A thing called Nature


As architects and designers we look at the world through our expertise of objects.
 We have shaped these objects ourselves, designed and placed them carefully, and we hold a sense of pride for creating them. Whether it is a house, a telephone, a bike, or the plants that we keep in pots in our direct surrounding, we as people mediate the world through our relationship to manifold types of objects which relate to each other and to their environment.

Architecture, design, and in most cases also art is about the way we interact with 
these man made objects. Photography is not different. A photograph transforms the way we look at objects, how we arrange and narrate and read their meanings. Obviously photographs are themselves again new objects, for which we have to find a physical relation.

We as architects and artists prefer Nature as one of these ‘objects’.

I am fascinated by the fact that in photography, the depiction of Nature is seen with
 a sense of disdain. It is seen as an ultimate documentary approach - meaning that it is hard to see an artistic hand in the final result.

We might feel that Nature cannot be transformed into a photograph, into something literally flat and harmless, without depth or even movement. A ‘pure’ or ‘documentary’ image of Nature will therefore always lose from reality.
 When depicting Nature in photography, you will therefore, have to add something. Either this is Nature ‘in the city’, Nature as seen through the eyes of ‘science’, Nature and its power, when it manifests as ‘natural disasters’, a ‘digital simulation’ of something natural.

Nature, it seems, still has to relate to objects or events, for us to understand it and appreciate the depiction of it.

In Dutch the word for ‘designing’ is very clear. We say ‘vorm gegeven dingen’ which translates as ‘the things we have given a shape’. In the Netherlands, we also shaped our complete landscape in order to battle Nature’s forces. For us, Nature is a non-thing, and our landscape is ‘vorm gegeven’ as an object.

For this workshop, I am looking forward to your relation to ‘der Natur’, and to see whether it can be depicted through a photograph, or a series of photographs, or at least, an image.
 I would also like to see the relation to other objects be slowly erased. Can Nature be itself? 
Or, if I am slightly provocative, is the photographic object that depicts Nature, just an object that can only relate to other designed objects, that we as architects and artists are crafting.

We will start our search in the library of Camera Austria, to see how photographers have dealt with this thematic in the past 50 years. After that we will try to define a new way to depict, preferably in form of one large common installation.

Bas Princen.