Thursday, May 28, 2020

Cult of the wild

Auckland museum's hosting the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. Its images are big, glossy, dramatic, & alienating. They depict nature as sublime & wild: as something that can either be admired passively or else contaminated by humans. I longed to see a brambled culvert, a tree hut, a hedgerow with a letter box: some sign that humans & the natural world existed in the same universe.
The notion of nature as wilderness was mercilessly deconstructed by the late great NZ naturalist Geoff Park. Park noted that the idea of preserving pristine wilderness away from humans only developed in Europe during the Industrial Revolution, when the filth of factories and cities destroyed swathes of countryside. In other times and places, humans had assumed they could live together with the natural world, and find ways to use it without destroying it. Park showed many of NZ's nature reserves were established through the expulsion of Maori from land they had sustainably used for centuries. By depicting nature as something far away and completely inhuman, the photographers on show at Auckland museum perpetuate the 19th century ideology Park criticised.
And it isn't just the show's ideology that is outdated. The photographers have more in common with 19th century painters of sublime landscapes, like Caspar David Friedrich, than they do with the artists of the 21st century. They seem completely innocent of all the innovations in modern visual art over the past century. It is as though Arbus and Strand and Eggleston never existed.
I turned away from these deep and meaningless images, & revisited the museum's Pacific galleries, whose artefacts show how humans can integrate rather than alienate themselves from nature.


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Anonymous Search Engine Optimisation Whangarei said...

It is important to reconstruct nature to showcase to humans that are alive now that nature is beautiful. It brings a lot of help to us and to all animals.

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