Posts Tagged 'nature'

Alma Löw: Art in the woods

Trial and Error, Stockholm – Alma Löw is a private initiative, run by artist Marc Broos in the countryside in the western part of Sweden. It started ten years ago when Broos built 16 pavillions in the slopes by his home and began to invite artists.

Entrance to the pavillions

Without economical support from the region he still can’t offer the participants any compensation. But artists keep coming because of the ambition and energy level:  Annika von Hauswolf, Gilbert and George, Leif Elggren, Nathalie Djurberg , just to mention a few. And as an artist you get something that, at least not I am used to: You are not called to any meetings and you are not required to write or explain anything, because Broos only wants you to do one thing: Show us your art! 

Some of the 16 pavillions

This summer is the 10th anniversary and 30 artists have been invited. Artists Jörgen Svensson and Anna Persson have curated the 16 pavillions and Marc Broos the 10 rooms in the new art hall “Paleis Oranjestraat” (named after the street where he was born). 

Paleis Oranjestraat was built because, in an article, Marc Broos was called “King of his domain” and he thought that as King, he should have a palace. He bought a barn close by, rebuilt it into a maze of showrooms. There are also a seminar room, a workshop and, in the future, residencies for visiting artists.

Some interior views

If you travel in Sweden this summer to experience picturesque countryside and art, you don’t want to miss Alma Löw, which has got both. And if the weather happens to be bad, Marc Broos always provides the visitors with rubber boots.

Read more (in Swedish): VF NWT, DN, Konsten.net

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There is no nature

Martijn van Berkum, Rotterdam — We cannot see nature. That’s my opinion because, the moment we see it, it becomes something different. Which makes me wonder, if I would continue this line of thought, is there such a thing as nature altogether?

What is nature, collapses the moment we start trying to understand it, study it, but also when we start looking at it and romanticise it. That’s where nature becomes culture, science, art, anything that fits into a human system of understanding and ordering the world: an idea. As such nature is nothing more than a philosophical fata morgana, a projection of the mind which dissolves the moment you touch it.

This collapse of nature however isn’t only an ontological issue – a dialectic of how our attempt to understand nature leads to the very destruction of that understanding. On the other hand, there is a very practical side to the ‘undoing’ of nature. It is the construction of a romantic idea of nature in art what makes go out there: lie on the beach, hike through mountains, stroll through forests and turning them into parks, leisure areas. In fact, in our being with nature we re-enact, or reproduce, this romantic conception of what nature is to us, hence the term ‘recreation’. A process in which we reshape nature into a cultivated landscape, conditioned for leisure and entertainment.

Science perhaps, is even more destructive. If art provides the ideas for reshaping nature, science provides the instruments. It’s our very knowledge of nature which enables us to control it; to parcel out an entire country (the Netherlands) into a conglomerate of urban, industrial, agricultural and recreational zones. Not to mention the environmental problems caused by science: global warming, pollution etc.

Obviously art plays a very dubious role in this process. It represents and shapes our admiration for nature and in doing so, sets in motion the above mentioned destructive events. This Bermuda triangle of landscape, art and science in which nature disappears, is the subject of the work of the Finnish artist Ilkka Halso. His photographs are an ironic celebration of the complete and final victory of science and art over nature. The grandeur of his landscapes brings to mind the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich. With a crucial difference however: nature in Friedrich’s work is mystical, wild and powerful; humans, on the other hand, are small and vulnerable. In Halso’s work nature is powerful as well. Science, however – this seems to be Halso’s message – has superbly overpowered nature and brought this conflict to an apocalyptic conclusion:
There is no nature.
For more information, check this great article by Jeroen Boomgaard, head of the Professorship of Art and Public Space, of the Rietveld Academy.

Alfred Russel Wallace and the paradox of nature

In 1854 British biologist Alfred Russel Wallace traveled to Indonesia to collect specimen and to study nature. He collected the accounts of his journey and published them in the book The Malay Archipel (furthermore, Russel is famous for ‘almost’ coining the evolution theory, instead he pointed out the key issues to his friend Charles Darwin, the rest is history…).

In somewhat delirious rhetoric – Wallace was suffering from several tropic diseases – The Malay Archipel feverishly describes his scientific explorations and adventures on the islands. Wallace was also one of the first environmentalists, pointing out our potential to destroy the earth, and one of my favorite quotes comes from this book:

“… should civilised man ever reach these distant lands, and bring moral, intellectual and physical light into the recesses of these virgin forests, we may be sure that he will so disturb the nicely-balanced relations of organic and inorganic nature as to cause the disappearance, and finally the extinction, of these wonderful structure and beauty he alone is fitted to appreciate and enjoy. This consideration must surely tell us that all living things were not made for man.”

The story of Wallace has fascinated several artists, such as Henrik Håkansson and Mark Dion. Both deal with the conflict between man and nature that Wallace describes above. Håkanssons’ work is poetic, capturing audio and video footage of birds threatened by extinction, emphasising on both our fascination with nature’s beauty and the way we scrutinise it in science.
In the work of Mark Dion, the naturalist/explorer symbolises man going out to conquer unknown land in his ambition to describe and understand all nature. Dion has produced several installation that deal with this subject in a tragi comical matter.
When dinosaurs ruled the earth by Mark Dion

Both deal with the fact that nature is a cultural concept, conceived by scientists and by artists (responsible for producing natures’ beauty, another form of ‘cultivation’). And both put forth Russel’s paradoxical assertion, that our studying and cultivation of nature, is in fact the cause of its destruction.
Gurneys Pitta, songs for a forest without a name by Henrik Håkansson.


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