Saturday, February 6, 2010

Anthroposcenes (Part 1)

Its funny what we "see" and what we don't when we are looking at art or anything in front of us. I started thinking about landscapes when I was growing up in Hopewell VA. I watched as the town essentially disintegrated into urban blight and suburban sprawl, consuming the land as it went, leaving ugly swathes of debris, vast empty parking lots, and more than a few shuttered shopping malls in it's wake. The center of town was flattened. Only a few buildings remain of the original "downtown." I was simultaneously repulsed and attracted to these ruins. Repulsed by the thoughtlessness of it, and attracted to them for the purpose of deciphering what really happened.

Only later when I encountered works by Laura McPhee, Stephen Shore, Sally Mann, Richard Misrach and David Maisel did something click. A bigger picture began to emerge.

What do you see?

David Maisel

Richard Misrach

Sally Mann

Laura McPhee

My first impressions were simply renderings of the epic defiling of nature by civilization, but it has since broadened to be something much more. More subtle, and strange.

So many artists doing incredible work...(future posts will focus on some of these)

I know there is much discussion of this topic, classes devoted to it, and plenty of media attention, but I have yet to see a major museum mount a curated exhibit of the most intriguing work in this area. If you are aware of one, please let me know the details.

In the mean time I've decided to curate something myself. 

I am exploring different bodies of work for a dry run on this blog, and if that is successful, then perhaps a more formal presentation and text in the upcoming issue (5) of my art journal Fluxion

David Maisel

In Geological history we are in the middle of the Holocene Epoch, a division of the Quaternary period. 

Recently, the term "Anthropocene" was debated by some scientists to describe the most recent period in the Earth's history—and the notion that civilization is now reshaping the earth more than nature itself. 

In my view many of these photographers are giving us glimpses of this new reality.

wikipedia explains:
It has no precise start date, but may be considered to start in the late 18th century when the activities of humans first began to have a significant global impact on the Earth's climate and ecosystems. This date coincides with the 1775 commercialization of the Watt steam engine.Other commentators link it to earlier events, such as the rise of agriculture.

The term was coined in 2000 by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen, who regards the influence of human behavior on the Earth in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological era. Use of this concept as an official geological concept gained support in early 2008, with publication of two new papers supporting this idea.

Andreas Gursky

Toshio Shibata

David Maisel

Peter Bialobrzeski

Joshua Lutz

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