Jeff Schmuki combines art, education, and activism to address environmental concerns and foster connections between diverse ideas and collective action. Through various sculptural processes, Schmuki tackles ecological stressors and wasteful practices. By incorporating traditional and contemporary sculpture techniques and creative operations like social practice, the artworks emphasize audience participation in both their physical and conceptual aspects.
Schmuki's recent ceramic works combine prospected clay from the American South, digital technologies, and glazes using mine tailings and similar refuse. This combination highlights the impact of extractive industries on the environment, including issues such as air and water contamination, deforestation, and wildlife destruction. The tangible representation of these issues encourages viewers to explore the consequences of their choices and actively seek solutions to mitigate further ecological damage. The artworks also underscore the importance of repurposing and preserving what may soon be irretrievably lost, drawing attention to the potential loss of beauty and biodiversity.
Collaboration plays a crucial role in the ongoing hydroponic community gardens like Armagardden. These gardens, maintained by community partners, comprise recycled components, ceramic refuse, and living plants. The hydroponic plant growth systems they create are whimsical and functional, blurring the boundaries between utility, aesthetics, functionalism, and symbolism. Installations often feature a table where participants can review free plans and educational materials, enabling them to create and maintain their hydroponic gardens. Regardless of age, background, or academic level, the audience can engage in the process, fostering creativity and learning alongside the artist. Through collaborative artmaking, the delicate connection between the natural world and personal action is demonstrated, empowering the community and conveying the significance of daily activities over time.
Since 2009, Wendy DesChene and Jeff Schmuki, working as PlantBot Genetics, have employed community collaboration, a solar-powered mobile art space, tactical media, and public engagement to promote critical thinking and political action on environmental issues. Their work explores the lack of transparency and corporate influence in food production and distribution through humorous and satirical research, development, and marketing of transgenic products and projects. The absurd next-generation robot-plant hybrids they create spark critical discussions on the environmental costs of agriculture and the journey of food from farm to plate.
The ongoing Moth Project seeks to raise awareness about the decline of pollinator populations, environmental preservation, and the challenges posed by doomsday predictions. The project actively engages the public through interactive experiences focused on environmental education, citizen science, and backyard naturalism. The Moth Project empowers audiences to contribute to positive change by fostering new conversations and inspiring civic action.