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"Nature Is an Idea"
自然是个概念

NATURE IS AN IDEA

How we perceive NATURE is rooted in the way cultures define the self.

Greek western philosophical thought pits the individual out into the world. The individual is created through the journey and the hardships endured when encountering the unknown. This sets up an adversarial, combative mentality towards external conditions. Hence the individual is forged by experiences facing nature.

In eastern philosophical thought, particularly Chinese Confucianism, the individual is highly responsible for the familial unit, a microcosm for the village, province, land, and empire. The individual’s relationship to external conditions is defined neither through agitation nor conflict. Instead it is possible for the individual to be auspiciously placed within nature; conversely, nature can be controlled to create ideal conditions. Extrapolated through eastern history is this belief that it is possible to construct nature, whereby nature is more appropriate, advantageous, and excellent than nature could naturally be.

Alt text ^ Greek western philosophical thought pits the individual out into the world. In Chinese Confucianism, the individual’s relationship to external conditions is defined neither through agitation nor conflict.

Respective definitions of nature are reflected in our urban conditions. Whether we collectively define the city as nature or not, shapes our cities. Whether we collectively see parks as nature, or as the constructed environment, shapes our cities. Whether we understand nature and the landscape to be one in the same, or as utterly different, shapes our built environment. How these questions are answered is culturally determined. Where China sees nature is not where America sees nature.

Views on where nature lies, and what the human role is in shaping nature, create drastically different outlooks towards our urban environment, and drastically different understandings of where the landscape lies within that construct.

Alt text ^ BAM grapples with culturally diverse ideas about nature.

BAM Installations: Not Art, Sometimes Nature Allegory

BAM grapples with the culturally diverse ideas about nature that shape our built environment. Within BAM’s project work, several installations make reference to BAM’s motto, Nature Is an Idea.

The “Fortune Cookie Tree” installed at BAM’s “10 Years of Dumb” retrospective exhibition represents perhaps most clearly to date the interdependence between ‘real’ and ‘artificial’ nature, central to ‘Nature Is An Idea.’ BAM’s Cloud 1, Cloud 2, Cloud 3, Technoflora, and SUN installations explore the concept Nature Is an Idea.

Alt text ^ BAM's “Fortune Cookie Tree” perhaps most clearly to date the interdependence between ‘real’ and ‘artificial’ nature central to Nature Is An Idea.

Art, Culture, Nature

LANDSCAPE is a unique and many-splendoured medium. Throughout various time periods in history what people believed it should appear like has vacillated between that which is not constructed by humans and that which is. Traditionally art has been defined almost purely by what is created by humans. When considering the spectrum of art history, only recently has the idea of art as that created by nature come into the discourse. Eliasson’s piece of a melting iceberg placed in a plaza, or Hirst’s coral, barnacles, and various forms of sea life growing on objects placed underwater, come to mind. Stepping outside of contemporary art we can start to find many more instances of the control of nature being considered an art form, the practice of bonsai clearly begins to dovetail with ideas of landscape.

Alt text ^ Damien Hirst’s 2017 “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable.” Image courtesy of Huffington Post, copyright of the artist. Only recently has the idea of art as that which is created by nature come into the discourse.

Barring a few examples here and there, it is difficult to define ART in terms other than that which is created by humans. Thus, in essence art represents an idea of being constructed, as such if landscape is to be considered as something which is constructed, than it opens a door in which landscape can be considered art.

During the 60’s and 70’s in America, the land-art movement gave rise to a generation of landscape architects in which landscape and art were inextricable. Yet as the awareness regarding environmental issues has grown significantly since that time, the practice of landscape is yet again swinging away from the idea of landscape appearing to be constructed and towards the idea of it looking natural. The majority of humans live in urban conditions as such, most of the landscapes which humans interact with are constructed, thus to deny the understanding of landscape as a constructed CULTURAL medium devalues its inherent power.

Alt text ^ BAM’s evolution through installation work, shaped by a “just say yes” outlook and luck. A useful definition of the word “lucky” is to pay attention and engage all walks of life.

If landscape is to be considered as something which is not man-made and only made by nature, or merely appear to be made by nature, then this closes the door to it being considered as an art form. These two extremes are inherent in the practice and design of landscape. This conflict inherent in landscape is also what allows it to be disconnected from the timeline of art or architecture. It is precisely in this conflict where great landscape design is born: it is rooted in the idea that the artist is someone who looks to NATURE for inspiration and sees beyond the natural to some other ideal form.

自然是个概念

我们如何看待自然的根源在于文化对自我的定义。希腊对西方哲学思想将个人与世界联系在一起。个人是在旅程中创造出来的,当遇到未知时,困难就会产生。如此一来,对外部条件就会建立起一种对抗性的斗争心态。因此,个人是由面对自然的那些经验造就的。

Alt text ^ Nature is beyond natural and idealized.

在东方哲学思想、尤其是中国儒家思想中,“个人”对“家族”高度负责,这是一个村庄、省市、地区乃至国家的缩影。并不能简单使用“激励”或是“冲突”来定义个人与外部条件的关系。

然而,个人可以在自然界中获取有利的地位,还可以控制自然以创造理想的条件东方历史推断出这样的信念:自然是有可能被构建的,即“构建自然”比自然本身更适合、更有利、更优秀。

我们各自对自然的不同定义反映在我们的城市中。无论我们是否用自然定义城市或塑造城市;无论我们是把公园看做是自然本身,或看作是建设环境塑造了我们的公园;无论我们认为自然和景观是完全相同地、还是完全不同地从根本上塑造我们的建设环境。我们回答这些问题的方式是由文化决定的,而不是一个全球化的固定答案。

BAM的装置作品:不是艺术,更像是大自然的寓言

BAM正在努力应对塑造我们建筑环境的大自然的多元文化理念。在BAM的项目工作中,有几个装置参考了BAM的座右铭:“自然是个概念”。

为BAM的“愚蠢的10年”回顾展而制作的“绿色幸运饼干树”(Fortune Cookie Tree)代表了迄今为止最清晰的“真实”和“人造”自然之间的相互依存关系,这是“自然是个概念”的核心。BAM的 云1云2, 云3, Technoflora, 和SUN 都在探索“自然是理念”的概念。

Alt text Alt text Alt text ^ (Top-down, left-right) Cloud 1/Cloud 2; Cloud 3/SUN; Nature Pixels/Technoflora

艺术,文化,自然

景观是一种独特且多姿多彩的媒介。在不同的历史时期,人们认为它像是在人造和非人造之间踌躇不定。传统的艺术几乎完全是由人类所创造的东西来定义的。当思及整个艺术史,直至近期,“艺术是由自然创造的”概念才出现在公众的话题中。提起景观设计,我们脑海中会浮现出伊莱亚森在广场上设置的冰山,或是赫斯特的珊瑚、藤壶,以及在水下装置上生长的各种各样的海洋生物。但当走出当代艺术,我们会发现更多自然控制的实例被当做艺术形式,盆景的实践显然开始与景观的理念相吻合。

除了这些例子之外,很难用除人类创造之外的东西来定义艺术。因此,从本质上说,艺术就像景观一样,代表了一种被建造的概念,如果视景观为建造的结果,也就打开了视景观为艺术的大门。

Alt text ^ Olafur Eliasson’s 2015 “Ice Watch” installation in collaboration with geologist Minik Rosing. Icebergs from Greenland are transported to Place du Pantheon, Paris. Image courtesy of Freeyork, copyright Studio Olafur Eliasson.

在上世纪的60及70年代,美国的大地艺术运动催生了新一代的景观设计师,此时景观和艺术是密不可分的。然而,随着人们对环境问题关注度的大大提高,景观实践又偏离了“景观是被建造的”概念,而转向了“景观是自然产生的”。大多数人生活在城市环境中,与人类互动的大部分景观都是建造出来的,因此否认景观是一种建造出的文化媒介,贬低了其内在的力量。

如果认为景观仅仅是由自然所产生或由自然所造就的,而非人工所建造的,那么就关闭了它通往艺术形式的大门。这两种极端观点一直存在于景观的实践和设计中,这种固有的冲突也使它与艺术或建筑发展的时间线相脱节。不过,也正是在这场冲突中,伟大的景观设计诞生了:它植根于这样一种观点,即艺术家是一个从自然中寻找灵感的人,并且超越自然直至另一种理想的形式。

Alt text ^ Stepping outside of contemporary art we can start to find many more instances of the control of nature being considered an art form, the practice of bonsai clearly begins to dovetail with ideas of landscape.