Judith Elisabeth Weiss (ed./eds.)

Kunstnatur I Naturkunst
Natur in der Kunst nach dem Ende der Natur
[Art Nature I Natural Art. Nature in art after the end of nature]

KUNSTFORUM international, Vol. 258
Köln 2018, 335 pages
ISSN 0177-3674

With contributions by Hartmut Böhme, Linn Burchert, Herbert Kopp-Oberstebrink, Ingeborg Reichle, Gunnar Schmidt, Kirsten Claudia Voigt, Judith Elisabeth Weiss

Is the current boom in “nature” products and journeys into “untouched nature,” the “nature experiences” on high ropes courses in the forest and the trend of a “neo-nature” that promise a “new lust for nature consumption,” perhaps more the indication of a loss notice than the expression of a newly awakened love of nature? It seems that the less of nature there is left, the greater the longing for it. For those who think about nature today usually focus on its manipulation and destruction: the extinction of species and climate change, the sea, in which more plastic than fish will swim in the future, and the constantly shrinking rainforest. Scientists call this “human age” Anthropocene, which is characterized by extreme human intervention in the ecosystems of our planet. Current theoretical discourses also attest to a crisis of nature by denouncing current concepts of nature and culture and creating alternative concepts for “nature.”

In the face of this often-diagnosed end of nature, its attraction in art seems almost paradoxical. Here nature reveals itself to be resistant and resilient, inexhaustible and changeable. It provides motifs and ideas and continues to provide art with a large reservoir of content and material material. The spectrum of contemporary artistic appropriations of nature ranges from reminiscences of the fine painting and natural history cabinets of the early modern period to applications of the most modern technologies of synthetic biology.

The volume opens up the field of tension between artificial nature and nature art and follows on from the various editions of KUNSTFORUM International on the subject (volumes 48, 93, 145, 146, 174, 175). Has nature really become a relic? Is contemporary art the residue of nature 2.0? What is the relationship between the anthropocene paradigm and the aesthetic position of a natural nature? Ingeborg Reichle presents artistic positions that take a stand on the effects of synthetic biology and the mechanization of the living. Hartmut Böhme's contribution focuses on the artistic confrontation with habitats of the extreme—Arctic and desert. Judith Elisabeth Weiss deals with the topicality of the garden as a metaphor and artistic field of activity. The monographs by Gunnar Schmidt, Kirsten Claudia Voigt, Linn Burchert, Herbert Kopp-Oberstebrink and the guest editor make it clear that art goes its own way in view of the theoretical efforts to adopt the concept of nature. Nature may be artificial, natural, or in the process of disappearing—it reveals itself above all as a matter of aesthetic judgment. In this sense, returning to nature means art that amalgamates natural beauty with artistic beauty (Mariko Mori). With nature as a material, works beyond nature can be created (Christiane Löhr), just as the polarity of the artificial and the natural can be abolished (Steiner & Lenzlinger), everything can be nature after nature (Krištof Kintera), or nature only proves to be a fragment of our knowledge (Ilkka Halso). The conversations with the Art Laboratory Berlin, Brandon Ballengée and Detlef Orlopp revolve in the broadest sense around figurations of disappearance and the positioning of art. It is and remains undeniable that nature (once again) creates itself in art.

Judith Elisabeth Weiss