Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone
It is not biology that makes us into individuals, seeking to find Nature from behind our masks. How do I know? Because Nature is a cultural artefact, too. This is art:
Actually, it’s a bit of Frankenstein, really, because what makes it look like art is framing, and if the framing is done right it looks human. Without that, it might look like Frankenstein, like this:
In the second image, the framing pushes the image away from the sky and its water, decontextualizes the new snow, and draws the human eye into shadow, then drops it out of the bottom of the frame. The result is not human. In an age of images, these are the tricks. It’s not that we need to make bad images, to remove human-ness from nature, but it might be that we need to explore that opening. We are doing something, that is way beneath human consciousness, yet collectively we are doing it billions of times a day. So, look at the first image again (below), looking east from Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. This is nature.
It is a created artefact, not just because a balanced image makes it into Nature, which it does, but also because, beyond the artifice of the image, the landscape it “represents” (but doesn’t) has been stripped of its human inhabitants, rendered “empty”, and then filled with people writing images of nature upon it. Sometimes it’s the emptiness above, and the revealed fire and energy cycles within it. That’s a valuable thing, but it’s as much a human image of a human as the spiritual image that previous inhabitants found within it. Sometimes it’s this:
Bison were reintroduced to the park, to restore its wild beauty. Despite all the warnings from park staff that bison are wild and dangerous, this isn’t exactly wild. This is a human-bison combo. It’s no different than a photograph. So, what’s to do? Objectivity is no answer. That has led us to this Frankensteinian impasse in the first place. Removing the viewing “I” is one possibility. It’s possible to do that by introducing bison. It’s possible to do that by allowing the land to find its organic energy rhythms. Those are artworks, too, but not the only ones. Deconstruction, the process of removing the everyday expectations from things and displaying their hidden structures, is one way of doing it. Another, though is contextualization. It’s the art not of following a narrative line, which will always be biased towards one cultural form of human activity, but of erasing the line …
Something there are no words for. Poetry is the art of finding the words, but you can’t force poetry. For the moment, I give you the gesture.