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Naturally Hypernatural III: Hypernatural Landscapes in the Anthropocene

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Edited By Sabine Flach and Gary Sherman

This third volume of Naturally Hypernatural explores contemporary concepts of landscape in the humanities and the arts in relation to the notion that our age is defined by a ‘geology of the human’ and that this reckoning constitutes a new epoch, aptly named the anthropocene.
The thesis of this volume – that there is no homogeneous concept of landscape, just as there is no uniform definition of nature or culture – was developed concurrently at a conference at the University of Graz and at a series of exhibitions centered on film, painting and photography at the Kunsthaus Graz. This thesis has been fortified by registering the simultaneity of land art, the ecological movement and the view of the earth from space.
Art since the modern period reveals how divergent ideas of landscape are intertwined with differently chanted conceptions of subjectivity, perception and space.

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Introduction

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SABINE FLACH AND GARY SHERMAN

The most abstract achievements of science, the most advanced theories and victories of mathematics represented nothing more than a stumbling, one or two-step progression from our rude, prehistoric, anthropomorphic understanding of the universe around us.

Stanislaw Lem1

The epigraph above confronts the epistemic limitations of human reasoning. It is as prescient today as is was in 1961 when it summed up the dilemma of research scientists in Polish author Stanislaw Lem’s sci-fi novel Solaris. Lem’s novel is an account of a team of specialists stationed aboard a vessel orbiting a planet that is completely covered by a vast sea. After decades of fruitless research the scientists realize that the ocean enveloping the planet Solaris is actually a sentient entity and that this alien “other” expresses consciousness in a manner that cannot be ascertained via conventional scientific methods. All attempts to communicate prove futile, thus, the empirically-frustrated researchers conclude that Solaris has nothing in common with humanity; the two are ontologically incompatible. The reason the human scientists failed to apprehend the nature of Solaris is described in the epigraph from a pamphlet that was found in the library of the research vessel. Lem has stated that his intent was to create a vision of a human encounter with something (other) that cannot be reduced to human concepts, ideas or images. Therefore, it must be acknowledged that the term “anthropomorphic” has been deployed in a manner that is misleading...

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