A Categorisation of a Mountain Landscape
HILLSIDE PROJECTS – JONAS BÖTTERN AND EMILY MENNERDAHL
Exhibition Opening: 8pm, April 6th, 2012
Exhibition Duration: April 6th – May 1st , 2012
Add: TCG Nordica-UP Gallery, Xi ba lu 101, Kunming
JONAS BÖTTERN AND EMILY MENNERDAHL
A CATEGORISATION OF A MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPE – ARTIST STATEMENT
A Categorisation of a Mountain Landscape is a detailed study of a mountainous region in South-western China. The study involves three parts that examine flora, fauna and geology. Using artificial environments to depict elements from the natural landscape the project concentrates on the correlation between man and nature. It questions and challenges ideas surrounding the artificial and “the natural”.
Focusing on an arboretum, a zoo and found postcards of mountains we are working with subjects that are either native to the region or play a significance politically or culturally.
Removed from their natural habitat, the subjects now dwell in man-made environments. These sculpted and architected new “homes” articulate how humans look upon and relate to nature. The boundaries between the natural and the artificial become blurred. Although continuing to be a source of wonder and meaning the subjects are reduced to exist in places isolated in time and space.
The “natural landscape” of the arboretum is an organisation and systemisation of nature.
It consists of a living collection of trees grown for scientific observation, for pleasure, or both. It is a conception of a landscape where nature can become both accessible and compliant.
In A Categorisation of a Mountain Landscape five trees from an arboretum are studied and documented. Eucalyptus Globulus is a large tree with fine silver green crowns. Fully leafed, the trees shade is characteristically patchy. Towering and majestic it was introduced to China in 1896. At the foundation of the People’s Republic of China the tree was applied for use in large-scale plantations. Today it plays a major part in China’s export industry. Another tree in the series, Trigonobalanus Doichangensis, appears delicate yet its alternate leaves remain despite winter. An evergreen, it is threatened by habitat loss. It is native to a climate tempered strongly by low latitude and high elevation. Now contained within the walls of the arboretum, the tree is part of a historical record in an archive of nature.
“Landscape is the historically constructed “mirror” of social, economical and cultural conditions in each area.”1
In a place seemingly remarkable and impressive, a wolf is collected and contained within walls of glass. Against invisible partitions lean brittle trees, rocks are spread out on a cement floor. The wolf, a symbol of the wild, subsists in an institution in which wild animals are kept and exhibited to the public. It is suggested that this institution, a zoo, is a place in which humans can come to understand their relationship to animals. With only a fence, a shallow moat or a wall of glass that separates, the viewer can stand in peace as he looks into the “wild”. As part of the study of fauna we photographed the wolf in three different positions. Captured in its den the animal becomes frozen in time. By then physically removing the original image’s background using oil paint, the wolf is isolated and taken out of its context. The wolf lingers in an empty space destitute of earlier conditions and signifiers. The application of paint as an act to erase is not a renunciation of space but rather an encouragement of space. The void comes to symbolize the ambiguity of the real.
In South-western China the mountain range spreads over massive areas. Having travelled from a far, it dramatically changes direction as it stretches south. In the East, mountains have always been seen upon as sacred. In the West, up until the 18th century, mountains were considered as something ugly and dangerous. In the era of industrialism and romanticism people’s views began to change. Suddenly there was an obsession with experiencing the sublime. To be immersed in blinding whiteness whilst accompanied by daunting peaks. Encountering vast landscapes in a continuous strive for a summit. In this pursuit, mountains become objectified; they become entities to be conquered. Surroundings and culture are disregarded in an attempt to reach the top.
Displayed on a table ten postcards describe mountains as objects. Conducted in a similar manner to that of the studies of flora and fauna, white paint erases whatever information is left of the surroundings in which the mountains rest. What remains is a strangely shaped object; almost abstract it is devoid of any meaning other than its form. In the process of categorising a landscape we objectify and take apart. We no longer know how or where things exist. The subjects come to remain in an indeterminate state, somewhere between the real and the imaginary.
“We read landscapes, in other words we interpret their forms in the light of our own experience and memory, and that of our shared cultural memory”2
1, Robert Macfarlane, ”Mountains of the Mind”, page 18, Granta Books, 2008
2, Zhang, P. G. Shao, D. C. Le Master, G. R. Parker, J. B. Dunning Jr. and Q. Li, “China’s Forest Policy for the 21st Century”. Science 288.5474 (June 23, 2000): p2135.