Purely the word alone without any meaning seems to hold some significance as to what is being said. Ephemeral, such a beautiful word.

I find the definition matches the word itself, its meaning being: lasting a very short time, short-lived, transitory. It does give a whole new purpose to the art being created.

There are plenty of examples of ephemeral nature such as short lived flowers and insects. It can be used in an adjective to describe a period of time such as ‘the ephemeral joys of childhood’. Top image: Nimbus III by Berndnaut Smilde.

It does however lead to loss, death, mourning. It allows the artist to make a link between the relationships of existence, decay and loss. It is this transition between life and death where many religious cultures, myths and rituals exist. Where the purpose of the art is to celebrate or acknowledge a transition period, not necessarily between life and death but also for example, from child to adult.

ephemeral cultural art

ephemeral cultural art by Kathy McCormick

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ephemeral cultural art 2

ephemeral cultural art - henna

Andy Goldsworthy

It is this shifting state which contributes to the overall message the artist is wanting to share. Photography plays a crucial role in today’s modern ephemeral art, as Andy Goldsworthy says:

“Each work grows, stays, decays – the integral parts of a cycle which the photograph shows at its heights, marking the moment the work is most alive.”

Andy Goldsworthy is a renowned contemporary artist, sculptor and photographer. He creates temporary works using found objects from nature and crafts them into a considered arrangement. His photographs then capture and share his ‘land art’ with the world.

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Andy Goldsworthy


Andy Goldsworthy 2

Andy Goldsworthy - Dirty grapes


Andy Goldsworthy - Rowan leaves



Modern ephemeral sculptures

At times art in these mediums seem pointless, doomed. Yet there is so much potential for ephemeral art to challenge the publics concepts of sustainability, waste, environmental fragility and to challenge consumerism.

It brings to attention that in our modern society we have forgotten to accept the beauty of old, worn, fleeting and decaying objects. Contemporary ephemeral art has the opportunity to challenge our responsibilities with non-sustainable refuse and highlight a cultural change towards a carefully managed ecology.

See JCU concept paper: Ephemeral characters


chalk street art - enpundit



ice - melting men


ice hotel

The Ice Hotel, Artic



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The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind …

Even Bob Dylan, poet, song writer and social critic acknowledges the wastefulness and loss as depicted in his anti-war lyrics . He was an artist who was able to channel his thoughts into a medium of expression that made nonsense out of many of the accepted standards and values relating to society, religion and change.

See Ephemeral Ruminations by javajones

bob dylan


Bob Dylan – Masters of War

Time to reflect the purpose of my art, to serve longevity or fragility?