Monday, May 4, 2009

Re-evaluating Nature

Before taking this class I've always had a more general, vague idea of nature and how I relate to it. Nature always seemed to be something "out there" rather than something that could be in our homes (biophilia) or within ourselves (an ecological rather than anthropocentric view of our role in nature). This semester we've explored more traditional means of representing nature with the photographs of Eliot Porter and Subhankar Banerjee as well as those pushing the boundaries between art and science like Edward Kacs.

More than anything, this class gave me a heightened awareness of nature, both in the way artists are using and referencing it and how it's functioning in the broader context of our culture. While looking for artists each week for the blog I was introduced to a whole genre of work that I had never before seen (and that I'm now writing my paper on): green grafitti artists like Edina Tokodi and a political and art movement once known as the green guerrillas in the 1970s and are now called guerrilla gardeners.

While at Art Chicago this weekend I found myself drawn to artwork that referenced one or more of the themes that was brought up in class this semester. In the West Prize exhibition, Nathan Vincent installed sculptural pieces that had been knit or sewn and referenced artifacts of hunting culture. While he focuses on the idea of gender in his work, I couldn't help but notice how most of his work also included a natural element-- from the stuffed deer's head to the bearskin rug (reference pieces below).

Fish, 2006 Bear Rug, 2006
Deer, 2006
The piece that had the most impact on me in the entire Next and Art Chicago fairs was a video piece also shown in the West Prize exhibition. Titled "Metropolis" the video by Rob Carter uses paper and stop-action animation to produce an abridged narrative history of Charlotte, North Carolina. It quickly goes from referencing the actual city to constructing a fictional city that combines elements of New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Dallas. There's a focus on urban planning and our alteration of the natural environment with the building of skyscrapers, freeways and sports stadiums. Most profound was the ending, when the cities are abandoned and taken over by the natural landscape (which reminded me of our conversation about post-nature last week). Carter had this to say about the project in his statement:
"Made entirely from images printed on paper, the animation literally represents this sped up urban planners dream, but suggests the frailty of that dream, however concrete it may feel on the ground today. Ultimately the video continues the city development into an imagined hubristic future, of more and more skyscrapers and sports arenas and into a bleak environmental future."
Below is a somewhat low-quality version of the video but you can also see a better version on his Website.

Lastly, this semester has helped me see my current project through another lens, primarily that of biophilia in the interiors of the home I photograph. This comes in the form of floral wallpaper, kitschy landscape paintings and various knick knacks in the shapes of owls, deer, mushrooms and cats. While a few of my earlier photos invariably included these elements, I'm now seeking them out more purposefully when I shoot. Below I've included some of my own work that demonstrates biophilia.