29.11.11

SUBLIME: Nature

This short chapter is about the sublime that nature evokes. If you've ever stood on the edge of the world, looking out into the vastness of the pacific ocean, or been in any setting where nature does no less than belittle your existence, you'll need no convincing of the existence of sublime. Beginning with heaven and earth, taking you through the abstract sublime, through Frederick Law Olmsted, and lightning fields this section offers a broad yet concise overview of subliminal nature in art. While later chapters about earthworks fail to actually manifest a single sentence between the work and the sublime, it's alright, that's what our imaginations are for. This chapter ends with the essay I'm going to write about:

John Berger
Into the Woods// 2006
  
In the early 2000's Jitka Hanzlov√° took a series of photographs that featured scenes from the depths of the forest. Berger, to no surprise, wrote a beautiful essay about the affect and power this work has. I'll let you follow along a series of quotes that emphasize the ease with which this essay reads. 
"A forest is what exists between it's trees, between its dense undergrowth and its clearings, between all its life cycles and their different timescales, ranging from solar energy to insects that live for a day. A forest is also a meeting place between those who enter it and something unnameable and attendant, waiting behind a tree or in the undergrowth. Something intangible and within touching distance. Neither silent nor audible."
Berger further establishes fundamental notions about the forest before placing his hand inside of the very core of photography, setting up a dual foundation to this short essay between photography and the forest. 
"It's commonplace to say that photographs interrupt or arrest the flow of time.  They do it, however, in thousands of different ways... ...What is strange about some of Jitka's forest photos - not her photos of other subjects - is that they appear to have stopped nothing. In a space without gravity there is no weight, and these pictures of hers are, as it were, weightless in terms of time. It is as if they have been taken between times, where there is none."
It seems that this particular series of photographs, in Berger's eyes, have captured not only the movement of time, but a lack of acknowledgement of time itself.  Without seeing these photographs in person, I'm hesitant to come to such similar conclusions so easily, but stronger than my skepticism is a strong desire to really see these photos, in some sense these photos are already more successful than previously mentioned.  Berger continues,
"To make sense of what I'm suggesting it is necessary to reject the notion of time that began in Europe during the eighteenth century and is closely linked with the positivism and linear accountability of modern capitalism: the notion that a single time, which is unilinear, regular, abstract and irreversible, carries everything.  All other cultures have proposed a coexistence of various times surrounded in some way by the timeless."
For me to imagine a negation or acknowledgement of time makes me laugh, human beings have come so far, but have not gotten anywhere without at least the acknowledgment of forward movement. There is no forward without a linear idea of time, and I can't help but giggle at the thought that these photos point to a perhaps larger scale of things, a broader understanding of space that doesn't care to admit any linear direction at all. 




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