Ecological Art and Agnes Denes' Living Pyramid

Chowaniec Projects was onsite at documenta 14 this week. Documenta is recognized as the world’s most debated not-for-profit exhibition dedicated to contemporary art.  It takes places every 5 years in Kassel, Germany. This year the 100-day exhibition also included a secondary site in Athens.  Expulsion and flight are central themes of the exhibition and with both Greece and Germany wrestling with refugees fleeing conflict, the collaboration strengthens the public engagement of the host institutions and allows a sharing and discovery of their diverse missions and common goals.  The dual sites showcases the role of art and its capacity to denounce, transform and also to heal our world. 

One of the pieces that stood out for us was Agnes DenesThe Living Pyramid. It is a 9-metre pyramid constructed of stacked wooden terraces filled with soil and thousands of living plants. It is a social structure. The planted material conveys ideas of evolution and regeneration; the work also cultivates a micro-society of people responsible for its planting and ongoing care.


Denes was one of the early pioneers of both the environmental art movement and conceptual art.  Still prolific at age 83 she brings her wide ranging interests in the physical and social sciences, mathematics, philosophy, linguistics, poetry and music to her delicate drawings, books and monumental artworks around the globe.

Agnes Denes // Image source:

Agnes Denes // Image source:

“Public art existed all along, but ecological art just naturally grew out of my thinking and writings in that area for years. I didn't get involved in it; I started what then became a movement.”

We found much common ground with her work, the need for self-care in our busy lives and the need for sanctuary to give us space. 

Launching A New Collaboration – Chowaniec Projects

Conversation leads to collaboration, and when we work together we are capable of so much more.  Enter Chowaniec Projects.

I think we often feel powerless to make an impact on problems we see around us. We are faced with challenges on so many levels, problems of our own making, and on a scale never before imagined.  I certainly don't have the answers.  I run a business doing something I love, something that I feel is important, but is that enough?  What else should I be doing?  There is no one answer, but what I have realized is that there is value in conversation.  I often get caught in the loop where I try to figure out what to do, find the perfect solution, and because it is all overwhelming, I end up doing nothing.  Maybe doing something as simple as having a conversation is a place to start.  Simple conversations lead to larger collaborations, and when we work together we are capable of so much more.

I have been having conversations with my sister, Alex, of late.  We exist in two totally different worlds.  She is an artist in Brooklyn and I am in adventure tourism in Vancouver.  We knew that we shared a common value system, but we were two parallel lines, running down our own paths, destined never to merge.  Then we started talking and we discovered that we actually were doing the same thing, but were experiencing it from our own unique perspectives. We are both exploring our relationship to nature, and asking others to do the same.  I through DGT by getting people out having adventures and she by creating work that asks people to reflect on how we are connected to nature; our bodies in it, and our accountability to it.

Bark Sculpture  (3D printed bronze).

Bark Sculpture (3D printed bronze).

Gloria Patria drawing (charcoal on paper / 51"x 38") /

Gloria Patria drawing (charcoal on paper / 51"x 38") /

Why does this matter?  Our relationship to nature, to our landscape, underlies all discussion about the future of our planet. That relationship is dependent on a multitude of factors and is different for everyone.  And so the viewpoint of what the value of our environment is differs for everyone.  Is our land for resource extraction, for enjoyment, for survival, for culture, should we leave it alone entirely, can we balance any or all of those things?

Chowaniec Projects launches with the 3D printed Bark Sculpture series, a symbolic visualization or mini-monument to the common ground in our worlds, and in the spaces in between.  This is the beginning of our conversation.  We want you to explore it with us.  Our collaboration is one of mind, experience and shared vision: we can be an economy of ideas, not of resources.