July 29, 2007

Matthew Sinclair On Nature, Calm and Conservatism

This self-proclaimed ramble by Matthew Sinclair is a really good post which deserves to be reread and commented further on.

He begins by musing on a large piece of art displayed publicly:

I quite like the reliance of the installation on its surroundings. Alone it would just look like an Imperial War Museum mock-up of Stalingrad. In the distinctly eternal surroundings of the Royal Society courtyard it becomes a lot more interesting. It highlights just how remarkable the security and peace of the Royal Society is. This suggests to me the conservative message that the stability and civility of our society is rare and special. We should be careful of change that might, inadvertently or otherwise, endanger that achievement.

He then considers that this art doesn't lie in a heavily urbanized area, but a "semi-rural, suburban" area. Perhaps - he is not explicit about this link - that merger between art and its surroundings is evocative of something larger:

...[I]n urbanised societies many do not regularly visit even semi-rural, suburban areas like Letchworth and its surroundings. There has long been a contention that cutting yourself off from the natural world in this way is a bad idea. That the human experience is inextricably linked to elements of the natural world and cutting ourselves off from them is psychologically risky.

The analogy between a unique construct like art fitting in with its surroundings might be that of Man with Nature. The problem with the city is that that analogy there is Man surrounded only by what Man has created: there is no true analogy between the maker of artifice living within his [or, if you like to reverse the analogy because you worship Gaia, its] own artifice -

I think that the countryside provides perspective. In the city everyone is rushing around attending to their own obsessions. By contrast, disinterested Nature possesses an infectious calm. This view is close to the opposite of the Gaia thesis which seeks to anthropomorphize nature and turn it into one more concerned consciousness.

And finally, he concludes with a painter where the beauty and power of the landscapes even overwhelms those within the landscape. Uniqueness itself is unique because of what it contrasts: sheer beauty and sheer power that is always overwhelming, and never to be individuated.

Please give this post a second look, as well as the ones of Ruthie and Not Saussure commented on previously.


Gracchi said...

Interesting Ashok- I think you are right Matt was saying something quite profound there- and you are here- though I'm not sure where that takes me. I think that your point about the uniqueness of nature is particularly apt- it reminds me of Heraclitus's comment about never stepping in the same river twice- whcih is very perceptive- I think there is soemthing in that whereas a building doesn't change- concrete is permanence- every moment of nature is individual- that bird will never fly that way again- and every piece of art is an individual creation out of individual nature.

Ashok said...

I wrote on my own blog, after this post, about the themes of Man alienated from Nature again. There I preserved Nature's "universality," I think.