Everything is reducible to carbon. From the tip of the pencil that provides musical annotation on a score to the living forest in front of the camera. Carbon provides the means for life and all living forms bend to the will of carbon. Carbon is elemental and essential. It forms more compounds than all the rest of the elements combined. Not all carbon is observable, but it combines to produce the beauty and grandeur of the natural world. It produces by extension our thoughts, poetry and creativity.
“Everything is reducible to carbon. From the tip of the pencil that provides musical annotation on a score to the living forest in front of the camera”
Carbon tells us about connection and solitude. It tells us that we need to confirm our own being through the relationship with other elements on this planet. This connection is not about personal need. It is about the value of recognition of our interconnectivity with our environment. Carbon explains the fundamental principal in which life is possible and for which it exceeds in its often un-observable quantity. Without carbon, we would effectively be blind to our own birth amongst the cosmos.
Carbon also informs our solitude when we consider how at our base, we are not as limitless as we perhaps wish ourselves to be. Carbon indebts us to its reality-that our matter will subsume and transform to the will of its elemental inclinations. Our bodies will reduce and we will re-enter the carbonized world in which the issuance of spirit is de-coupled from our organic destiny. In this, carbon has the power to remind us of our entry and departure in the world in which we make love, music and art. Carbon is without a true equal amongst the stars above the pines.
Awoiska van der Molen’s The Living Mountain (Fw:Books) is fundamentally a book about land, solitude and the planet we inhabit. In this case, it is the third installment of her work in book form. The artist asks us questions regarding our recognition of the interconnectivity that we have with our world. In seeking out remote swathes of land to interrogate, she is imploring that we examine our origins and our human genesis as something primordial, urgent and in need of re-definition as we sit atop a globe and biosphere spinning wildly on a fragile axis.
“she is imploring that we examine our origins and our human genesis as something primordial, urgent and in need of re-definition as we sit atop a globe and biosphere spinning wildly on a fragile axis”
Conceptually speaking, the work has its roots in a pioneering form of observations. I suggest the word pioneering as a practical calibration for her methodology as her work is a push back of the urban, the recognized and the busy. Her images at first appear lost in a sea of naturism, their charcoal tones and dark ominous compositions lost to the increasingly alien terrain of mountains and forests. The artist ventures deep into a terrain that favors human absence over its presence and because of this she is a pioneer. Her observations circulate in an alternate experience devoid of human interconnectivity, asking the viewer to consider the human experience as partial to the world devoid of prefabricated alternatives. This is the conclusion of the fundamental and of the very essence of life on this planet-that we rectify our place of dominion and defer to the reminders of the natural world and its existence which vastly exceeds our species experience.
Technically speaking, the book is slim and bears all the design hallmarks of Hans Gremmen. It is minimal, perhaps even sparse and exquisitely printed with images resting horizontally 2/3 across the bind. This is a perfect example of a very simple artistic concept that would otherwise perhaps be best seen as prints in person given exceptional delineation of result by the hand of the experienced designer. The blacks are printed so dark as if to remind us of Vanta Black and the conceptual void that deep geological time as a concept offers. There is also the score written by composer Thomas Larcher. Though I doubt most people can read sheet music that will pick this book up, the conceptual tool of its inclusion is a perfect way for fleshing out the otherwise small amount of pictures. It would otherwise perhaps feel like a forced gesture.
In some small manner of critical conjecture, one must ask if the book form is the correct format in which to speak about the magnitude of nature, or for that matter, whether there is a point in making images of it at such scale. I would ascertain that the experience of images like van der Molen’s will always fail her direct experience of place and that is probably somewhat frustrating, but perhaps this human element of failure is important for the artist to understand and communicate to the viewer. After all, should nature not ask of us “who do you think you are to rectify the image of my grandeur with such simple means built from the technical world that you use to destroy my gifts”? This is only a remark about perception and perhaps a notable conflation of aim and outcome when we consider books being made of trees recycled or not etc.
However, van der Molen’s work is as close as you can approximate in image form to the very pressing questions and re-organization of outlook that humans find themselves surrendering to with their environment at present. The work is brooding and beautiful and connects many points of reflection that we need to think through collectively. It is timely and even if the transmission of the real is negligible in some ways, the conceit to inspire re-order of thinking about the natural world is highly commendable!
(All Rights Reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm. Images @ Awoiska van der Molen.)