The Ecosophical Imperative

A workshop with artists, activists and writers about art, ecology, and the Green New Deal


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Politics / Economics
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought/Public Trust

Contributing Institutions

The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology


Steven Duval, Billy Fleming, Aaron Levy, Sarah Lewison, Marina McDougall

Opens to public


Slought is pleased to present "The Ecosophical Imperative," a series of workshops with artists, activists and writers about art, ecology, and the Green New Deal, beginning May 20, 2021. This series of workshops is organized in association with The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology's Superstudio–a nationwide call to landscape architects and other practitioners to envision "shovel ready projects" for a Green New Deal. It is our goal to put forth the case that art and culture are imperative to any Green New Deal project. Through a discussion of historical, contemporary and speculative models, we will consider the potential for a new awakening through arts and culture.

Momentum is building towards a new New Deal—sweeping infrastructure and jobs recovery programs designed to address the multiple and overwhelming social, environmental and economic crises that we face. Arts and culture were central to the original New Deal. What role can they play towards a socially transformative Green New Deal for our times?

Since the original New Deal, arts practice has greatly evolved. Over the last several decades numerous artists working in collaborative, interdisciplinary, research-based modalities in a diversity of community-based situations have developed projects to address ecological and social challenges with imaginative and liberating possibilities. Education is a core area for artists who work in the community and develop lasting relations that foster a vibrant cultural life; and build a broader sustainable and equitable culture of environmental caretaking.

In his celebrated manifesto The Three Ecologies (1989), French Theorist Felix Guattari expands the definition of ecology to encompass human subjectivities and social relations interconnected with their surrounding environments. He calls for a new form of philosophy, an "ecosophy" to advance a multifaceted movement that counters the multiple crises brought about by capitalism. Art and cultural production is a vital component of Guattari's vision.

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Roots: Art & the New Deal in the 1930's
Billy Fleming, Richard Walker and David Goldberg in conversation

What national challenges did the original New Deal set out to address? How was it effective? How do our current national crises resemble the Great Depression? Why is a Green New Deal important? Why was art included in the programs of the New Deal? How did arts programs of the New Deal manifest, how was it orchestrated, and what aspects of this legacy are valuable for our own times?

Field Studies: Radical Pedagogical Experiments since the 1960's
Steven Duval, Sarah Lewison, Nils Norman, and Sol Pérez-Martínez in conversation

How might radical educational experiments from the late 1960's such as Colin Ward's Urban Studies Centres in the UK; the Parkway School without Walls in Philadelphia; or, more recently, Gallery 37 in Chicago, serve as inspiration towards current and future approaches to increasing participation in local environments?

Methods: Contemporary Art & Ecology
Amy Franceschini, Rosten Woo, Rob Buchanan, and Susan Schwartzenberg in conversation

We will also look to contemporary projects such as the public artwork of artist Rosten Woo in Los Angeles (co-founder of the Center for Urban Pedagogy in Brooklyn); the community co-design processes of the international Art Design Collective Futurefarmers; the Anthropocene Curriculum; the Billion Oyster Project in New York City; and the art of Susan Schwartzenberg, Director of the Bay Observatory at the Exploratorium in San Francsicso, to understand the ways in which art, culture and ecology can meet to heighten awareness, and bring about social change.

"How could we agree upon common projects while respecting the singularity of individual positions? By what means, in the current climate of passivity, could we unleash a mass awakening? Will fear of catastrophe be sufficient provocation?... Emphasis must be placed, above all, on the reconstruction of a collective dialogue capable of producing innovative practices... Yet, without modifications to the social and material environment, there can be no change in mentalities. Here, we are in the presence of a circle that leads me to postulate the necessity of founding an 'ecosophy' that would link environmental ecology to social ecology and to mental ecology."

-- Felix Guattari, "Remaking Social Practices" (1992)