John K. Grande how to be in time with time

Actions can motivate a sense of life’s immeasurability, and they can generate a sense of place. Above all, actions can lead to exchanges between people of all ages, of diverse backgrounds. If freedom— a concept invented by humans— existed, it could be a force that would emerge out of the recognition that liberation accompanies identification with the other (the other, being social, and never truly defined). Freedom is not a myth, but a force that encourages social and cultural invention as part of a greater global community. Actions need not be quantified. They work when we do not conceive of or measure them. That is part of the magic of the unmonitored invented action.

Each of us can find points of meaning in time, and our actions within these moments can generate further actions. All this, inside the sphere of nature. Art in a post industrial era has multiform layers of meaning. The expression of this art reflects how —with what materials, subjects and scale —an artwork can exist. The digitalization of technology has led to an atomization of the social identity. While we strive to find a new social culture, we are increasingly detached from the actual problems in society. We have the ability to avoid much of what we, as members of society, should be dealing with and trying to assist. There seems to be a shock doctrine that applies to the art world, which involves stunning your public with scale, and whatever they do not feel. This enables the artist to control the audience and artist relationship. A mutual exchange is preferable, as it respects both artist and community who have become alienated from their own resources. Artists have a choice as to how they wish to interpret their lived experience from birth to death. This time is not just edited time or what Platonists would call the conscious facet of experience. An art of the future need not follow precedents from the art of industrial and post-industrial society. It could find its new impetus from a new relation to nature where material is seen as a part of a living ecosystem. Bio-mimicry, and eco-design encourage the change we need. These essential models fall within the scale of the life we are a part of, and are not phenomena re-labelled green while repeating past economic patterns. These new models can be redesigned with a basic respect for self and other. The dominance of machines over humanity and over nature has created human-made landscapes and environments whose scale is staggering, and is still more pervasive than when we were born.

Art can guide our society towards a regenerative view of life. It can bring us closer to the instinctive life force and physical energies that are part of our universal experience. The artist can direct their energies towards a re-souling of art, where integral values are based on real communication between self and environment, humanity and the ecosystem. Let’s invest in new systems of transport, and systems of food production that are bio-regional and less oil dependent. Let’s invest our energies in a way of living that involves wisdom, and a certain joy in sharing knowledge and experience!

Nature should be allowed to exist in its own unnamed context. Simultaneously, occupying real space and being a creation, art can integrate almost invisibly into a given environment. It may seem secret and camouflaged, perhaps an anathema to our current obsessive approach to artistic production. Currently, at any moment in time, there are thousands of exhibitions taking place in the world. How can an artist construct a meaningful identity if it is seen exclusively in terms of individualist achievement in an economic marketplace?
Recognition in terms of individualistic achivement is now virtually meaningless. The values needed to reintegrate economy into ecology will become more marketable in the future. An art of the future might represent a modest reintegration of man’s spirit into nature. Such an art would be an unexpected discovery, as the work would not be the central feature of a given environment. Instead, it could express a return to the soul. Nature is an open system. The world’s life forms — ourselves included — will not survive, nor will our ecosystem if we do not base our collective culture on integration into nature’s open system.

Sustainability is a word. Let it be a word, and let us act to sustain through our actions. Actions that encourage us to see beauty, and to feel a life that is outside the systems of consumption, often seem to be at odds with the society in which we live. This sends us confused messages as to what we need. Largely, these needs are manufactured, and involve less of the human experience, and more of the projected and unattainable. Nature is the source of our sustenance. I am brought back to the age old axiom that understanding material limits can bring about a transcendent relationship to one’s sense of self. In a digital culture, materials are not mediated, nor are they a part of the mindset. It is a desegregation of society from nature that will bring positive change. Decentralization of resources and a multi-faceted, fluid food and energy system will decrease dependence on vulnerable, centralized systems that have been worked with throughout this age of oil. This history is one in which humans believe they are self-created gods, and it is at best, and most certainly, transitional.

John K. Grande

John K. Grande is Curator Emeritus of Earth Art at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario. He is the author of Balance: Art and Nature, Art Nature Dialogues: Interviews with Environmental Artists, and Dialogues in Diversity: Art from Marginal to Mainstream. He is co-author of Nils-Udo: Kunst Mit Natur and Le Mouvement Intuitif: Patrick Dougherty and Adrian Maryniak. His latest books are The Landscape Changes, Bob Verschueren; Natura Humana.

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