In a world where technology, spectacle and excess can sometimes eclipse quieter contemplation of the interconnectedness of nature and culture, how do we reconcile our position as a virus with shoes that makes cities and internets of ineffable complexity? Has nature been assimilated into the artifice of culture? Or is culture simply nature that humans produce? What role can art play in negotiating and mediating understandings and anxieties related to our place in the world? For this exhibition, art is implicated within the natures of phenomena itself. Here, the nature of appearing becomes inseparable from that which we think of as nature itself. Welcome to the megacosm.
As a recurring sensibility in contemporary art, the inseparability of nature and culture can be considered across a broad range of very different materials and modalities. From beholding celestial infinitudes in the sky at night to serendipitous encounters with tiny insects in urban environments, the aesthetics and poetics of this mutually entangled interconnectedness has long offered rich subject matter for artists. Notwithstanding the urgencies of our present moment, this exhibition seeks to resist didactic instrumentalisation and instead consider art and nature as an intersecting labyrinth within the continuum of lived reality.
Despite the extent to which we have mapped our world and universe, we still encounter complexities beyond the limits of our imaginations. The visible universe alone contains billions of galaxies, each with its own unfathomable assembly of countless stars. To help us process this information, many of us turn to philosophy, science or theology. Yet others of us turn to art to help us process our ineffable wondrousness with the interconnected complexities of the megacosm. This exhibition considers the capacity of art as a portal through which to channel feelings of awe, anxiety and hope in response to exponential change.
Nature has certainly returned with force as an artistic subject in recent years—albeit largely in response to growing anxieties and precarities related to the changing world that we occupy. Consequently, many artists are reassessing one of the oldest themes in visual art through new conceptual lenses and material means. In the twenty-first century, forms of aesthetic speculation which were largely rejected by past generations have returned as new modes of material and poetic innovation. Although definitions and understandings of what constitutes nature still remain highly contested, the artists in this exhibition all variously explore what might be possible in this space through different layers of material and imaginary complexity. Echoing interconnectivities which intrinsically underscore the organic microcosm of human experience, some forms of art seem to implicitly resonate with patterns of difference and similarity across the universe. Presented as a range of uncanny otherworldly verisimilitudes, this exhibition draws from a continuum that exists not only in cosmic nature, but also through registrations of human responses to the megacosm.
Curated by Cūrā8