A manufactured beginning:
There is no beginning, not one that I can recall, so not an arbitrary one, but perhaps a manufactured one is called for
Diary entry, 1st Jan 2011:
… watched Wall-e V, Good. Especially the beginning… .
[Wall e left, box part 1 inverted detail]
It occurred to me afterward that I hadn’t seen a film with such a strong polarisation of the grand themes of Man, Machine and Nature before.
Wall –e is of coarse essentially a children’s film, (to some extent a re-run of E.T. and 70’s sci-fi classic Silent running). Being first and foremost a kids film and a story it polarises it’s themes to strengthen there contrast for narrative effect. It uses things like technology and nature in a fairy-tail like way. A world in which things can be simply good and evil, with little cause and effect.
But now the perception of nature has shifted from the fairy-tale, so what had been the brothers Grimms’ forest, a place of wolves & witches and where children were lead away to die, has been converted into a fragile scrap of vegetation in need of preservation.
Not that the nature is good and the technology evil, the narrative arch of the film requires robots to be afforded a consciousness and a conscience, so that we identify with them. But it defers to the black and white of good and evil, it reduces complexity, and makes archetypes of technology and nature. The distinctions are necessary for a narrative to be played out- in the way that films need goodies and badies. In terms of a narrative the polarisation can become dull, and unrealistic. But the film works because the polarisation is taken for granted.
Wall-e the robot himself (it’s self) has achieved some sort of sentience, A.I. from his perspective the humans were most likely alien and separate from him. But of coarse he is not separate, in-fact he apes our lives and routines and habits, and desires. He is a product of us, as we are of nature. So where are the lines drawn? And where do they fade into grey? Perhaps in the beginnings of consciousness, our self awareness being the very thing that makes us able to draw the line, draw the distinctions between an “us” and a “not us” and to feel separate from it.
The film is homocentric. It follows a template of a universe where humans can apparently out-grow a world of plants and nature, and destroy it with out intent, and leave it behind. Until we realise we have to take care of it, because of our uses for it. Like some sort of elderly relative where we are hoping to be written in to there will. The truth, much more likely is that the Earth does not need us, and will out live us. Like it did the dinosaur.
The “opposites” of “machine and nature” perhaps would not remain so separate; given examples like Chernobyl it seems much more likely that plant life would quickly reassert itself especially if there were a lack of human interference. And it seems unlikely that nature and technology would remain so separate. Perhaps nature would amalgamate with mans by- products, it certainly would not be passively dominated by them, it would not be neutral, it would be pro-active, and yet it would be effected by it. There would be an interaction and a dialogue between nature and technology.
In reality the distinction between nature and technology is one which nature does not make. The distinction is a human fabrication, a simplification as in a story. Man is an animal, thus natural, his creations are made from natural “raw materials” there are 30 synthetic man made chemical elements all of which exist in very unstable forms. Even they are human constructs from the building blocks of protons, neutrons, electrons. Perhaps if the word ‘nature’ can describe anything it is the way that these elements behave, why they are so unstable, they seem to be unable to exist in the conditions that are typical in this part of the universe. There is nothing appropriate for them to exist within.
To us it seems that we are stable with our trees, mountains, oceans, Wi-Fi and hollyoaks omnibus’. There seems to be a functioning relationship between all things around us, perhaps this is the case, but the push and pull of a successful interaction is a question of scale, like the food chain of an eco-system, pictured as a whole the system (as inferred by the very use of the word system) seems to be balanced and work, but at another level of scale, it is a very real struggle of life and death. So there are infinite miniscule variations affecting the system, and the system must gradually shift. So the system is inconsistent!
Nature is like the eco-system, at best a generalisation, and when viewed from varying scales of either the microscopic, or the macroscopic, the term is useless. Nature is a meaningless term, at best a generalisation which is perhaps useful in terms of describing an aesthetic and little/nothing else. There is nothing unnatural, everything can be traced, everything has evolved, nothing is unnatural except god, as “he” by definition exits out-side of nature, and is the only thing distinct from nature. So perhaps theistic leanings should be the only qualifier for definitions of nature, if you believe god to be a creation of man, then of coarse “he” would be natural, otherwise “he” created nature and therefore must exist outside of it. Or perhaps it evolved out of/ from him, in which case, it is all process and there is no line to distinguish categories of nature/god/man.
The polarities of technology and nature can be disposed of, there is no interaction, or dialogue between the two, as there is no two, there is no one either, there is some kind of infinite intertwining, a synthesis, where separations become an over simplification, bordering on un-truth, only useful for a kind of diagrammatical understanding, a degradation of the subtle and the unique, a generalisation. The difference between a science diagram and a Turner.
There have always been machines in my work. The only things beside a few doodles I produced between that exhibition and late 2010 were a couple of works on card. –both of which contain plant like imagery. And in both works I was consciously trying to re-set something in the work and abandon a lot of things, I suppose they were about leaving things out as much as creating images. They were exploratory drawings in a very real sense. It wasn’t about producing a piece in and of itself. Missing Links perhaps?
“This used to be flowers”
But the new work which started with “This used to be flowers” work on card 2010, seems to be more conscious of the techno- flarge themes, and seems to take them to a more microscopic scale. ‘Flowers’ came with out any sketching or any real current discipline/practice. (At least not one of a visual arts sense.) In short there was a lot of freedom with it.
So the work has become about ignoring the boundaries of nature; there is no natural and there is no un-natural. Nature does not stop or begin at a hedge, ditch, wall, motorway, city centre, oil rig, nuclear power plant, or war zone. It even pervades the virtual as an extension of language.
Future Blogs: Why it’s painting, The Music and titles.