Unreal Nature

November 22, 2018

In Tune with the Mind of Nature

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… If … “awareness” can embrace the idea of an instinctual and experiential practice based upon the nature of materials … then the spider exhibits deep levels of awareness.

This is from Martin Kemp’s essay in The Andy Goldsworthy Project by Molly Donovan and Tina Fiske with John Beardsley and Martin Kemp:

Andy Goldsworthy’s father was a mathematician. F.A. (Allin) Goldsworthy was professor of applied mathematics at Leeds University.

… The forms and processes that [Andy] Goldsworthy uses tap deeply into the engineering of nature, often involving the kinds of complex static and dynamic structures that have taxed the analytic powers of such mathematically minded biologists as D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, whose Growth and Form (1917) remains the masterpiece of geometrical biology. Goldsworthy’s cairns, arches, domes, and related structures seem to stand within a long tradition of structures mathematically contrived by human engineers.

[line break added] Yet he works by instinct and experience, not by predetermined calculation. His autonomous building practice connects man with the structural intuition of the spider, while his collaborative works align man with other cooperative species such as the bee, the swallow, the bowerbird, and the ant. The webs, honeycombs, nests, and hills these animals forge depend upon profound mathematical principles, of which their designers are of course wholly unaware.

On second thought, this formulation depends on how we define “awareness.” If we mean a conscious engagement cast in the form of analytical understanding, the spider has no such awareness of why and how its web achieves its optimum design. If, on the other hand, “awareness” can embrace the idea of an instinctual and experiential practice based upon the nature of materials and the visual-cum-somatic manipulation of them in a way that feels inevitable and right, then the spider exhibits deep levels of awareness.

[line break added] We may say, metaphorically, that the spider is in tune with the mind of nature. Goldsworthy’s level of consciousness is of course at a different level from that of a spider, but when he is totally immersed in the mental and physical process of construction, he can at those moments seem to be closer to a spider tuning into nature than to his father writing his mathematical papers.

… It is the nature of a successful work of art, in contrast to an exposition in science, that it presents the spectator with an open field for association, even beyond those consciously defined by the artist. The artist sets the parameters for the types of resonances, but does not enumerate or prescribe them. No artist presents us with a richer field of possibilities than Goldsworthy.

-Julie

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