In her work (œuvre) Naturalis Historia (2017), a movie and moving images art dispositive, the artist Pauline Julier is asking: what is the “real Nature”? Enthused by the works of Professor Wang and his team on a coalmine in China, where an uncanny tropical forest appeared under the stratums engulfed by a volcano, Julier is realizing a very personal but also documentary work that is underlining multiple challenges for the environmental humanities.
Inspired by the eminent work of Pliny the Elder and his Naturalis Historiae, Julier invites us to make an inventory of the World, as he did, compelling art and science, archeology and ecology. The discovery of that forest–the oldest one before human and even animal–is also a call-up of witness, as archive and document, to mobilize our contemporary imaginaries and eventually to act.
Thus analyzing Julier’s work and through her witness, I would argue that her form of art, in the context of the everyday — that is the care of the everyday, life forms and life styles –, is developing something we could call an environmental aesthetics. With this in mind I will consider her artistic practices as proposing aesthetic and ethical-moral objects (Saito, 2007).
In considering the artist’s responsibility in the process of producing, I will explore the artwork as a gesture, and the artistic act as a projection of society’s “forms of life” (Wittgenstein, 1953; Braidotti, 2013). Seen this way the artist is an author-producer (Benjamin, 1936) of a “form of life”. That understanding of the artist is indebted to Dewey’s notion of “the experience of experience” which recognizes that aesthetic experience is not separate from the life experience (Dewey, 1934). That should be considered as the will of the artist to repair the ethical connection to the environment, which is by itself the sharing of ethic and aesthetic experience: the sharing of the sensitive is repaired. This, in turn, opens the way towards an environmental aesthetics.
Accordingly Julier shows us that it is not the scientific inventions that discovered the Nature, but on the contrary that is the change of the Nature who is contributing to the scientific research. And this is the way in which we are disposing of objects bringing us to some sacred significance. Another point that will take us to analyze the posthuman condition, as research methodology, would be to approach images that Julier is showing through the recent scholarship of Durafour and his idea of “econology”: images as “beings-in-between” making the link between human and non-human nature. I hope to demonstrate next how we, from our human position, should face and reconnect the inhuman part of images.
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