Looking at the modern world burdened and blustering under the strains of consumption, one is confronted with an almost complete turn around and away from concepts of art and society from the past. Considering notions of both society and art, in today’s world, the ideas that serve as our foundation of both what is society and what is art have been altered because of society’s exploitation of both the individual and the natural world - once it was believed, on the eve of the Industrial Revolution - the behavior of might would bring us forward - but today we have gone so far that there may be no return. The result of such development is the Artifice
The Contemporary Art Modern Project (The CAMP Gallery) is pleased to launch our latest online exhibition: Nature and the Artifice: Other Worlds, featuring works from: Alice Zilberberg, Khotan Fernandez, Barbara Nati and Nikolina Petolas, all offering a unique vision of the real and the imagined.
Looking at the modern world burdened and blustering under the strains of consumption, one is confronted with an almost complete turn around and away from concepts of art and society from the past. Considering notions of both society and art, in today’s world, the ideas that serve as our foundation of both what is society and what is art have been altered because of society’s exploitation of both the individual and the natural world - once it was believed, on the eve of the Industrial Revolution - the behavior of might would bring us forward - but today we have gone so far that there may be no return. The result of such development is the Artifice, a world structured almost entirely off of invention. Societal development equally engendered our progressive alienation from the natural world and provided the safety and comfort that such alienation afforded.
Flash forward through the centuries, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the birth of suburbia, and much of the developed world is now completely removed from the natural world. We live our lives wholly disconnected from the truth of nature. Thomas Hobbes, for example, once famously said in his work: Leviathan, that life without modern society would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” yet look at where we are now, living in a modern society awash with disease, living alone and distant with death lurking behind face masks and on door handles, all the while the streets are blistering with civil unrest. Going ever further back to Plato and his dialogues on mimesis, which expound on art and beauty as if they were diametrically opposed forces. True beauty, according to Plato, is only beholden in the natural world, where all plants and animals are created perfectly according to their purpose in the wild. Art, as shown through paintings, poetry, or dance, is a mere imitation of the beauty already beheld in nature. In this sense, the aesthetics of the Artifice are in and of themselves artificial. As Antoine Danchin argues in his essay on “Nature and the Artifice”, we romanticize the impetuous, harsh mistress nature can be because we have forgotten the harsh realities of the natural world. Our Artifice now imposes onto the natural world, with the decimation of forests, the mass production of greenhouse gases in our air, the poisoning of our rivers and oceans. Where does Nature and the Artifice lie in this dichotomy of natural beauty and artificial beauty? Is it somewhere in the middle, because of the natural inspiration for many of these artists? Has our world and society drifted so far away from Parmenides, Plato’s and Hiedeggar’s ontological idea of the truth in beauty because nature is endangered that we no longer can find that true beauty? Or does the direct use of natural themes make this series the ultimate elaboration of artistic production within the Artifice?
The exhibition, through the artworks will explore the new ideals of beauty, showing that the foundations of Western thought cannot be applied to today, and we are left to seek representations of beauty from worlds both familiar and other. Nature nonetheless remains the uncompassionate force that dictates the health of humanity. Nature and the Artifice hopes to expose the weakness of the Artifice that can at times seem impenetrable. Some of the works are chosen to expose the ways in which nature bleeds into our world whether people are cognizant of its presence or not. Others still also aim to act as a mirror, reflecting upon ourselves our own distorted image of the world around us.
Alice Zilberberg uses a technique she calls “photo-painting” where she weaves together photographs of animals and landscapes from terrains all over the world. These images are combined so seamlessly that it creates for an extremely realistic visual effect. In this sense, Zilberberg’s position within the larger conversation of Nature and the Artifice comes not only from the imagery itself, but also from the praxis of her work through the unnatural relocation of animals from their native habitats. Khotan’s Enchanted Forest Series gives us a kaleidoscopic view of nature; through his distortions of natural images, the viewers find themselves looking for other distinct images and trying to make out something other than what the image clearly presents, for example, a tree stump. Some of these images call up erotic imagery, much like Georgia O'Keeffe's flower motif from much of the first half of the 20th century. Barbara Nati creates easily recognizable scenes (highways, roadways, skyscrapers) out of completely incongruent, natural materials. The resulting juxtaposition not only exposes the lack of natural beauty in present day road development (and life, in general), but also presents an aspirational imagery for what the developed work could look like if it attempted to better integrate natural resources and capabilities. Lastly, Nikolina Petolas’ art places animals right in the heart of the artifice: within cities, grandiose properties, public parks, and so on. Her use of color and traditional architecture also bolsters the whimsical and celebratory invasion of wild animals into the city. Works such as Forestation also remind the viewer that all cities, towns, and developments were once the wild and are in fact engulfed by the wild in any part of the world.
Nature and the Artifice is an exploration of two opposing forces: the world humanity currently lives in and the natural world from which humanity originated. The works included in this exhibition celebrate this dichotomy, by bringing elements of each in a seemingly incongruous fashion. In this sense, the work of the artists is this series celebrates the beauty of nature while also warning of the consequences we face from continuous alienation from our natural environment. Although these pieces are each reflections of the Artifice, together they assert the existence and the necessity of a natural ethos.