Monday, 7 May 2018

Monocultural Monumentalism

The project 'Lynching in America' distills a horrific national legacy down to the simple collection of soil by the descendants at the site of a 16 year old boy's murder in a woodland glade outside LaGrange, Georgia.

Ironically the blog Wakeupscreaming has invited me to contribute to their issue themed 'The Great Outdoors' with this series, which feels more micro rather than macro and is the
 antithesis of what might be defined as great.

The photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams' iconic monochromatic works shot at Yosemite National Park are the personification of 'The Great Outdoors' and continue a romantic tradition of representing US landscape. Free from any presence of humanity these monumentalist cliches offer a simpler more palatable monocultural language, a bigger 'universal truth'. The chaos, pettiness and failures of humanity seem too complicated for Adams and he withdraws to contemplate an alternative utopia free from our parasitic species. So vast are the mountain scenes that I can no-longer make out the noble attempts of individual truth and reconciliation being played out in our intimate landscape (at the same time the flaming torches of the marching fascists are drawing the gaze of the worlds media just down the road in Charlottesville).

When defining beauty by natural rules we should take time to comprehend the terrible cost in Darwinian terms in its evolution. At the end of her life, Leni Riefenstahl similarly withdrew from the world to an undersea paradise in her trite films that accidentally re-enforce her fascist credentials.

I am suspicious of representations of the natural world without some acknowledgement of the presence or impact of humankind. To be representing the present we must start to perceive the chaos and mess of contemporary society as a beauty too. The romanticised representation of the natural world is a dangerous meme that threatens a complex democratic and free thinking society.

Frances with soil, LaGrange, Georgia USA (from series Lynching in America) © Richard Ansett 2017

Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams

No comments:

Post a Comment