“Alpinism is the art of climbing mountains by confronting the greatest dangers with the greatest prudence. Art is used here to mean the accomplishment of knowledge in action. You cannot always stay on the summits. You have to come down again… So what’s the point? Only this: what is above knows what is below, what is below does not know what is above. While climbing, take note of all the difficulties along your path. During the descent you will know that they are there if you have observed them carefully. There is an art to finding your way in the lower regions by the memory of what you have seen when you were higher up. When you can no longer see, you can at least still know.”
– Mount Analogue, a Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing, by Renee Daumal, 1952.
- NTRES 2600 /ENVS 2600
- Two class meetings a week with independent work outside of class.
- Meeting times and Locations: Lecture 001, 18591, Rockefeller Hall 102, W 2:40 – 3:30 PM
- Lab/Field 801, 18590, Plant Science Building G09 F 1:30 – 4:30 PM
- Grade option:(letter or S/U)
- Mode: remote and in person
Dr. Anna Davidson, Fernow Hall, firstname.lastname@example.org. Office hours by appointment.
Taught by an artist and scientist, this experiential, project-oriented field course emphasizes methodologies used by ecological artists and scientists who conduct expeditionary and place-based field work. The beginning of the class presents a conceptual and historical foundation in the ecological arts through lectures, readings, and artist talks. Techniques in the sciences as well as conventional and unconventional methodologies in the arts and humanities will be employed to research sites, collect, analyze, and interpret data, objects, natural phenomena, and sensorial experiences in the field through several projects including: a site-specific research presentation, bioacoustics, video, sculpture, and the final project to be exhibited in a gallery. Work is submitted and graded through a student-built website throughout the semester, resulting in a solid portfolio. Students in both the arts and sciences are encouraged to enroll.
After this class, students should be able to:
- Interrelate field study, scientific research, cultural and artistic practices to deepen a sense of place.
- Design, conduct, and present site-specific research.
- Use software tools to edit video, sound and to design websites.
- Acquire knowledge of a wide range of current topics in environmental studies while broadening aesthetic and sensorial capacities to respond to and bolster field-based scientific research.
- Name, describe and critique the work of a diversity of international artists and scientists who exemplify a holistic study of nature, sustainability, and humanities, while learning about the strategies and critical concepts they employ in their work.
- Gain new perspectives to diversify approaches to students’ discipline-specific problems.
*To see examples of scientific observations and ecological artworks discussed in this class and used as. inspiration to guide our own place-based experiments and projects, visit this link.
Canvas will be used to access the class syllabus, assignments, schedule, grades, readings, and other important information. Canvas Announcements will be used for instructor/student communication. Online lectures will be scheduled through canvas using Zoom and will not be recorded. When meeting in person, please meet in the designated classroom unless announced otherwise. When meeting in person, ALL students must adhere to Cornell’s current safety policies regarding Covid-19. Please stay up to date on the current protocols and understand they may change over the course of the semester. Please expect to be flexible and understand the course content, methods and schedule are subject to change.
This class will meet twice per week beginning online and will move to in-person in accordance with Cornell’s guidance and policies. On Wednesdays, there will be 50-minute lecture periods to provide a background and introduction to the week’s topic and to prepare you for lab/field activities. To prepare for the Wednesday lecture each week, readings and accompanying graded questionnaires must be completed before class. Late questionnaires will not be accepted. A three-hour block on Fridays will be reserved for longer lectures, student presentations and uninterrupted time for fieldwork.
Each student will build a basic website using Digication and will upload all responses, field recordings, writings, observations, drawings, video work, etc. to this website that will serve as an online field notebook, gallery, museum and/or wunderkammer. This will also be a way for the instructor and student to visually communicate the progress of each individual’s personal project. While new topics, field methods, and active graded assignments will be provided to students throughout the semester, a detailed large final personal creative project will be the main product of the class (which may also incorporate some of the smaller assignments). Students will work on this final project incrementally for most of the semester and it will be exhibited at the Soil Factory-an interdisciplinary art space in downtown Ithaca at the end of the semester.
Most readings will be available on Canvas. In addition to essays, here are some titles we will be drawing from:
- Field Notes on Science and Nature, Michael Canfield
- Art and Ecology Now, Thames & Hudson
- Fragile Ecologies, Contemporary Artists’ Interpretation and Solutions, Barbara Matilsky
- Undermining, A Wild Ride through Land Use, Politics, and Art in the Changing West, Lucy Lippard
- Explorer’s Sketchbooks-The Art and Discovery of Adventure, Huw Lewis-Jones, Kari Herbert
- Against the Anthropocene , T.J. Demos
- Art of Fieldwork, Rachel Wexler
- The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram
- Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology, Lawrence Weschler
Each student will be asked to pick up a box full of useful tools to use in the field on their project. Included is cyanotype paper that CANNOT see the light of day or it will be ruined. So please do not open the envelope it arrives in. Additionally, the box will include: glass vials, petri dishes with agar, plaster, pencils, a stick of graphite, sketchbook, glue, and a hand lens. You are also encouraged to make your own scientific tools for your project.
- Pre-class questionnaires on readings 5%
- Class participation-discussion, critique, etc. 5%
- Written reflections 5%
- Digication Site 5%
- Presentation 1: 5%
- Presentation 2: 5%
- Field Assignments (6) 50%
- Final Project 20%
The official University grading system is composed of letter grades with pluses and minuses. Passing grades range from A+ to D–; F is failing. INC denotes a grade of incomplete, and R is the grade given a for an in-progress multi-semester course. The grades of INC and R do not have quality-point equivalents attached. The quality-point equivalents are below:
Letter grade values are combined with course credit hours to produce an average based on a 4.3 scale. Grade point average is calculated by multiplying the credit hour and quality point equivalent for each course and then dividing by the total number of credits taken. The cumulative average is the sum of the products of all the grades at Cornell divided by the total number of credits taken.
Important Course Policies and Expectations
- It is your responsibility to understand the goals and requirements of each assignment. If you are unclear on any aspect of the course, please email me.
- No cell phone use during class without prior permission.
- Late work is not accepted unless it is due to extreme circumstances such as health issues or family emergencies communicated to the instructor. Depending on the circumstances, late work may or may not be critiqued at the discretion of the faculty.
- Students found to be sleeping or engaging in behavior that is disruptive or disrespectful towards students or faculty will be removed from class and an unexcused absence will be accrued.
- You are EXPECTED to attend each class on time, prepared, and alert. Because each class is a building block for the final project, missing a class (especially a lab) will be detrimental. You are allowed two (2) unexcused absences for the semester. Each subsequent absence will reduce your final grade by one letter (e.g. from an A to an A-). Two tardies (15 minutes or later) equal one absence. If you must miss a class due to illness, COVID, or family emergency, please communicate with me and we will get you caught up.
- We will expect and maintain behavior in class that establishes and preserves an atmosphere of mutual respect and is appropriate for teaching and learning. We will co-create an environment that values diversity and understands learning as a communal endeavor.
Academic Integrity Policy
All students are expected to adhere to the University’s Code of Academic Integrity (https://theuniversityfaculty.cornell.edu/dean/academic-integrity/code-of-academic-integrity/), which states that any submission of work by a Cornell student for academic credit indicates that the work is the student’s own. All outside assistance should be acknowledged and truthfully reported in all circumstances. Students in this class who violate the Code of Academic Integrity will be given a grade of zero for the assignment and/or a failing grade for the course.
Diversity and Inclusion Statement
Cornell University and I (as a human being and instructor of this course) am committed to full inclusion in education for all persons. Services and reasonable accommodations are available to persons with temporary and permanent disabilities, students with DACA or undocumented status, students facing mental health or other personal challenges, and students with other kinds of learning challenges. Please feel free to let me know if there are circumstances affecting your ability to participate in class. Some resources that might be of use include:
Students with Disabilities
Your access in this course is important to me. Please request your accommodation letter from Student Disability Services early in the semester, or as soon as you become registered with SDS, so that we have adequate time to arrange your approved academic accommodations. Disability accommodation procedure for students.
Physical and Mental Health
Maintaining your physical and mental health is extremely important, especially under our current circumstances with Covid-19. I recommend trying to get plenty of rest, exercise, eat well, and follow Cornell’s Covid-19 safety guidelines. If you are struggling to complete something in the course due to mental health issues, please reach out to me. Additionally, please check out this website, Mental Health at Cornell that hosts a wide range of services and strategies.
*Each assignment is detailed in its own document and located on Canvas. Due dates are listed on the schedule.
Pre-class questionnaires on readings 5%, Class participation, discussion, critique, 5%
You will be assigned readings, screenings and/or podcasts to review on your own time. These will be posted on Canvas. There will be questionnaires (quizzes) to complete based on the readings before coming to class. You are expected to come to class having thoroughly reviewed the material and ready to discuss in a group setting.
You will also participate in critiques. Individual and group critiques will focus discussion on critical responses to process and outcome. You will also be asked to speak to the goals, process and outcome of your work and research.
Critique provides an opportunity for you to consider how your work is experienced by others, how it contributes to the exploration of concepts and elements under investigation and how your methodology or technique may be improved or expanded upon. You are always encouraged to rework your project in response to the critique.
In the critique of others’ work, both listening and participating are crucial. The critical information discovered and gained through inspired group conversation (critique), promotes a positive learning culture that will expand your work and knowledge. For some projects, you may be asked to submit a self-assessment and/or peer assessment.
Completion of Digication Site
You will build a basic website/portfolio using Digication, and will upload all of you responses, field recordings, writings, observations, drawings, video work, etc. to this website that will serve as an online field notebook, gallery, museum and/or wunderkammer. This will also be a way for us to visually communicate and for me to assess your progress.
You will have two presentations in this class:
- You will choose one artist to research, either from the list I provide or from independent research (in consultation with me) and will present their work to the class in power point/google slides format with time for questions.
- You will choose a field site to work at throughout the semester. You will research this site and present your findings to the class in addition to why you are drawn to this site and what you plan to do there.
Please see additional information on these assignments in Canvas.
Art Projects (field projects)
Each student will complete six projects based on/at their sites. Each project has its own learning objectives, materials, and methods. Each assignment is detailed in a description on Canvas. Your final project will be the most challenging, be presented in exhibition format, and will be worth the most points.
Art Projects are:
- Creating the Collection
- Synesthesia & Meditation
- Sculpture & Installation
- Final Project for Exhibition
Schedule: Updated 3/25/22
Please plan on this schedule being a living document that is subject to change:
- Baily Hortorium -All things plants
- History Center -Local History of Tompkins County
- Local Native History Article
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Center for Land Use Interpretation
- Lucy Lippard Lecture, Undermining-A Wild Ride through Land Use, Politics, and Art in the Changing West.
- Tim Weaver’s Whale Fall
- Public Lab: https://publiclab.org/ (Build your own scientific tools).
- Critical Ecology Lab
- Center for the Study of the Force Majeure
- Measuring the Sycamore by Akiko Busch
- American Science and Surplus-to buy supplies
- Biosphere 2
- Art and Research Journal
- Art 21
“The ultimate escape attempt would be to free ourselves from the limitations of preconceived notions of art, and in doing so, help to save the planet.”
– Lucy Lippard