The term “sustainability” is used in relation to initiatives, actions and programmes that aim to preserve a certain resource. In general, sustainability applies in four distinct areas: human, social, economic and environmental.
As our culture becomes more and more socially aware, the artists have joined the current discussion about sustainability through more responsible art forms. It is a real disadvantage that the carbon footprint associated with the activities of a particular individual, organisation or community is not yet measurable and taxable. Globally, besides the environmental activists, artists have also assumed an important role in conveying the message about social responsibility. Creators are involved in raising public awareness about sustainability and fostering a sense of social responsibility, but this is not a rule that necessarily applies to each artist in particular.
The artists’ concern for using environmentally friendly materials in the artistic process and the concepts they explore open a dialogue with a strong impact, which goes back to humanity’s past and decides its future. Nowadays, some of the most interesting examples of sustainability in art come from the Eastern European artists, more precisely those in the states formerly ruled by communist parties. We are talking about forms of art that were not included in the concept of sustainability in communist times. Given the political and financial restrictions put on them, the artists turned to movements like Land Art or Arte povera and more recently, environmental art, bio art or upcycling. Contemporary artists who approach such directions employ durable, non-toxic materials, integrating the idea of sustainability in their works.
As an individual exercise, one can analyse the antithesis between Richard Serra’s large-scale steel creations and Ana Lupaș’s work The Solemn Process (1964–2008, straw objects encased in metal forms), whose photographic documentation can be seen at the historical exhibition Season’s End of the Art Encounters Foundation.