Assembly: Syracuse University Voices on Art and Ecology

January 25 – May 12, 2024
Joe and Emily Lowe Galleries

Assembly: Syracuse University Voices on Art and Ecology features artworks made by Syracuse University faculty and recent alumni that contribute to emergent forms of ecological understanding. By placing these works in dialogue with objects from the Museum’s collection, the installation considers a broad cultural evolution away from a notion of “Nature” as pure, sublime, and wholly distinct from humans to an ecology of entanglement and intimacy.

The word “ecology” consists of two Greek roots: oikos, meaning home, and logos, meaning language. Ecology, then, is the language of home. As such, ecology is always a matter of intimacy. For, as philosopher Timothy Morton points out, living amongst others in the world necessarily requires attunement to them: “a living, dynamic relation with another being.” It is the process, to take just the merest example, by which our mood changes when we hear the singing of a bird, the buzzing of a fly, or the chorus of cicadas. Attunement happens on multiple levels, is constant, and is mutual. There is no “outside” in this version of ecology. Home is everywhere. Ecology in this way certainly weaves together birds and rivers, but it also involves other humans, bacteria, buildings, and even microchips.

In looking at the works by the Syracuse artists in this exhibition, we invite you to consider how a given place contributes to or is informed by this sort of ecological understanding. In looking at the works from the collection, we invite you to consider the relationship between humans and the natural world you see in the work. How does this change over time? To what degree do each of the artists presage these contemporary views of ecology? How do these works relate, inform, inflect the works by Syracuse artists?

This exhibition is curated by Sayler/Morris (Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris, Co-Directors of The Canary Lab at Syracuse University), with Mike Goode (William P. Tolley Distinguished Professor in the Humanities) and Melissa Yuen (interim chief curator), and assisted by Jeffrey Adams (Ph.D. Student in English), Jeanelle Cho ‘24 (Architecture and Art History), and Abi Greenfield ‘25 (History and Political Philosophy).

The exhibition and related programs have been made possible by generous support from the Humanities Center (Syracuse Symposium); Department of English; The Canary Lab; College of Engineering and Computer Science; Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Undergraduate Program in Environment, Sustainability, and Policy; and Environmental Storytelling Central New York.

Syracuse University Faculty and Alumni Artists:

Nydia Blas, Katlyn Brumfield, Deborah Dohne, Douglas Dubois, Tamika Galanis, Heath Hanlin, Sarah McCoubrey, Sayler/ Morris, Ryan Somelofske, Tom Sherman, ULTRAFUTURO (Boryana Rossa and Oleg Mavromatti), Sam Van Aken, Rebecca Xu, Michael Zuhorski.

Featured events accompanying the exhibition include:

Art Break: ‘Assembly’ gallery tour with Melissa Yuen
Jan. 31, 12:15 to 1 p.m.
Syracuse University Art Museum

All Art is Ecological
Feb. 22, 4 to 8 p.m.
Syracuse University Art Museum and Shemin Auditorium
Art and Ecology Teaching Guides Launch (4 to 5 p.m.)
Gallery reception (5 to 6:30 p.m.)
Public lecture by Timothy Morton from Rice University (6:30 to 8 p.m.)

Environmental Storytelling CNY: Forging Ecological Awareness Through Art
March 7, 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Art Break: Bird Collisions in the Anthropocene with Holly Greenberg
March 19, noon to 4 p.m.
Syracuse University Art Museum

Community Day
April 13, noon to  4 p.m.
Syracuse University Art Museum

Visit the museum’s website for more public programs surrounding the exhibition.