 with the sum of around 9 million dollars, plays within a Shock- and Lust-Senstation society which itself is redolent with angst over the ubiquity of death.

Why also? Not because the animals have for so many years lost their ability for wander. Moreso because the installation vigorously interfaced [ausgrenzt] with Nature. The art placed in tank turrets and used as trophy-mori[森] mementos itself indicates that art symbolized not just deathliness, but the trumimph of Art over Nature.

Cai Guo-qiang in Lyon

Cai Guo-qiang in Lyon

Until spring 2008,when the flaming chrysalis of the rocket launched into the Heaven of Market Hype began to darken, such work still had iconic status. Now everything has changed, and this lies not with the museum quality of the work. It has much more to do with the radical shift in perspective, that hearsts full of undomesticated animals – much moreso than other object d’arte – have become so retro and so readily-available.

And then the economic crisis changed the basis for everything.

This shift [Vershiebung] gegan with the retreat of the maxims of turbocapitalism and its final axiomatically frivolous and sorrow-inducing products: idols and accessories. Into this vacuum of worth, marginal figures [Randfiguren] were thrown into the midst of remarkability; all people had to do was at least throw together a few mismatched alternative methods in order to sin against tradition and virtue [die Tugend] in both art and the cultural industry.

Boris Groys spoke recently about the “aesthetic answer” and forged a new Ethics of Aesthetics. And now, when Cologne’s Pocket Press [Köln Taschen Verlag] sells a rich illustrated series on “Green Architecture,” it becomes our duty to find where the needs lie: for men will always sin against Ethics, and also against Aesthetics. [..."so wird deutlich, wo die Bedürfnisse liegen: Man will sich wieder auf Ethik besinnen, auch in der Ästhetik."]

Thus the time arrives when all the past attribues — such as “enduring [nachhaltig]”, “environmentally world –renowned [umweltbewusst]”, and “ecological” — become targeted [zielen] all upon the ethical competence of Aesthetics. But what does an ethical aesthetics look like?

Certainly it is not pedantic, bitter, or dry. On the contrary, like rain, it is a new, pulsating surrealism [ [spannend surreal], attractive and beautiful. Like the vertical gardens of Patrick Blanc. This French botanist studded the wall of the new Madrid Exhibition Center’s “Caixa Forum” of the Swiss star architect of Heryong and de Meuron with a carpet of green colored leaves, glass, moss, ferns, and flowers.  These plants require no earth in order to grow, and combine innovative research with Rousseau-esque paradise-utopianism to create a new, urban-sensualist aesthetic.

Decidedly, these elements interlace across the board in multiple ways.  Effectively, they have the practice of the Cross-over of the 1990s, which artists experimented with mode, design, music, science, and architeture, and thus prepared the groundwork for a new ethical aesthetics.  Then they built up hierarchies and imparted linear structure to serve their cyclical and networked processes.  They forged forward with interactive energies and fused the forms, which have now transformed toward these.

Now one studies Ecosystems from architects like the Malaysian Ken Yeang.  He holds the principle of “recycling” as an example: [and further names mentioned in the article, schnitt]

Vincent Callebaut- Perfumed Jungle

Jürgen Mayer

Matthew Richie

Däne Olafur Eliasson

Rem Koolhaas

Fernando und Humberto Campana

Aural inspiration which fueled this translation can be referenced here: Puls Radio.

The Author

Lecturer of Chinese history at University of Leeds, and Editor-in-Chief of SinoNK.com.

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