Keyword: Justice

On September 19th, 2020, Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd’s Climate Clock began ticking in Manhattan’s Union Square (Figure 1). The artists displayed the clock on Metronome, a public art installation originally created by Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel in 1999. For over 20 years, the 62-foot-wide digital clock counted to and from midnight.[1] At 3:30 pm, it suddenly switched to displaying a countdown of when the effects of global warming would become irreversible.[2] The clock serves as a public demand for change, a demand for justice. 7 years, 103 days, 15 hours, 40 minutes, and 07 seconds. This is how long we have.

Art, such as Golan and Boyd’s public installation, can forge emotional understandings, can activate narratives, can contextualize complex sites of socio-political experiences, and can materialize notions and practices of justice.[3] More specifically, art can successfully facilitate restorative justice. Carolyn Boyes-Watson defines restorative justice as “peaceful approaches to harm, problem-solving, and violations of legal and human rights.”[4] This approach engages more holistically with “those who are harmed, wrongdoers and their affected communities in search of solutions that promote repair, reconciliation, and the rebuilding of relationships.”[5] Brunilda Pali has studied the relationship between art and restorative justice through Sharon Daniel, a digital and media artist from California. Daniel’s project, Art for social change: exploring justice through new media documentary, investigates how media technologies and documentary strategies can actively participate in restorative justice practices and how activist art can contribute to changing social conditions.[6]  One of the works that make up the project, Inside the distance (Figure 2), “documents victim/offender mediation practices in Belgium and shows how mediation poses a potential cultural alternative to dominant modes, methods, and theories of justice and punishment.”[7] Daniel, in relation to the video installation, describes herself as a “context-provider” and aims to help others speak for themselves. To do this, the artist constructs visual contexts that will allow for deeper understandings and engaged communication to take place.[8]

Pali argues that restorative justice mediators also practice this role of context-provider. In traditional criminal justice practices, contexts between victim and offender are usually dismissed or are not fully understood. Restorative justice practices instead make this contextual understanding a priority.[9] Restorative justice practices, because they prioritize context, holistic strategies, and community healing, have been useful in environmental law and criminology. Angus Nurse argues that justice systems have an obligation to do more than provide “punishment and social disapproval.”[10] Nurse believes that offenders of environmental crimes must be held accountable for what they have done, recognize the harm caused, and repair that harm.[11] Standard criminal justice practices often do not allow for this process to take place, leaving effected communities to be disregarded and forgotten. In contrast, restorative justice models would make repairing environmental and community harm a requirement.[12]

Many scholars within environmental justice and law disciplines have noted a general lack of urgency within nation-state governance systems to address the failings of their current practices. Joel Colón-Ríos provides insight into how, for most of the 20th century, Western culture understood nature as a resource meant to be used. Therefore, “constitutional protection of the environment was only possible indirectly.”[13] Klaus Bosselman states that there has been “no real global responsibility and no sense of urgency for lowering Humanity’s overall impact on the Earth system.”[14] Authors of the text “The Search for Environmental Justice” argue that these systems are “often insufficiently effective, particularly in recognition of and respect for the interests of the less powerful.”[15] However, despite the lackluster actions taken within environmental law, there are also signs that change is taking place. There is a growing political belief “in the necessity of protecting the vulnerable, whether that vulnerability is of nature itself in the face of industrial power, or of people who have a special dependency upon nature.”[16]

I believe that activist art practices, such as those seen by Sharon Daniel, Gan Golan, and Andrew Boyd, can shed light on the need for restorative justice practices within the disciplines of environmentalism. Artists can build collective emotional bonds, share narratives in meaningful ways, and contextualize socio-political experiences. Thus, they are uniquely situated to act as mediators between the general public, scientists, law-makers and practitioners, and those from other fields engaged in conversations on environmentalism. Daniel, in her video installation Inside the distance, demonstrates how activist art can participate in restorative justice practices and how they can contribute to changing social conditions. Golan and Boyd’s public installation, Climate Clock, is an example of how art can achieve this goal set by Daniel. Their work, through their active call for change, has the potential of influencing socio-political thoughts surrounding climate change, and to bring about true restorative justice.


[1] Colin Moynihan, “A New York Clock That Told Time Now Tells the Time Remaining, ” The New York Times, September 20, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/20/arts/design/climate-clock-metronome-n....

[2] Moynihan, “A New York Clock That Told Time Now Tells the Time Remaining.”

[3] Eliza Garnsey, “Rewinding and Unwinding: Art and Justice in Times of Political Transition,” The International Journal of Transitional Justice 10, no. 3 (2016): 472. See also: Brunilda Pali, “Art for Social Change: Exploring Restorative Justice through the New Media Documentary Inside the Distance,” Restorative Justice 2, no. 1 (2014): 85-86

[4] Lorenn Walker, “Restorative Justice: Definition and Purpose,” In Restorative Justice Today: Practical Applications, ed. Katherine S. van Wormer (Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc, 2013), 5

[5] Walker, “Restorative Justice: Definition and Purpose,” 5-6

[6] Pali, “Art for Social Change,” 85

[7] Sharon Daniel, “Inside the Distance,” Projects, Accessed September 27, 2020, http://www.sharondaniel.net.

[8] Pali, “Art for Social Change,” 88

[9] Pali, “Art for Social Change,” 88-89

[10] Angus Nurse, “Reparing the Harm: Restorative Justice and Environmental Courts,” In An Introduction to Green Criminology and Environmental Justice, (Los Angeles: SAGE, 2016), 159-160

[11] Nurse, “Repairing the Harm,” 159-160

[12] Nurse, “Repairing the Harm,” 163

[13] Joel I. Colón-Ríos, “On the Theory and Practice of the Rights of Nature,” In The Search for Environmental Justice, (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015), 120

[14] Klaus Bosselmann, “The Rule of Law in the Anthropocene,” In The Search for Environmental Justice, (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015), 44

[15] Paul Martin, Sadeq Z. Bigdeli, Trevor Daya-Winterbottom, Willemien Du Plessis, and Amanda Kennedy, “The Search for Environmental Justice,” In The Search for Environmental Justice (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015), 1-2

[16] Martin et al., “The Search for Environmental Justice,” 1-2


Bibliography

Ben-Dor, Oren. “Introduction: Standing before the Gates of the Law?” In Law and Art: Justice, Ethics and Aesthetics, 1–29. Hoboken: Taylor & Francis, 2011.
Bosselmann, Klaus. “The Rule of Law in the Anthropocene.” In The Search for Environmental Justice, 44–61. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015.
“Climate Clock.” Accessed September 27, 2020. https://climateclock.world/.
Daniel, Sharion. “Inside the Distance.” Projects. Accessed September 27, 2020. http://www.sharondaniel.net.
Garnsey, Eliza. “Rewinding and Unwinding: Art and Justice in Times of Political Transition.” The International Journal of Transitional Justice 10, no. 3 (2016): 471–91.
I. Colón-Ríos, Joel. “On the Theory and Practice of the Rights of Nature.” In The Search for Environmental Justice, 120–34. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015.
Martin, Paul, Sadeq Z. Bigdeli, Trevor Daya-Winterbottom, Willemien Du Plessis, and Amanda Kennedy. “The Search for Environmental Justice.” In The Search for Environmental Justice, 1–20. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015.
Moynihan, Colin. “A New York Clock That Told Time Now Tells the Time Remaining.” The New York Times, September 20, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/20/arts/design/climate-clock-metronome-nyc.html.
Nurse, Angus. “Reparing the Harm: Restorative Justice and Environmental Courts.” In An Introduction to Green Criminology and Environmental Justice, 159–76. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2016.
Pali, Brunilda. “Art for Social Change: Exploring Restorative Justice through the New Media Documentary Inside the Distance.” Restorative Justice 2, no. 1 (2014): 85–94.
Walker, Lorenn. “Restorative Justice: Definition and Purpose.” In Restorative Justice Today: Practical Applications, edited by Katherine S. van Wormer, 3–14. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc, 2013.
Zehr, Howard. “The Art of Justice: A Reply to Brunilda Pali.” Restorative Justice 2, no. 1 (2014): 95–102.


Figures

 Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Figure 1: Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd Climate Clock, 2020 Public art installation Photo Credit: Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

 Sharon Daniel

Figure 2: Sharon Daniel Inside the Distance, 2013 Interactive video installation Photo Credit: Sharon Daniel