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Kultura Współczesna. Teoria, Interpretacje, Praktyka
nr 1(67)/2011
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This issue of „Kultura Wspołczesna” is supposed to present a broad reflection on the relationship of man and nature in the context of research undertaken at present in numerous disciplines and to a large extent related to the aesthetic practice. The spectrum of possible interpretations does not provide a conclusion which would offer a satisfying image of the whole, rather, it shows a multidimensional and heterogeneous project of culturally multiplied nature; this allows for a wider discussion on human’s dependence on nature (constantly enforced by technology). On the one hand, nature seems to be not only a product of man having new technologies at his/her disposal, but also as a product of social activities. On the other hand, however, what seems still important and in need of a further consideration is an old division of nature – an object of manipulation, from nature – a force independent of human volition. All problems taken up in this volume reveal cultural involvement of man in the issues of nature, which he is himself/herself and which he/she keeps transforming. The research on nature proves to be a research on ourselves.

Despite it separates human life from the context of nature, civilisation remains dependant on it both in the area of self-consciousness and practice. An extreme expression of the idea that both these worlds are interdependent is environmental determinism. Moderate theories talk about proportional dependency of the characteristics of civilisation from natural conditions, or of civilisation as a response to the challenge of nature. An observation of particular communities shows the attachment of particular cultures to their primal environment. The creation of artificial environment is in turn conditioned by the laws of primal nature.

Allen Carlson claims that the virgin nature has solely positive aesthetic values. This concept is directly linked to the growing awareness of a negative influence of human intervention onto the environment. Carlson suggests that the aesthetics of nature should most of all affirm natural structures and internal relations existing in nature. Thus it is about on the one hand an engagement in the experience of nature, on the other, a scientific reflection on it. Both nature as well as human environment cannot be fully appreciated without a reference to ecology allowing to combine natural science with morality.

The author juxtaposes chosen attitudes: that of Simmel, Ritter, Berleant and Ingold, in order to trace the theoretical premises for the construction of a relationship between landscape (natural or painterly) and an experience of totality, understood as a unification with nature as a whole. Transcendentalists’ approach stresses an optic contact with nature at the cost of unification with it in a sensual medium. On the other hand, perception of human reality as relational, changing under the influence of various practices of living, appreciates bodily engagement in a comprehensible net of relations.

Ecofeminism as a Philosophy of Nature and an Ethical Project The article reconstructs major theoretical assumptions and practical postulates formulated in the field of ecofeminism. In the first part, the author discusses in short areas of this philosophical exploration of nature as well as points to the fundamental statement combining all sorts of ecofeminism: basic for the exploitation of nature and woman are the same cultural processes. Anthropocentrism is thus interpreted as essentially androcentrism. In the second part, two detailed problems of ecofeminism are addressed: the critique of rationalist tradition as a theoretical fundament of industrialisation and objectification of nature, and projects of new ecofeminist ethics.

Land art emerged in the 1960s and it includes very many diverse works, attitudes and strategies: works and activities in the landscape, permanent or ephemeral, created with the use of various techniques, from elements which are parts of this landscape or from materials produced by man. Whether or not these works of land art are very durable (made of soil, stones or concrete), or very fugitive (made of balloons, smoke or flowers), most often they function as projects of these works or their documentation (photography, film or maps).

According to the author, activities of architects acknowledging the postulates of environmental protection are limited to the use of natural air conditioning and autonomous energy systems (solar and windy). The characteristic trait of ecoarchitecture are gardens set on roofs, terraces and balconies of buildings, as well as construction of artificial biospheres. Ecoarchitects approach nature with materialist scientism. They search for technical novelties in order to create an ideal habitat for an anthropomorphically defined user. They create machines for living, equipped with intelligent systems which allow man for full control over their functioning.

The article presents three visual discourses conflicting in the field of photography: the discourse of aesthetic tradition, ideology and museumlaboratory. Although in every one of them the image of nature is used, they are essentially determined by the frameworks of social discourses which specify man’s position in the relation to nature. In the first part, referring to the 19th photography, the author reaches to the contemporary status of nature’s depiction as views and not images; a consequence of which was the perception of nature as „an imaginary site” (Belting, Batchen). The second part is devoted to the entanglement of photography in ideological discourse (Krauss, Galassi, Clarke). In the third part, the author presents the work of contemporary female photographers (Lou Spence, Gina Glover, Sanna Kanisto) and the images of nature provide a tool for critical analysis of the conventionality of photography and its subjugation to social conventions (Wells, Macnaghten, Urry).

The article discusses a reflection of black feminism on the representation of race on the screen as well as the issue of subjugation of the blacks by their exoticisation and inscribing them into the context fo the nature. References to the concept of bell hooks allow to interpret the black cinema as an alternative way of picturing racial difference. In Daughters of Dust (1992) Julie Dash depicted American tribe Gullah, brought to America on a slave ship at the turn of the 19th century and placed on an isolated island. Identification with natural environment is for this isolated community part of their new Afro-American identity. The motif of the symbiotic existence with natural environment gains here a very particular meaning, expressing the sense of relationship with inhabited territory so crucial for the subjectivity of the blacks. In the island’s scenery African slaves emancipate gradually, liberating themselves from psychic loss caused by separation from the motherland.

The author addresses the issue of the influence of modern technologies of vision on the perception of nature, changes in the understanding of its organisation as well as an interpretation of man’s attitude towards nature and its place within it. There are presented examples of artistic depiction of this problem, especially from the area of media art, e.g. such authors as Andrea Polli, Kalle Laar and doubleNegatives Architecture collective. The analysis of their works is carried out from the methodological perspective delimited by on the one hand posthumanist research, on the other by studies on surveillance in the age of digital media.

Proposing an artistic project entitled Natural History of Enigma Eduardo Kac inscribes himself within an already well recognised turn from practices of discovery and description of life to intervention in its very matter. The main object of his project is Edunia, i.e. the transgenic plant created by injection into petunia of the artist’s genetic material. Edunia is thus not only an incarnation of fears and hopes resulting from the use of genetic engineering, but also a suggestive recall of a common natural history and a continuum of all forms of life. On the other hand, postnatural history, i.e. the history of life modified by human being, is initiated already with the beginning of agriculture; contemporary biotechnology seems its continuation and a creative development.

The author analyses linguistic ways of construction of images dealing with animal world, indirectly exposing man’s attitude towards natural environment or nature in general, as instrumental and objective. The basis of this analysis is the case of the killing of carp and judgements relating to it, as present in the utterances of its observers. What is being show is the conceptualisation of animals as subjects to human being as well as argumentative strategies serving to justify the arbitrariness of behaviour towards animals.

The article is based on the premise that as much as it is difficult to find today literary works which would address the issue of nature in a cognitively productive way, it is quite opposite in the literary studies: here natural inspirations of various kinds become more and more important and new nature-centric methodologies seem to take shape (such as eco-criticism, animal studies or Darwinian literary studies). At the same time, the role of literary references in ecological thought is growing.

The author addresses the problem of the philosophy of the „fallen” park. The anthropological question posed here is that in what sense fallen and unspecified landscape construction forms our being. The reflections are organised around Fazaniec – border park, established in the Upper Silesia in mid 19th century by count Hansa Ulricha Schaffgotscha. The fall of the park after 1945 is being interpreted in the light of the following notions: wildness, being beyond representation, clash of Silesia ex natura and Silesia ex machina, anxiety, program darkness, social affects, nature affects, transgression of history, nature’s desire, madness and surprise, being beyond culture.

Japan from the Western perspective is seen as a country of a homogenic, unique culture, whose main determinant is a relationship with nature. Such a utopian „uniformity” veils the complexity of the interrelation between the Japanese and nature, which has in the last decades become a subject of reflection not only for cultural anthropologists, philosophers and scholars on religion, but also for psychologists, sociologists and scholars on politics. The article points to the main of those discourses, beginning with the influence of shinto and schools of Buddhism, concepts of social psychology, and controversial requirements of modern state-formative and nationalistic ideologies.

The author discusses various semantic and symbolic relations by the means of which one conceptualises nature in Indian philosophy, cosmogony and aesthetics. The point of departure is a description of nature’s internal dynamics, with a constant clash of binary qualities inscribed in it. Presented are the following: Vedaic cosmogonic reflections claiming the autogenesis and substantial homogeneity of cyclic nature, as well as five representative philosophical concepts of nature, among others. The author stresses also a specific interdependence between affirmed vision of nature with cultural representations of human nature.

Hip-hop as a musical genre and a specific subculture has become a means of articulation of aims and postulates of young people all over the world. One of its kinds is a Muslim hip-hop, which belongs to the group of conscious hip-hop. The article discusses the hip-hop of the American Muslims – both the Sunnis, and those associated with the Nation of Islam organisation. On the one hand hip-hop is for them a modern tool serving to communicate religious content (often neo-conservative), on the other – it allows for articulation of difficult social and political matters. At the same time, however, it is related to the beginning of Muslim consumer culture.

The Case of Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers by Clint Eastwood The article is an attempt to face an enduring conviction that the cinema was fated for phenomenological aesthetics. Especially, when the point of departure for the reflection on the history in cinema is a problem of truth and fiction in cinematographic messages. Clint Eastwood’s two films Letters from Iwo Jima (2005) and Flags of Our Fathers (2005) watched separately mostly reconstruct past events. However, when one considers them complementary parts of one history, told from two perspectives, one shall see both distortions and an attempt to provide some kind of synthesis. To what extent is that polyphony revelatory, to what extent does it confirm well fixed judgements remains a problem for analysis.