Archive for the ‘Brianna’ Category

Response to Geroges Teyssott Reading

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

The suburbanization of America cannot be better explained than through the development of the American lawn. According to Teyssott’s book, The American Lawn, the lawn itself sits precariously and ambiguously on the border between being categorized as a public or a private entity. If a private entity, the owner of said lawn should be able to treat it according to his or her own preferences; if a public entity, all lawns should be maintained in an agreeable manner that is pleasing to the society viewing it. Whereas some people would agree upon and support the continual upkeep of one’s lawn – pruning, mowing, and weeding – others disagree that the lawn is a part of nature which should not be influenced and molded to fulfill the fleeting desires of man’s preferences. Sara Stein supports the view that mowing lawns is the same as subjecting them to “a perpetual torture” until “the perfect lawn” is attained. Most people supporting this perspective would likely support the argument that the word “lawn” is derived from the Old English word “launde” meaning a moor or an area of wild grass. From this denotation, the lawn itself should not be cultivated as part of a domestic garden, but rather its survival left to the elements of nature.

Teyssott further developed the idea of a lawn as an “area of green velvet.” Similar to within the home, with carpeted floors from wall to wall, the lawn should be an extension of one’s living space – a velvet carpet of perfectly mowed grass. Many suburban areas attempt to groom their lawns to be as aesthetically pleasing as the rest of their home. Also, parallels can be drawn in that hygiene and cleanliness of one’s personal self should also be extended to that of one’s garden. Teyssott essentially asks us: is there a difference between a mower and a razor? A final predominant theme in Teyssott’s excerpt was the persistent argument between the necessity of fences to divide properties, both public and private. Frank A. Waugh supported the idea of maintaining fences in order to preserve seclusion and privacy within the private sphere. J.B. Jackson even maintained that without fences, lawns and neighborhoods would become nothing more than monochromatic colors engulfed in a “green desert.” On the other hand, many argue that while fences are necessary distinctions in the actual drawings of property lines, so long as the owners know their own boundaries, onlookers and passersby need not recognize the division. Without the imposing threat of a fence, the eye is permitted to travel unbothered and uninterrupted across street upon street, over home upon home.

After completing the reading of Teyssott’s excerpt, I felt that the stereotypical suburbia could not have been better captured. Although perhaps an odd way of looking at the “suburbanization” of America, the American lawn is nothing short of a competition to display one’s social status in addition to the “American dream” that one has not only pursued, but also achieved. Through the analysis of the lawn, it is clear that Americans are trapped in a perpetual pressure to project the best of their lives and, according to Teyssott, this has most obviously been accomplished through the cultivation of the perfect lawn. The constant battle between the desire for or against fencing actually caught my attention, since this is an issue that links back to early American history as well. American’s are fueled by the notion of “manifest destiny” and over the years have continuously expanded westward whenever tensions became too great within the land inhabited at the time. Even then, between cattle ranches and staking land claims, people have attempted to clearly indicate what belongs to them. Yet in our modern society filled with contracts, maps, graphs, and further legal documentation, when there can be no doubt as to which portion of land in a neighborhood belongs to whom, are fences really necessary? Are fences nothing more than additional architectural designs meant to enhance the viewing of the home? Or are fences working counterproductively, blatantly shouting that ‘this is mine and there should be no mistake about it’? When considering the idea of fencing in a lawn or a garden, I cannot help but wonder if the suburbanization of America is nothing more than another attempt at gaining something more for oneself.


  1. Is a lawn still considered “nature” when man controls all aspects of its form, characteristics, and lifespan?
  2. Are people driven by societal pressures or self-induced pressures to maintain an aesthetically pleasing lawn?
  3. At what point does taking care of one’s lawn become less of a hobby and more of an obsession with keeping up appearances?

Response to Robert Henson and Elizabeth Kolbert Readings

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

When I first delved into the readings for this week, the topic revolving around climate change, I was immediately struck by the poignant title of Kolbert’s book – Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. Climate change is just that; a catastrophe. Societies and scientists alike have known about it for decades and have been attempting to implement changes for decades, yet the trend hasn’t caught on. People are apathetic. I firmly believe that years down the road, when retrospectively analyzing the problem, the question imposed will not be “Why did they let that happen?”, but rather “Why did they continue to let that happen?”

In Henson’s excerpt, the main discussion relates back to the greenhouse effect and global warming. Despite a slipping in temperature during the 1970s which led to hype about a global cool-down (and also again surfaced during the Cold War in the early 1980s), the fact of the matter is that the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere continue to lead to warmer temperatures. As Henson states, the “turning point” for the recognition of global warming was the surprising discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole in 1985 followed by the sizzling summer of 1988 which was laden with droughts, fires, and record high temperatures. Just one year later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change was established – a stepping stone on the path to the Kyoto Protocol which was “the world’s first attempt to come to grips with greenhouse-gas emissions”. Yet, despite the evidence, a prevalent theme in relation to climate change is uncertainty and skepticism. Many scientists accuse such skeptics of “cherry-picking,” or essentially conducting selection bias in the case studies they use to support their claims. These skeptics gain high-profile attention mainly due to public-relations “facilitated by conservative think tanks” and wield a large influence over the public who, in the eyes of many scientists, should be allowed to form their own opinions based on the objective facts.

Kolbert presents a more hands-on perspective regarding climate change, notably due to her extensive research and traveling related to the field. In reflecting on noteworthy scientists (such as John Tyndall who discovered the greenhouse effect), Charles David Keeling had possibly the greatest influence. Taking Svante Arrhenius’ work with calculating the effects on earth’s temperature due to changes in carbon dioxide emissions one step further, Keeling discovered a more precise method of measuring CO2. The result was “The Keeling Curve” which illustrated how levels of carbon dioxide had been rising since the 1950s. Kolbert later remarks that the largest single source of carbon emissions in the United states is electricity production (39%) followed by transportation (34%) and that a staggering 70% of our electricity is generated by fossil fuels. While there are several technological innovations available that could be implemented such as wind mills or photovoltaic (solar powered) energy, these efforts would not generate sufficient energy on their own and would face several social and technological obstacles. Presently, U.S. emissions are 20% higher than they were in 1990, despite the Bush administration’s goals of decreasing carbon emissions by 2000.

After reading these passages, I immediately felt the urge to go around and turn off any extra lights that weren’t needed and unplug devices that weren’t currently in use. Climate change is a real issue. While people may be skeptical to its imminence, it is nevertheless prevalent in society. Between the two articles, I felt that Henson’s passage was more informative whereas Kolbert’s work was perhaps more investigative. Yet what truly struck me from Kolbert’s writing and put climate change into a frightening perspective was the fact that carbon dioxide emissions remain in the atmosphere for 100 years before they deteriorate. When put into context, this value blatantly screams that your emissions today, yesterday, and tomorrow will have a longer lasting impact on earth than the length of one’s own life. I believe that this “shock value” could have a much stronger impact on people than news stories and scientific data alone. It is also interesting to come to terms with the fact that mankind’s own technological progress is negatively impacting our natural home – our only home, the earth. Without a healthy earth, there is no hope for anything else. That being said, is man humble enough to take a step back into the past, or will we be able to safely step forward into a greener future?


  1. Why are people so apathetic to climate change?
  2. What level of severity must this issue reach before it becomes a worldwide, accepted concern?
  3. What additional steps can be taken now in order to secure a more sustainable future?

Mary Hambleton Exhibit Response

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Art can be inspired by a myriad of situations and experiences, which is especially evident in the works of Mary Hambleton.  After viewing her exhibit, Hard Rain, I could honestly feel the struggle, the optimism, the despair, the hope, and the lack thereof permeating through her artworks.  Personally, I believe that reading about Hambleton’s background before viewing her exhibit helped me to have a better understanding of what her work symbolizes.  Had I not been informed beforehand that Hambleton fought against melanoma during the time that much of her work was created, I might have only interpreted her paintings to be random bright lines and somewhat creepy PET scans bordered by extinct birds.  However, with prior knowledge of her circumstances, her artwork took on a whole new depth of meaning and significance. 

The piece which immediately struck me and drew me into it was “Waiting for a Miracle.”  Although not as brightly painted as some of the other works, the soft grays and whites were a contrast in their setting.  I could see faint outlines of circles passing along the long stretch of canvas, to me creating a shape of a moon passing through its entire cycle.  Essentially, I saw this to be a quick passage of time - one that seems to slip through your very fingers like millions of tiny grains of sand.  For Hambleton, I interpretted this to be the rapid passage of time after her diagnosis, when everything seemed to speed up and “typical” daily life became completely altered.  The title of the piece is also laced with sadness in that as more and more time passes, the likelihood of a miracle happening – her cancer being cured – becomes less and less. 

I was honestly very bothered by Hambleton’s “Enough.”  Upon seeing it, I felt confronted with feelings of frustration, anger, and torment.  While her other pieces incorporate vertical parallel lines of alternating shades of colors, this one encompassed blobs of rough paint mounds punctured by nails and shards.  It has an aggressive tone that is immediately communicated, also translating Hambleton’s personal struggle in dealing with the acceptance and treatment of her cancer.  As I continued to look at it, I found it strangely grotesque and depressing that someone had to undergo such a stressful and trying situation, yet could still express that struggle in art form.

In direct contrast to “Enough,” I perceived “Lucky” to be quite optimistic, perhaps during a period where Hambleton’s hopes were high and she had faith that she would be able to defeat the melanoma before the melanoma defeated her.  Unlike many of her other pieces, “Lucky” incorporated much warmer and earthier colors into its color scheme.  There were oranges, yellows, greens, and browns – each seemingly giving off a sense of warmth and security that can be derived from nature.  I discovered that several of her other artworks had colors that appeared artificial – shocking pinks, neon blues, and electric yellows – and projected a feeling of happiness Hambleton wished she had.  Yet with “Lucky,” the colors seemed natural and to flow wholeheartedly across the canvas which, to me, appeared much more authentic and honest as a reflection of her present emotional and mental state. 

Finally, the piece “Hard Rain” (for which the exhibit was named after), caught my attention and made me think deeply about Hambleton’s phsycial plight.  Topped with a square picture of one of her PET scans, the painting continues down on a larger square canvas where streaks of off-white paint are seen connecting the two shapes – almost as if painted on accident.  However, when taking the title into consideration, those streaks became raindrops in my mind, and then eventually tears.  I felt that this piece best emphasized the strenght it takes to face something of such magnitude as battling cancer, while also humanizing her work.  No one can be strong all of the time.  For that reason, I interpretted to PET scan (a representation of herself) to be connected by rain and tears to her “hard” fight.

Response to Eduardo Kac Readings

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

In the excerpts from Eduardo Kac’s book Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, the subject of biotechnology and its overlapping with the art realm is introduced in (what I perceive as) an innovative manner that is breaking boundaries for modern artists. Kac begins his discussion with an assertion about “biopower” versus “biopolitics,” claiming that society controls individuals through ideology (“cognitively,” as he states) and through their actual bodies (“physically”). Through these perspectives, the idea of how biotechnology impacts individuals and social relations can be better addressed and interpreted. Kac delves deep into the theories and beliefs of multiple individuals in order to provide a wide range of viewpoints which support his assertions regarding biotechnology and art. First, La Mettrie was a pioneer for the idea that there were parallels to be drawn between living and nonliving entities. Sometimes criticized for his work because of his alleged lowering of the status of humans, contrarily La Mettrie actually “elevated the status of nonhumans” in order to draw comparisons and analogies. Saint-Hilaire supported that organisms are all ruled by a common organic law, while Edward Steichen was the first modern artist to create brand new organisms through traditional and artificial methods. Kac’s focus then shifts towards the notion of “bio art” which is claimed to manipulate processes of life at the genetic level.

In the second excerpt from Kac, the focus revolves around transgenic artwork, a type of art which finds itself bound between “humans, animals, and robots.” Transgenic art is described as being primarily based in genetic engineering in order to create new unique living organisms. Kac presents a few of his personal pieces of transgenic art as a case for analysis, such as the “Genesis” project, the “GFP Bunny,” and “The Eighth Day.” Of the three, I found the process of creating Genesis to be the most interesting; a quote from the Book of Genesis in The Bible was selected and translated into Morse Code; the Morse Code was then translated into DNA base pairs as determined by Kac’s personal method. However, when the DNA base pairs underwent the reverse process back into English, the translation was not exactly the same, lending itself to the idea that “new meanings emerge as we seek to change [the phrase].”

After reading Kac’s descriptions of bioart and transgenic art, I believe that this is probably the most original manifestation of artwork that I have ever been exposed to. As I continue in this class, I find my mind being further and further expanded into considering processes and forms of art that I would never have encountered otherwise. Although a bit heavy at times for someone unfamiliar with the complexities of biochemistry and genetics, I was intrigued by the process of taking essentially amino acids (or their representative form) and from that producing art. Referring back to Kac’s Genesis project, as he broke down a biblical quote into an utterly foundational form – the most basic form in which humans are constructed – and then reconstructed it, the result was an altered form of the verse which to me seems representative of the fact that sometimes our initial interpretations or opinions can always be changed due to a new vantage point. That’s essentially what artists try to convey – a new way of looking at something ordinary so that one’s mind can be expanded, influenced, and broadened. When thinking further about the concept of transgenic art, I am strongly reminded of locative art and how it also presents the viewer with an inventive way of viewing something. While locative art provides a sound experiential to the everyday visual process via GPS systems, transgenic art creates new organisms which allow people to realize relationships between themselves and “nonhumans.”

As a final thought, I found it interesting that new developments can be termed “monstrous” because people do not fully understand them. As Kac so poignantly put it, societies have used “monsters” to illustrate anxieties that reflect major cultural shifts. However, I find it relevant that while transgenic art is sometimes viewed as monstrous by humans, humans have their own inner monstrosities to face.


  1. Does our morality or mortality fuel interests in/ oppositions towards biotechnology?
  2. Does the beginning of a new era in art (such as the emergence of bioart) inevitably lead to the termination of the previous era?
  3. Why is some transgenic art deemed “monstrous”?

Teri Rueb Workshop 10/02/2009

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

This was a screenshot of the Teri Rueb workshop on Friday:

David Nye Response

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

The definition of technology, the evolution of technology, the origins of technology, and the ambiguity of technology were all discussed in the readings from David Nye’s Technology Matters. Nye began his discussion with the fact that Homo sapiens have utilized tools for at least 400,000 years as a means of “social evolution.” He argued that as people have continued to invent more tools, we also continue to redefine “necessity” to include the functions of said tools. To put it blatantly, Nye states that “invention has been the mother of necessity.” Yet Nye proposes that this progression with technology has been essential to our story as human beings. He beautifully crafts the analogy that toolmaking is like storytelling – it is passed down from generation to generation, all the while being enhanced and redefined. The author divulges that the word technology originates from the Greek word techne meaning relating to skill in the arts. He then proceeds to define what art may be – not in his own words but in those of Aristotle who defined art as “a rational faculty exercised in making something… a productive quality exercised in combination with true reason.” In his writing, Nye also introduces Mumford’s theory of the three stages of the evolution of technology. Mumford explained there was the eotechnic era (a water and wood complex), the paleotechnic era (a coal and iron complex), and the neotechnic era (an electricity and alloy complex) that defines the evolution of technology.

In the second chapter of Nye’s book, he touches upon the idea of determinism, which is essentially that every state of affairs is the inevitable consequence of previous causes. With this belief, technological determinism would be the notion that every new invention or advancement in technology provided the inevitable impetus for the next progression, and so on and so forth. Focusing on other theorists, Nye presents that Marx anticipated a better world, perhaps even a utopia, which would be the result of industrialization. However, a flaw in this hypothesis is that Marx did not foresee revolutions and violent class conflicts which would prevent a utopian society. Externalist views were communicated by McLuhan and Toffler who saw technology as an “autonomous force” that would drive society towards change. Finally, Foucalt conveyed the idea of “epistemes,” or seeing history as the “exfoliation of patters of ideas and structures.”

After reading Nye’s chapters, I felt like he had provided the reader with a mountain of background knowledge and history about technology, yet still preserved a humble attitude as he explicitly stated that he couldn’t define it. In a sense, I feel that technology is similar to art; we discussed that art also is lacking a definition in that to define it would be limiting its actual expansiveness and variety. That goes the same for technology. It is such as vast term that to define it would be to exclude part of it. Also, when I read the first chapter I was intrigued and bothered at the same time by Nye’s claim that people continue to redefine “necessity.” After pondering this, I have to completely agree with him. We live in a world where anyone under the age of ten or twelve can’t remember the invention of the iPod, yet cannot live without it; where my generation considers the internet to have always been a household item; where my parents’ generation always grew up with a car parked in the garage. Necessity is constantly redefining itself to meet the exponential growth of technology. I think that while accurate, it is a bit of a cynical statement which reflects the way that people can take technology for granted.

On another note, I found Nye’s inability (or perhaps skepticism) in defining technology to be similar to Raymond Williams’ hesitation to define Nature. In the previous reading, Williams discussed the evolution of Nature and its parallelism to the development of monotheism; in Nye’s passages, he discusses the evolution of technology and its relation to the development of our modern day culture and society. I found this similarity to be quite valid, especially for the topic of our class. There is an intersection between nature, art, and technology, one of those intersections being that none of the three can be perfectly defined because ambiguity is a part of their existence.


  1. Can the adoption of new technologies actually hinder the progression of society from an ethical viewpoint?
  2. How can we be immersed in technology from a day to day basis and still not be able to adequately define it?
  3. Is accepting a belief in determinism the same as concluding that progression in technology is “fate”?

Olafur Elaisson Exhibit Reflection

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

On Saturday, September 12, I had the opportunity to attend Olafur Elaisson’s art exhibit in Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. In addition to the visit being my first trip to Chicago, it was also my first “real” art show. I had been exposed to art and museums in the past, but I had never attended the showing of one artist’s works. To be honest, after being presented with Elaisson’s pieces, I truly had to pause to digest and interpret what I thought to be his message and the arguments he projected. For one thing, I am sure of the fact that from this experience I have a shifted perspective of how we as people relate to art and nature within the confinements of our day to day world.

I am a firm believer that the things that make us most uncomfortable or unaware have the greatest potential to teach us and help us develop as individuals. Initially, a few of Elaisson’s pieces struck me as odd or even commonplace to be frank. Yet, I tried to take Elaisson’s exhibit title into consideration: “Take Your Time.” I decided to linger on the pieces I couldn’t initially relate to or understand in order to gain a better perspective of his message. First, there was an exhibit where a regular fan was hanging from a cable which was attached to the ceiling in a room with four white walls. The first impression I had was that this wasn’t a work of art, it was a fix-it job gone wrong. However, I tried to maintain an open mind and after watching the swaying of the fan and the unpredictable motions it made, I think I began to realize that Elaisson was trying to make us more aware of our bodies in relation to the fan in relation to the space of the room. So often, we become complacent with daily routines and don’t take the time to consider things from alternative perspectives. Elaisson took an ordinary fan and translated it into something that shifted your vantage point and made you reconsider your position in the room – not the fan’s.

Another display that actually made me giggle when I first viewed it was Elaisson’s moss covered wall. I entered a room with three white walls, and instantly thought the fourth wall was covered in some earthy yellow shade of shaggy carpet. Much to my surprise, the “carpet” had a noticeably distinct smell to it. On closer inspection, the carpet was actually moss. As I inched forward, it transformed before my eyes. I no longer saw a tangle of yellow moss, but rather individual tiny treetops – almost like a little world within a vast jungle that dominated the wall. Despite my initial response to the piece, after I had given it the opportunity to impress itself upon me, I realized Elaisson had done something quite unique. In this unconventional work, he brought something belonging entirely to nature indoors which allowed the viewer to see it in all its complexity. It also provided a chance for reflection on one’s own relationship to nature which can continuously change, especially with the knowledge that the moss itself would evolve over the period of the exhibit. Nature, much like humans, is constantly changing.

Finally, I’d like to touch on the piece that struck me as being the most profound in Elaisson’s exhibit. When we first arrived, there was a tunnel that I thought you had to walk through in order to arrive at the exhibits. Little did I know that this tunnel was actually the first piece of Elaisson’s that I would experience. Plain white walls were flooded in neon orange light emanating from fluorescent tubes on the ceiling. When one entered the tunnel, the wavelengths of light being emitted from the light bulbs counteracted with the way one’s eyes perceive color, and everything and everyone within became a pallet of black and white. Essentially, we became the exhibit. Yet it was an indescribable sensation to lose your coloring. Elaisson puts you in a situation where you become the same as everyone around you; the only distinction then, is what truly is you. Your personality, your mannerisms, your thought process. It is such an odd experience that takes time to wrap your mind around. Yet I felt that even despite losing physical coloring, I still could observe people’s emotional coloring. That is what makes people who they are, and that is how I interpreted Elaisson’s message for that work. Thinking of people we either personally interact with or someone walking down the street can be done in a completely alternative way. It is possible to identify and describe someone’s character without ever having analyzed, judged, or even seen their physical character.

On another note, I felt that this art exhibit really stood alone from readings and video clips we have analyzed in class.  Elaisson focused on shifting perspectives for the viewer, but did find ways to relate his art to nature and technology.  I did feel though that many of Elaisson’s photographs – such as the horizons, the mouths of caves, and the outstanding boulders protruding from the seas – projected a pastoral view of nature.  He seemed to project much of what he photographed as being idyllic, similar to how Marx perceived nature in American writing.  After considering Marx and Elaisson’s view of nature, they both seem to agree on enjoying nature as a “freedom from the grip of the external world.”

Elaisson’s exhibit was honestly something far out of the realms of my comfort zone. I felt mentally and emotionally fatigued after viewing it, mainly because the pieces took you to unfamiliar areas of thought and experience. However, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to witness something as perspective shattering as his exhibit. His works open new realms for thought.

Food For Thought:

  1. How can nature be a constant driving force in our lives if it is always changing and evolving?
  2. In what other ways can we be reminded to shift our perspectives in order to learn more about our world?
  3. Is there ever a “wrong” interpretation of art?

sound circuit brainstorming

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

After completing the sound circuits today in class, I have been brainstorming as to how we could utilize them as relates to nature and technology.  For one, I think it would be interesting to put the solar circuits somewhere around the Purdue campus in a planter or tree and watch the reactions of people as well the reactions of animals.  I feel that animals on campus, like the squirrels, chipmunks, and birds, would respond more quickly to the new introduction to their environment than would students on campus.  Additionally, as relates to sound based art, I think it would be intriguing to place the sound circuit somewhere in a room with either an east or west facing window and record the changes in the frequency of the sound produced throughout the day.  From dawn till noon, or noon till dusk (depending on the location of the window), the perceived intensity of the sun would change that day in relation to the cloud coverage, perhaps altering the frequency and intonation of the sound produced by the circuit.  As I find myself being drawn to music as well as a participant in making music, both instrumentally and vocally, I think this would be an interesting experiment since so much of music does relate to time.  The tempo of a piece has to be exact.  Otherwise, it won’t be performed correctly as a group and will sound pieced together and mismatched.  I think that monitoring how the sun affects essentially the tempo of the sound circuits greatly emphasizes the technological aspect of music that is continuously created in our world.

Williams and Marx Readings

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

After reading Raymond Williams’ Ideas of Nature passage and the selection from Leo Marx’s The Machine in the Garden, I feel that I now have a much more complex and multifaceted view of how nature is perceived and about man’s presence in association and relation to nature.

The central question that continuously presents itself throughout William’s writing is whether or not man is included within the realm of nature.  Williams demonstrates during his analysis a development of how nature has been viewed over time.  Initially, he recognizes a crucial parallel between the acceptance and belief in monotheism and the moment of recognition of a “singular Nature.”  Williams goes so far as to state that “God is the first absolute, but Nature is his minister and deputy.”  Nature is further evolved and seen as the “absolute monarch,” “an object, even at times a machine,” and the “selective breeder.”  Williams projects the concept of Nature as having a history and an evolution, bringing forth the question; can man be included in that evolution?

As Williams’ excerpt continues, he begins to discuss the “abstraction of man.”  To support his findings, he discusses the viewpoints of three well known philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.  Hobbes described the state of man in nature as “poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” projecting a quite dismal view.  Locke however determined man’s relationship to nature as being peaceful and good willed.  Finally, Rousseau landed somewhere in between the two opposing views, calling natural man “instinctive, inarticulate, and without property.”  Williams concludes his selection by moving towards a more modern interpretation that man must be separate from nature since human practice is to conquer, dominate, and exploit the earth.

From Marx’s passage, a softer image of nature is projected through the idea of the influence of the “pastoral ideal” on American experiences, notably in literature.  Marx intimates that this idea of sentimental pastoralism is derived from people’s innate sense to flee from the cities and cultivate lifestyles “closer to nature.”  In a sense, Marx is saying that man must be connected to nature as we are continually drawn back to it. In order to support his claim, Marx goes so far as to quote Freud who interpreted that people’s yearning for expansive landscapes to be associated with the “freedom from the grip of the external world.”

Marx’s central example revolves around a passage written by Nathanial Hawthorne which describes the nature surrounding him in “Sleepy Hollow” in a euphoric and beautiful manner. However at one point in Hawthorne’s inquiry into his surroundings, his train of thought is interrupted by the violent whistle of a locomotive. Throughout the rest of Marx’s interpretation, he continuously refers back to this “little event” where it is evident that the natural world and the world of man are inevitably intertwined. There is a juxtaposition of the “real” world and the natural, idyllic, pastoral world that cannot be escaped.

From my own perspective, I find myself believing that man is in fact included in the realm of nature. Although Williams proposes the idea that nature must be separate from man if man is to intervene and command it in the manner we currently do, I feel that we are all still part of the earth and therefore part of nature. Man may be at the top of the so-called hierarchal system of nature, yet that does not mean we are not part of the system. When thinking of this, I was reminded of the video “The Grizzly Man” wherein Timothy essentially sought to strengthen his bond with nature and intertwine his world with the bears’ world, even perhaps wanting to become like the bears he observed. In my opinion, it’s not so much that man is separated from the realm of nature, it is that sometimes we intentionally remove ourselves from it. However, an idea also touched on by Williams, people continue to retreat back to nature as a means of healing and self reflection. Nature allows us to reconnect with the earth and be completely unburdened by normal, day-to-day worries. It is for this reason that I think man can never truly be separated into his own world.

Another point I would like to discuss (that also was mentioned in our class discussion today) was the concept of “unnatural nature.” The fact that people often have idealized, perhaps pastoral views of nature like that which Marx discussed can lead to this manmade, romanticized vision of what the earth has to provide. Williams mentioned the fact that what we refer to as “natural landscape,” like sculpted shrubs, hedges, and overly pruned and trimmed plants, is not in fact nature; they are the by-products of human efforts. In that sense, we can almost remove nature from the natural and segregate it into the world that man has retreated into. We are trying to move away and above nature, trying to improve ourselves with increasing technology and convenient inventions, yet we still attempt to enhance “the natural” as we do. Therefore, in a sense, we have created a nature that is unnatural by our attempts to progress.

Food For Thought:

  1. How can we begin to reintroduce and appreciate true nature into our daily lives?
  2. If nature has a “historical force,” is mankind driven by that same force? That is, can the history of mankind be connected to the history and evolution of nature?
  3. Will people ever reach a point where technology becomes too overpowering and man must resort back to a natural state?

Found Object II

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

solar energy