Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Fine Arts

Degree Program

Art (Creative) and Art History

Committee Chair

Jarosi, Susan

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Chan, Ying Kit

Committee Member

Chan, Ying Kit

Committee Member

Koelrs, Avery

Committee Member

Cheetham, Mark

Author's Keywords

contemporary art; eco-art; environmental art; environmental ethics; site specificity; responsibility


This dissertation proposes an interdisciplinary theory for examining the ethical dimensions of contemporary eco-art, based on the conceptual interplay between the art historical discourse of site specificity and philosophy of environmental ethics. It considers how eco-art redefines site specificity as eco-ethically-oriented site reform, and argues that eco-artists’ site-reformative actions are not only environmentally impactful and beneficial, but are also site-responsible because they realize humankinds’ moral obligations to respond to the human-caused ecological crises of the present by improving the degraded conditions of specific sites and amending site-destructive conduct. Site-reformative eco-artworks in turn yield variable propositional content that demonstrates site responsibility by giving moral clarity, import, and binding force to specific, actionable, human-behavioral changes conducive to the pursuit of ecological sustainability. I apply this theory of site responsibility to ten different eco-artworks representative of the genre’s three predominant modes of site reform: documentary, activism, and remediation. This framework for eco-art ethics is ideally suited for analyzing the morally relevant attributes of the broad spectrum of artistic practices that have developed within the field of eco-art since the late 1960s, and is designed to facilitate well-reasoned assessments of their eco-ethical value.