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Talk ‘Patricia Johanson: The World as a Work of Art’

Patricia Johanson: The World as a Work of Art

Talk by Roel Arkesteijn

Virtually unknown to the general public, Patricia Johanson (New York City, 1940) has been rapidly gaining prominence in the United States over the last decade, on the one hand as a female Minimal artist and on the other as an eco-art pioneer, recognised as a role model by younger generations of ecofeminists. As early as 1969, Johanson developed a visionary, coherent ecological programme in which she devised sculptural solutions to environmental problems, planning issues, urban development and the loss of natural habitats of plants and animals. In each case, her work is conceived on a landscape scale and focused on practical implementation. As a visual artist, she creates complete landscapes or habitats, restoring local plant and animal communities and providing meeting places between people and nature.

Starting in the 1980s, Johanson realised several commissions in public spaces. At Fair Park Lagoon in Dallas, Texas (1981–1986), for example, she transformed a dead lagoon with slimy algae and eroding shoreline edges into an ecologically rich habitat and inviting park. The ground plan is based on the shapes of a local aquatic plant and a fern from the area. For the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility in Petaluma, California (2000–2009), she developed a giant park around a water treatment plant, whose ground plan is shaped like a salt-marsh harvest mouse – an endangered local species. Johanson's park includes not only a water treatment plant, but also a stormwater collection and treatment facility, farmland and a nature and recreation area.

The winter of 2023 will see the publication of a voluminous volume of writings by Patricia Johanson, compiled and edited by Roel Arkesteijn. The book marks the beginning of the new Art & Ecology research group, and it is hoped that it will give the impressive, exemplary artistic-ecological programme Johanson has developed since the late 1960s international dissemination and prominence as a best practice for eco-artists. The lavishly illustrated publication will feature nearly 200 texts, letters and interviews by Johanson, including a new interview with the artist by Ann Goldstein and Roel Arkesteijn produced for this occasion. The American art critic and activist Lucy R. Lippard contributed a foreword. The book will run to 544 pages and be designed by Caroline de Lint. It will be published by Track Report and Fieldwork Museum.

(image: Fair Park Lagoon, photo © Patricia Johanson, detail)

This presentation is part of ARTICULATE 2023 I ECOSYSTEMS.