“The World According to Ecology” exhibition examines pluralization of ecology

New exhibition “The World According to Ecology,” now on display in Gund Hall, traces the ongoing pluralization of the field of ecology and offers considerations on its cultural significance globally. Harvard Graduate School of Design doctoral students Daniel Daou and Pablo Pérez-Ramos (both DDes ’16) have synthesized ideas and content that include research from the group GSD Ecological Thinking as well as material from their ongoing preparation for New Geographies 08: Island, of which they are co-editors.

“We want to show ecology’s exceptional fertility in terms of the sheer number of ideas and concepts it has produced through its association with fields ranging from anthropology to economics, and from thermodynamics to religion,” Daou and Pérez-Ramos explain. “But we also want to comment on its disciplinary promiscuity. What meanings has ecology acquired, or shed, when every field has adopted it either as a modifier, as in the term ‘ecological,’ or as a subject, as in the term ‘ecology’?”

Daou and Pérez-Ramos have performed a wide survey of existing scholarship and historiographical material on ecology, from Donald Worster’s Nature’s Economy to more recent work from figures like Anna Bramwell and Sharon Kingsland. Daou and Pérez-Ramos posit that if ecology can be employed as both a subject and a modifier—“urban ecology” versus “ecological urbanism”—then the field must look beyond disciplinary fixations.

The exhibition comprises a visual display of timelines that trace over 30 fields from 1700 to today, demonstrating their interconnectivity, convergence, and divergence. A text panel offers considerations on the oppositions and metanarratives therein, and on the possibility of a so-called “ecological ecology.”

The exhibition also previews the topics at hand in the forthcoming installment of the New Geographies journal that Daou and Pérez-Ramos are co-editing. Titled New Geographies 08: Island, the volume will apply the figure of the island as a means of exploring the concept of boundaries, and what, if anything, exists outside such boundaries. As such, Daou and Pérez-Ramos felt inspired to examine what ecology is as well as what it is not. “One of the biggest challenges, as [Sharon] Kingsland observes, is that the history of ecology is an ecological problem itself,” they note. “It is very hard to draw a boundary and stop making connections.”

“The World According to Ecology” is now on display until January 15, 2016, on the second floor of Gund Hall, outside the exit to Piper Auditorium. New Geographies 08: Island will be published in September 2016.