Unreal Nature

January 16, 2016

“Whose Side Are You On?”

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:02 am

… I dislike the politicization of issues; it makes them thinner, shriller, polarized …

This is from the essay ‘What Have We Made of the Landscape?’ found in Nature and Art Are Physical: Writings on Art, 1967-2008 by Rackstraw Downes (2014):

… One day in the 1960s I was returning by train from Philadelphia to New York with the filmmaker Rudy Burckhardt. We passed through rural south Jersey and entered industrial Elizabeth, in the Cancer Corridor. “Ah, now the real landscape begins,” Rudy said. I answered “Your aesthetic and moral senses are divorced from each other.” But, while we surely all love a clear-cut moral issue, is there such a thing?

[line break added] The rural life I liked was not in fact so disentangled from urbanism and industrialization; in “environmentalism” one noticed hypocrisy and Greener-than-Thouism; the images I worked with were mostly rural, but I spent three-fourths of the year in the city, whose different values I was not about to give up.

I looked, and did not think of things as good or bad, but as present. Garbage and sewage and industrial effluent are characteristics of a landscape we all help to make. Structures rusting in the New Jersey Meadowlands are to U.S. industrial might as the tombs and aqueducts of the Campagna were to the Roman empire. Abandoned land and trashscapes may be the wildest spots we have left, since “wild” land is all protected.

I see life as mostly polyvalent, and I am most interested in art when it’s the same way. I dislike the politicization of issues; it makes them thinner, shriller, polarized, and finally reduces them to the question, “Whose Side Are You On?” This is a good call to action, but not to contemplation.




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