Musings on Landscape and Parallax View
An exercise in response to photos, in preparation for a return to academic writing...
Topics noted, to be explored in future posts in further detail:
Patterns in science
Science fiction influenced landscape
Space-time, the Big Bang
My personal artist vision
Landscape and our world in general are all a matter of scale and perspective. From one view you see a perspective that can grow, shift, travel time and space, all by simply being viewed from a different place. Hence, one could say we are all looking at the same thing: existence, just from different perspectives. Approaching landscape as a universal entity, one directly tied to nature, existence, and human transcendence gives new life to the field, and inspires my visual aesthetic. As Slavoj Zizek observes in The Parallax View, “the explanation of a universal concept becomes ‘interesting’ when the particular cases evoked to exemplify it are in tension with their own universality…”
As one can discuss and reflect upon the tension between landscape and existence from so many micro- and macro-perspectives, I aim to explore and invoke the connective tissues between the human approach to landscape and landscape itself. When studying the origins of our universe, our solar system, and contemplating our existence as a whole, there are many fascinating implications for our terrain rarely broached in the exploration of landscape, as they seem too conceptual or obtuse.
When one ponders the scientific reality of our existence, it becomes quite incomprehensible. We are made out of the big bang, our essence itself is elements– if we think about the large-scale picture of what we are and where we are, we can loose ourselves… Perhaps that is not such a bad notion. In our contemporary culture of online avatars, strip malls, and endless suburbia, the idea that we are a part of something vast– unexplainable– inexorable– provides a mental oasis. When the best way to experience a beautiful landscape is by watching the Travel Channel, we wonder when the invention of the holodeck will come to fruition.
Few people immediately associate landscape with science fiction, yet when considering that our place-hood and identity is a perspective, not a reality; in a sense, landscape is a perfect example of fictionalized science. Creating landscape and learning from nature’s forms allows us to fictionalize and interpret our reality, an opportunity to make that mental oasis real.
My photography deals with scale and natural beauty, illustrating that rhythms that may appear chaotic, from afar, become standard when followed and mapped through nature. Forms in nature and models of chaos, such as fractals repeat themselves endlessly. Nature, when observed from very far or very close, appears other-worldly– alien, and unnatural. The tension between our normal everyday perception and the alien provides a rich ground for landscape- a place-hood outside our given identity, one that transcends the social constraints of our culture, tapping further into the essence of human existence and experience.
Observation and visual mapping via various technologies offers increasingly vast and removed perspectives of our world: man made structures seen through the panoptic lens of Google Map’s street view, or our cities and globe flattened into a panorama canvassed across our browser window, then, our earth, as viewed from a satellite deep in space… Eventually we find ourselves gazing at our galaxy, then our galaxy among infinite others, and finally with an image of the big bang: the formation of existence. When we ask ourselves, ‘Why is the night sky dark between the stars?’ we find the answer: because at one time, there was nothing.
Consulting Zizek again to instruct our idea of landscape and perspective, he argues, “the fundamental feature of today’s society is the irreconcilable antagonism between Totality and the individual. This means that, ultimately, the status of the Real is purely parallactic and, as such, non-substantial: it has no substantial destiny in itself, it is just a gap between two points of perspective, perceptible only in the shift from one to the other.” By looking to nature to inform our notion of beauty, we can be assured that the most tangible and reliable aspect is the multiple perspectives from which it can be seen.
My art aims to reveal and investigate patterns and aspects of land and nature that are otherwise hidden or unobserved. I am of the opinion that these qualities should inform our sense of beauty and desire, that we can see the reflection of one thing in many things, and that the essence of being can instruct beauty very simply, with the logic of nature. My vision of landscape architecture is at once science and nature based, but fictional– a fiction that can only be built by the imagination and invention of human experience.