Contemporary Art as a Forum for Environmental Politics

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperScientific


There have been many discussions about the intensive use of natural resources in Lapland in Scandinavia. For example, several new mining projects have been planned and the exploration of minerals has increased. Consequently, critical voices have been raised and some activists and artists have pointed out the need for natural resource protection. At the same time, sustainable development, reduction of biodiversity, continuously growing energy consumption and pollution have been the subjects of eco-conscious artists for decades. The motive of my doctoral research, ‘Artists in the Landscape of Berry Wars and Reindeer Husbandry’, was to identify how contemporary artists contribute to the environmental debate through art. The study focused on conflicts in Lapland.

This research produced new knowledge about collaborative research between contemporary art and multidisciplinary environmental research as well as research on northern culture in Lapland. The study mainly serves art education and applied visual arts. In the art education it is topical to develop art integration, in which environmental conflicts are themes studied through art at schools. In applied visual arts the collaboration of artists and other researchers are to be developed. In addition to art education and applied visual arts the present research can also benefit the art world, art-based environmental research and science communication.

The present research is part of the expanding field of art-based research. The approach of art-based research has come more common in various disciplines, such as education and the social sciences. Art-based action research (ABAR) is a research approach developed in the Department of Art Education at the University of Lapland. It is used mainly to develop methods for community art, environmental art and applied visual arts. The cyclic research process includes making drafts and development plans, conducting literature reviews, creating artistic work and engaging in evaluation, conceptualization and reflection. In the present research the artistic components included in the dissertation form a structure for the cycles.

In the artistic components of my research, my ambition was for the works to evoke emotions and multisensory experiences in the people who engage with the works, prompting them to reflect on the value of nature and on environmental issues, and instilling in them a sense of personal responsibility. Art has a potential to influence the public by increasing their environmental awareness and broadening their perspectives when they discuss environmental conflicts. Based on the present research, contemporary art can interpret environmental research and present it to the audience through the language of art. Perspectives that have been ignored in media discussion can be highlighted through art to support the argument for the protection of natural resources. Art projects can also promote dialogue about the conflicted situations. Contemporary art committed to environmental politics can move the viewers, function on multiple levels and have educational potential.

Translated title of the contributionNykytaide ympäristöpolitiikan foorumina
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2017

Field of science

  • Visual arts and design

Citation for this output