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Sometimes it is recession to lie down on the earth, like the painter does also, in order to get to the ‘motif’, that is to say, the percept. Percepts can be telescopic or microscopic, giving characters and landscapes giant dimensions as if they were swollen by a life that no lived perception can attain.

(Deleuze og Guattari, 1991)

TOWARD A NEW EMPATHIC AESTEHTICS OF THE SOIL

My practice is centered around the question “What is natural?” and ‘the nature of things‘ as in the Old English sense of things meaning an assembly like Bruno Latour’s Parliament of Things (humans and nonhumans) and speculative realist Tristan Garcia description of how a table is not in the table, but outside itself in it’s environment. I am inspired by the way microorganisms interact with their surroundings, which they affect and in return are affected by in their development. Theoretically I am influenced by Non-representational theory, where existence is created through social gatherings based on metamorphic performances and intra-action characterized by a being-of-the-world (instead of in) in line with Karen Barad’s Agential Realism and Yrjö Engeströms use of the term ‘myrcorrhizae’; the symbiotic union between a fungus and the roots of a plant describing a mental landscape as well as a material infrastructure consisting of improvised collective performances.

 

I address and creatively negotiate environmental concerns and explore how to represent nature today, where climate changes can be seen as the ultimate product of human design. The distinction between humans and nature no longer make sense. We can no longer continue to build extractive monument but have to build with the ruins; rebuild, reuse, adapt. How can we take the romantic values, we associate with vast horizons and the untouched wilderness, and bring them closer to home? In that regard I search for a new empathic aesthetics of the soil. In a contemporary landscape painting I question the picturesque western landscape tradition starting with the Renaissance, which reinforced by the sublime view on nature in Romanticism, can be said to have turned the landscape into something to be appreciated at distance. 

 

The relation between vision and the organization of space is supported by neuro anthropological research, which explain how a culture’s visual environment and socialization practices affects how we see; how human vision can be both analytic/linear, which dominates Western cultures, and holistic/relational characteristic for Asian cultures. This means that changes in the way we makes images, design and structure our surroundings influence how we see and relate to the environment. As such an image, to me, is not only a form of expression representing something existing but also a form of agent presenting a generative reality. In the same way the 17th century’s French landscape paintings were used as compositorial sketches for the kinesthetic Anglo-Chinese gardening design in England in the early 18th century I believe that painting as an agent can provide a lesson in the transmutation of the landscape into a lived environment beyond the linear perspective’s organizing of the gaze through the use of a kinesthetic perspective, where space is understood successively following the movement of the body. Like Mitsou Inoue’s ‘movement space’ characterized by an organizing of space in rhythms thereby giving substance to the in-between of things as described by the Japanese concept ‘ma’.

 

Opposite this manicured landscapes I am interested in the landscape as a lived environment of spheres and thereby in a social spatiality which the linear perspective cannot capture, where the creation of space happens in exchange with things through gatherings. I am interested in the in-betweens of the surroundings like the fragmented nature of ruins, unoccupied slots and negative spaces, which have an engaging potential for metamorphic and imaginative growth. I use a suprematic approach by interrelating with the earth and sky, the vertical and horizontal through geometric geological crystallizations of things combined with entropic cuts, that break the repetitive patterns with patterns of causality. By letting a motive grow and unfold through filters of decontextualization, reflections, condensations, micro/macro scaling, light transformations and displacements integrating the movement into the visual expression as scenic experiences gradually unfolding creating a synthesis of dwelling, multi-perspectives of images both figurative and abstract, definite and diffuse.

 

In the folds and cracks I search for an alternative empathic aesthetics of the soil characterized by being in things, while they emerge by entering into the variation of the material paying attention to the minute reaching beyond anthropocentrism in order to understand things via intersubjective empathic relations using the imagination and intuition as cognitive tools sensed at the limit of the lived body and material sensory perception in its ‘brute being’ through the phenomenal ‘body without organs’ cf. Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Gilles Deleuze respectively. Like the way Kathryn Hayles talks about a ‘speculative aesthetics’, and in the same sense Johann Wolfgang von Goethe uses ‘die exakte sinnliche Phantasie’ to explore the inner potential of things; the ‘Ur-phenomena’, and Robert Vischer in his research in the psychology of aesthetic responses in the beginning of the 19 century using the power of phantasy to describe the empathic mirror play; the ability to of being ’empathic’ (in-pathos); that is putting yourself in something’s place through affective insight and imagination, of being ‘response-ability’ as Barad describes it, as fundamental for the aesthetic experience. Todays research in mirror neurons support this; how we relate not only to humans but to everything (people, animals, plants, objects) through empathic simulations.

 

Methodologically I am inspired by Critical Design’s imaginative discourses and Graphic Anthropology’s imaginary documentation reaching beyond the voyeur-concept based on field observation and transcriptions of existing data like maps, photos, film scenes and diagrams. As a technique it has the ability to heighten our awareness of the surroundings, as you get to know a thing differently by drawing it. In being toward something and by putting yourself in its place, in ‘thinging’, you are called by the thing; ‘bedingt’, as Heidegger explains. As such a drawn line is important based on what it leads you to see, not what it shows. This is the kind of emphatic aesthetic approach I talk about.