restricted access 7. Environmental Art and Ecological Citizenship

Jason B. Simus discusses and dismisses the criticism put forward by Allen Carlson that some, if not most, environmental artworks constitute an aesthetic affront to nature. Carlson claims that whether an environmental artwork constitutes an affront depends only on aesthetic qualities apart from any relationship to its social, moral, and ecological qualities. Simus rejects this claim, and argues that the aesthetic qualities of a work should not be divorced from these other qualities; instead we should aim at a comprehensive evaluation that takes all the work's qualities into consideration when the question is whether or not an environmental artwork is an affront. Simus also criticizes Carlson's idea that real nature is pristine, untouched by humans, as based on an outdated ecological theory. If humans are not seen as part of nature but apart from nature, environmental artworks are almost by definition an affront to nature. Simus' central thesis is that environmental artworks have the same democratic potential as restoration projects if participation in their creation, appreciation, and criticism encourage deliberation about aesthetic, social, moral, ecological and all other community-regarding values.