The work of Japanese-born artist Reiko Goto has encompassed large multi-year ecological art projects with her frequent collaborator Tim Collins and others, as well as smaller more intimate installations designed to reveal natural processes and encourage discussion. Her work is international in scope yet also very local, often to the point of highlighting a specific insect or plant species as a subject for celebration and inquiry. Her art explores a form of "radical democracy" which creates entry points for the public into a much larger engagement with the human and non-human world.
Goto's large-scale collaborative initiatives in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, through Carnegie Mellon University's STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, include projects such as "Nine Mile Run" and "3 Rivers 2nd Nature" which involved working with artist Tim Collins, and numerous specialists to help "citizens and decision makers understand the evolving opportunities of our post-industrial waterfront." These multi-year projects included extensive research and public educational components as well as brownfields restoration projects and gallery installations highlighting the cultural and ecological history of the region.
Other public projects in downtown San Francisco, California, and Aachen, Germany and have highlighted underground waterways and created urban butterfly gardens. These projects provide spaces and opportunities for people to gather and notice plants, insects and wildlife and participate in dialogue about them. "Bluebird Housing Project" (1990) with Tim Collins, engaged faculty and 160 students from a school in Danville, California to design and build 51 low impact housing units for the native birds. "We collaboratively envisioned 50 bluebird houses and one human scale house. The bluebird houses were built according to a design published by the Game Department of the Michigan Department of Conservation. The bluebird houses were place along a dry creek bed area. The human scale structure was a small house or gazebo like structure intended as a quiet sheltered place to sit and enjoy the surrounding nature and landscape." Assembled in the spirit of an old-time barn raising, these structures were designed so that "the encouragement of the bluebird population will have a positive effect upon the spirit and psyche of the human residents as well."
According to the artist, in order to truly create "change and transformation, we must consider radical democratic processes that include diverse human communities. We must listen to natural silent participants in our place: the sunshine, air, clouds, trees, grass, water in the rivers, and the beings that live on the land, in the air, and in the water. A change and transformation takes time. Often we cannot predict how long it will take, and it can be very hard to tell whether it is successful or not. If an artist chooses a life of inquiry in a social or ecological transformation, she must be flexible to work with many different kinds of people, life-forces, places, materials, and subject matters. The conditions of the opportunity, along with the funding, and place define the opportunity and constraint."
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