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Naturally Hypernatural I: Concepts of Nature

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Edited By Suzanne Anker and Sabine Flach

Nature, a topic central to art history, is concurrently a dominant concept in contemporary art, art theory and its related disciplines such as cultural theory, philosophy, aesthetic theory and environmental studies. The project Naturally Hypernatural questions lines of tradition and predetermined categories that coexist with the topic of nature. Currently, nature in art surpasses the simple depiction of art as a material or object. To clarify and analyze the interrelations between nature and art is the aim of the project Naturally Hypernatural. Concepts of Nature – the first volume of this project – argues that contemporary art is predominantly concerned with concepts of nature regarding the depth of their implications in order to reveal and analyze their internal structure.

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Introduction

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Tendencies in contemporary art have for some time now testified to a ‘rediscovery’ of nature and its meaning for art. Such a linking of art and nature draws on a variety of precedents.

In the traditional understanding of the relation between art and nature, nature functions as a model [Vorbild literally translates as pre-image, translator’s note] for art, and this is the case for painting in particular.1 In the German language, the word plays with an unreachable ideal; it is precisely the elusiveness of the ideal that is the qualitative characteristic of the subject or object measured against it. Furthermore, it indicates a temporality in which one state of things precedes another one.

This model character, however, does not fully explain the relation given, for as our knowledge from art history indicates, painted nature has in turn affected the perception of reality. Hence perception, nature as object world, imagined and experienced nature and the experience of nature overlap, thus defining the contours of nature in the first place.

The twentieth century was marked by artistic practices, techniques, strategies and materials making use of nature: as material, as in land art, or as an ecological aesthetic movement, such as in eco art. This engagement was accompanied by a multiplicity of art-theoretical and philosophical reflections. The most recent documenta in 2012 featured workshops and other discursive platforms alongside the exhibition for the discussion of anthropocentrism in our view on nature and possible alternatives to...

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