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JUNE 2017
Carte Blanche to James Putnam

MONDAYS + FRIDAYS at 09:00pm

Berlin / NY / Shanghai Time

How to Watch?

On webstream, on free SmartTV app, AppleTV.
Or watch it anytime on ikono On Demand

Antti Laitinen, Janet Laurence, Iyvone Khoo, Cameron Robbins

From the beginning of human history, and in every culture, nature has played a vital role in creative expression. This is seen in the earliest known cave paintings of animals that are at least 35,000 years old. ‘Force of Nature’, is an ongoing contemporary art project previously staged in London and Brussels. It aims to examine the way contemporary artists have been inspired not only by nature but also its processes - evolution, birth, growth, ageing, decay, change. Taking inspiration from nature’s inherent forces, their acute observations and individual approaches can result in works that are site-specific, monumental or ephemeral. Nature is constantly in a state of change and the artists’ awareness and sensitivity to this change is crucial to the creation of their work that can be representational, conceptual, abstract, and sometimes otherworldly.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Land art was part of the wider conceptual art movement exemplified by the site-specific work of Robert Smithson (1938-1973), His monumental intervention with nature, ‘Spiral Jetty’ at the Great Salt Lake near Utah, was created entirely out of mud, salt, rocks, earth, and water. Nature’s main motifs - trees, rivers, stones and leaves suggest growth, fluidity, permanence and ephemerality and therefore allude to time and the delicate tension that exists between the duality of its creative and destructive forces. Many contemporary artists use photography and video as their primary mediums for an enquiry into the separation and connectedness with the natural world. Exploring new ways to redefine our relationship with nature and their work can be provocative in conveying an urgent environmental message.

The work of Janet Laurence reflects her interest in bringing into art the fragility and threat by man to our natural environment and those that inhabit it. Travelling to remote locations and sites of major environmental significance she has made extensive video and sound recordings in the Galapagos Islands, the Great Barrier Reef and important nature reserves. Vanishing, (2009) is a 2-screen video where the sound of animals breathing shifts and changes but creates a slow rhythm that connects to our own breath.  Iyvone Khoo has produced a series of video works that explore the extraordinary bioluminescent plankton or algae that when stimulated, momentarily emit light.  Collaborating with marine biologists, her research has resulted in atmospheric videos that reveal these silent, glowing pulses as an eruption and confluence of fluid lightscapes.

Antti Laitinen documents building his own island in the Baltic Sea from 200 sand bags over a period of months in It’s my Island (2007), The three simultaneous videos show Laitinen’s laborious work amidst some harsh conditions, pushing the boundaries of physical endurance to engage with the force of nature. It also reveals different aspects of nature’s emotional influence on the landscape – from a calm and idyllic setting to a stormy sea. Cameron Robbins harnesses the randomness of natural forces by making ink drawings on paper using machines he calls ‘instruments’ that transcribe the patterns of the wind. With this ongoing project the machines are installed in different locations that respond to wind speed and direction, allowing rain and sun to also have an effect.
Although it may seem that we’re growing ever distant from nature, we instinctively retain a penchant for its forms and materials that are destined to co-exist with humanity. There is a common misconception that nature is an autonomous entity that exists independent from the human race but we are very much part of nature. It must be significant that there is a congruency between the appearance of tree roots, branches and river networks and the configuration of our human arteries and lung passages. The artist’s observation and understanding of the force of nature also relates to the human condition within nature. Despite mankind’s ongoing advances in technology we can never cease to marvel at nature’s own inherent creativeness.


James Putnam is an independent curator and writer. He founded and was curator of the British Museum’s Contemporary Arts and Cultures Programme from 1999 to 2003. He has organized a number of critically acclaimed exhibitions for major museums juxtaposing the work of contemporary artists with their collections and curated projects for art biennials in Europe and the Far East. His book ‘Art and Artifact – The Museum as Medium’, published by Thames & Hudson, surveys the interaction between contemporary artists and the museum. He was Visiting Scholar in Museum Studies at New York University, is a guest lecturer in Curating practice at Central Saint Martins and is currently Senior Research Fellow, Exhibitions at London College of Fashion, UAL (University of the Arts, London).

Text by James Putnam
Image Credits: Janet Laurence, The Persistence of Nature, video, 2016