COOL CLASSES: “Art and the Environment in East Asia”

This course, which is cross-listed in East Asian languages and cultures, environmental studies, and visual studies, examines the relationship between environment and the arts in China and Japan—particularly how artists engage with and respond to nature through varied modes of artistic production and exhibition.

Class name: Art and the Environment in East Asia

Taught by: Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and VCAM Faculty Fellow Erin Schoneveld


Here’s what Schoneveld had to say about her class:

The arts of East Asia are inextricably linked with the natural world, whether through traditional themes of seasonal change or contemporary artistic and exhibition practices that utilize materials from the immediate environment. This seminar focuses on the ways in which Japanese culture and society—in dialogue with China and Korea—engage with and respond to the environment through varied modes of artistic creation and self-expression. Focusing on varied media such as painting, prints, architecture, garden design, film, sculpture, and performance art, students will consider how artists engage with nature to investigate issues of truth, beauty, identity, and nationhood in an attempt to offer a more nuanced and complex expression of the human condition. Throughout the semester students will have the opportunity to explore issues of sustainability, conservation, and the aesthetics of disaster with the goal of interpreting and analyzing how art is used to express the changing social, cultural, and physical landscapes of East Asia.

This course was inspired and supported by the Henry Luce Foundation’s Grant for the Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE), which seeks to encourage innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning about Asia and the environment. I teach this seminar because I want to facilitate new modes of engagement between East Asian studies and environmental studies that empower students to establish meaningful relationships with their community and the environment.

This fall semester, students in the seminar participated in a collaborative, outdoor art installation with the Philadelphia-based artist and sound engineer Sam Cusumano. Under the moniker Electricity for Progress, Cusumano seeks to create experiences between music, technology, and the environment with the goal of connecting people to nature in new and meaningful ways. In this spirit, students designed an outdoor art installation that drew upon the immediate physical environment of Haverford’s campus and arboretum by utilizing technology that sonifies plant sounds. As part of the art installation students learned how to build their own biodata sonification devices, which are machines that measure conductivity and create musical sounds to represent changes in the bioactivity of plants.

See what other courses the Bi-Co Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures is offering this semester.

Photo from the classes biodata sonification events by Patrick Montero and Claire Blood Cheney ’21. 

Cool Classes is a series that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford experience.