When i studied geology in collage i remember being enamored by river and stream systems. Their ability to shape and transform a landscape is breathtaking. Nothing quite exemplifies this beauty and awe like the images of photographer Andre Ermolaev. Take from a plane window flying 80-100 meters above Icelandic landscapes in his Series ‘Ethereal Pattern of the Real River’.
A beautiful and simple modern terrarium by Jeffrey James. Terrariums are fascinating because they give the impression of a slice of nature being captured behind glass. Like all terrariums, this woodland forest scenes is manufactured. It plays beautifully on all our ideas of nature. From the feathery fern to the single yellow maple leaf on the left and the pristine acorn on the right, it is an image of fertile nature. A constructed one.
This will seem a heretical claim to many environmentalists, since the idea of wilderness has for decades been a fundamental tenet—indeed, a passion—of the environmental movement, especially in the United States. For many Americans wilderness stands as the last remaining place where civilization, that all too human disease, has not fully infected the earth. It is an island in the polluted sea of urban-industrial modernity, the one place we can turn for escape from our own too-muchness. Seen in this way, wilderness presents itself as the best antidote to our human selves, a refuge we must somehow recover if we hope to save the planet. As Henry David Thoreau once famously declared, “In Wildness is the preservation of the World.” (1)
But is it? The more one knows of its peculiar history, the more one realizes that wilderness is not quite what it seems. Far from being the one place on earth that stands apart from humanity, it is quite profoundly a human creation—indeed, the creation of very particular human cultures at very particular moments in human history. It is not a pristine sanctuary where the last remnant of an untouched, endangered, but still transcendent nature can for at least a little while longer be encountered without the contaminating taint of civilization. Instead, it’s a product of that civilization, and could hardly be contaminated by the very stuff of which it is made. Wilderness hides its unnaturalness behind a mask that is all the more beguiling because it seems so natural. As we gaze into the mirror it holds up for us, we too easily imagine that what we behold is Nature when in fact we see the reflection of our own unexamined longings and desires. For this reason, we mistake ourselves when we suppose that wilderness can be the solution to our culture’s problematic relationships with the nonhuman world, for wilderness is itself no small part of the problem.
by William Cronon
(William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1995, 69-90)
“Of The North”, by pioneering video artist(maker) Steina Vasulka, was created in 2001 as part of The National Gallery of Iceland‘s 2008 exhibit Art Against Architecture. The video work existed in two parts formed from a series of circular computer generated scenes, a 15 screen video installation, and a room scale insulation of the same 15 videos projected on to spheres.
The immersive room scale installation is arresting. The imagery produced, along with the sound, is otherworldly. The micro is expanded to the macro. What at a distance looks like life under a microscope, organisms and fluid pulsing under the shaky lens of magnification, expands to become global scale. An apt experance for the Icelandic landscape.
Episode #108: Florian Maier-Aichen likens his use of infrared film to an in-between state, discussing photography’s role in picturing the American West and its ability to confound past and present.
Alternately romantic, cerebral, and unearthly, Florian Maier-Aichen’s digitally altered photographs are closer to the realm of drawing and fiction than documentation. He embraces difficult techniques, chooses equipment that produces accidents such as light leaks and double exposures, and uses computer enhancements to introduce imperfections and illogical elements into images that paradoxically “feel” visually right, though they are factually wrong. Often employing an elevated viewpoint (the objective but haunting “God’s-eye view” of aerial photography and satellite imaging), Maier-Aichen creates idealized, painterly landscapes that function like old postcards. Interested in places where landscape and cityscape meet, he chooses locations and subjects from the American West and Europe—from his own neighborhoods to vistas of the natural world. Looking backwards for his influences, Maier-Aichen often reenacts or pays homage to the work of the pioneer photographers of the nineteenth century, sometimes even remaking their subject matter from their original standpoints. Always experimenting, he marries digital technologies with traditional processes and films (black-and-white, color, infrared, and tricolor), restoring and reinvigorating the artistry and alchemy of early photography.