The Enlightenment taught us that the environment had been conquered; all places were either known or predictable and reducible; everything understandable and within the grasp of human logic. That has been the message for a very long time. However particularly since the 1990s, individuals and collectives, prompted by the urgency of climate change, are beginning to realise that nature has in fact never and cannot ever be conquered. We’re also coming to understand just how problematic the contemporary global pursuit of human desire fulfilment is both for us and the earth.
As the collective human ego battles with its responsibilities, relevance and position in the world, incompatibilities between for example; need vs. want; love vs. desire vs. lust; feeling vs. perception; and concepts of future vs. present vs. past, within Western-capitalist corporate and social paradigms are becoming increasingly visible. This disharmony between dominant human knowledge/perceptual systems and the realities/limits of things outside us (i.e. nature, geologies, structures and space) is a growing theme in contemporary art practice.
The photographic and video works of Elina Brotherus poignantly captures the struggle of the ego in this discord. In ‘I hate sex’ (1998), Brotherus masterfully renders the tensions between human perception and expectation, natural cause-effect relationships and the influences of feeling on the world outside. This is a quality that I’m trying to capture in my own practice.