[FR]

The Institute for the Unknown - 1. Water Nature
(project description)

Andrew Forster, principal researcher


[Andrew Forster - statement for first installation project : Produit Rien, Montreal, November 2022 - exhibition with collaborators: Alex Boya (animation); Dagmar Dahle (painting); Hannah Sybille Müller (performance); Malcolm Goldstein (music)]

For me, the planetary immediately evokes a connection between life and its futures on the one hand, and the Earth on the other hand. What comes to my mind is the biophysical organic material and mineral order - a geological magma-filled rock topped with the entangled orders of physical, organic phenomena such as plants, animals, minerals and so forth, as well as the artifacts and things and tools we have invented... I find it almost impossible to think of the planetary without thinking about life and about the Earth. I probably owe that to my interest in the animist metaphysics of precolonial Africa. That's the archive I draw on to propose this kind of understanding of the planetary as so closely linked to life, which itself is an indivisible process. (Achille Mbembe, Planetary Politics for All Creation, 2022)

We require to know how such a nature arose outside us, how even the very idea of such a nature has got into us... The first who saw mind and matter as one was Spinoza... Nature should be mind made visible, mind the invisible nature. Here is the absolute identity of mind in us and nature outside us, the problem of the possibility of a nature external to us must be resolved. The final goal of our further research is, therefore, this idea of nature. (F. W. J. von Schelling, introduction to Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature, 1797)

An ongoing thinking - through works, installations, writing, talks, and so on. Water-Nature is a slapstick investigation into the nature of nature. Does nature belong inside or outside our idea of nature? Is it inside of us? Can we look inside for outside? Or, more romantically, can we look outside to find ourselves. How do we animate our surround (starring our new animated friend - The Drop)? How does our surround animate us? Nature seems always to be framed as the outside of the artificial or human-made world - our container, our shell. I want out. Or is it in? How should we re-speak the idea of outside or nature that we have long imagined as an ideal space to be recovered or returned to.

Nature is a simple old word. There are older words for similar idea-materialities. There are much newer ones. But 'nature' seems like a good place to start. It is something we are deeply worried about. We are worried for it. And for ourselves. It's a word that describes this connection point. That's the thing really, that there is something out there that needs caring for, so that we can go on caring for. Or just go on. My preferred mode of research here is slapstick. A light-hearted tragi-comic endeavor at the threshold where we step into this nature. We all fall down. We get up on our feet in front of others. Clumsiness is a serious tool. How do we animate the stuff around us, and how is it animated? How is it life? Not our life. We perpetuate a boundary between inside and outside, between ourselves and nature. We personify the things we know as if they are beings that function with the same sensory, spatial, temporal frame we live in. A water drop is alarmed in the moment before contact. This is not a question of images and their fallibility but the ways we can be. The way we gather nature is both our access point and our stumbling place.

I have an artist's relationship to theory. Generally, I pull the wheels off things and make something else before I even understand what the thing was in the first place. Its gone, or folded up inside something else, or torn into pieces, made into piles, or lost right away in a sea of distractions and inputs. A material-corporeal thinking process, or chaotic liability, depending how you see it. One useful intuitive process I seem to be able to tune to is the ability to identify a similarity between weirdly disparate things, like an idea and a piece of wood. That helps me connect to others. Finally, a skill!

The nature of nature? This personal neuro-peculiarity aside, there is a specific artist's relationship to theory: that rather than looking for a crystalizing perfect description of some situation (or the whole world) which is part of a developing and complex discourse, the artist is simply looking for some words that describe something that is going on, or something they sense they are doing. The complexity is in the thing that is happening. This is true for lots of other people too - 'artist' is a word describing getting knowledge that way. The theory is necessarily a simplification, a storying. A language. A recognition and provisional labeling of the complexity so we can get back to it, fresh. The words are useful little levers as we go back to the stuff of the material, the computational, or whatever mess it is. An "idea and a piece of wood" is a real thing. It is an example of nature or human nature. Which is what this studio exhibition or shared research is about. (AF)




[Precursor: questions on nature from The Machine Stops, a video project from 2020]

...A related question posed by this new The Machine Stops is how one should re-speak or re-articulate the idea of outside or nature that we [what we?] have so long imagined as an ideal other space to be recovered or returned to. Nature seems always to be framed as the outside or container of the artificial, the human-made world, by design. Technology, as the machine, is also personified as an outside malevolent force (a corollary for nature?), destined to control us – a familiar science fiction trope in which technology is alien and external to authentic being. Le Corbusier's pre-planned archaeological ruin (if we accept that this is the fate of his Radiant City) is part of this same story, not an alternative ending. It was built this way, all the way up from the designer's tabula rasa drawing-table. The Machine Stops plays on such surfaces, as the threshold where what disappears as the object appears (as Blanchot mysteriously suggests), as what is at stake as language reinvents world. The epic journey of this walking narrator is towards the threshold where designed world and imagined 'nature' meet. Can the nature that this particular and peculiar narrator (and narrative) encounters or concocts at this threshold be returned as a reinvented language?

full text here   ¦   machine stops video




Andrew Forster is the founder of the Institute for the Unknown. As a visual artist, writer, and curator, he has produced performance-video, video, installations, and projects for public space. He lives and works in Montreal.




Institut pour l’inconnu : 1. Nature - Eau
The Drop [La Chute/La Goutte]
(déscription du projét)

Andrew Forster, chercheur principal


[texte sur le premier projet d'exposition : Produit Rien, Montréal, novembre 2022 - Avec les collaborateur·trices·s : Alex Boya (animation); Dagmar Dahle (peinture); Hannah Sybille Müller (pérformance); Malcolm Goldstein (musique)]

For me, the planetary immediately evokes a connection between life and its futures on the one hand, and the Earth on the other hand. What comes to my mind is the biophysical organic material and mineral order - a geological magma-filled rock topped with the entangled orders of physical, organic phenomena such as plants, animals, minerals and so forth, as well as the artifacts and things and tools we have invented... I find it almost impossible to think of the planetary without thinking about life and about the Earth. I probably owe that to my interest in the animist metaphysics of precolonial Africa. That's the archive I draw on to propose this kind of understanding of the planetary as so closely linked to life, which itself is an indivisible process. (Achille Mbembe, Planetary Politics for All Creation, 2022)

We require to know how such a nature arose outside us, how even the very idea of such a nature has got into us... The first who saw mind and matter as one was Spinoza... Nature should be mind made visible, mind the invisible nature. Here is the absolute identity of mind in us and nature outside us, the problem of the possibility of a nature external to us must be resolved. The final goal of our further research is, therefore, this idea of nature. (F. W. J. von Schelling, introduction to Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature, 1797)

Investigation bouffonne dans la nature de la nature. La nature se situe-t-elle à l’intérieur ou à l’extérieur de notre idée de nature ? Nous appartient-elle intérieurement ? Peut-on se tourner vers l’intérieur pour trouver l’extérieur ? Ou, en termes plus romantiques, peut-on chercher à l’extérieur pour se trouver soi-même ? Comment animer nos environs (mettant en vedette notre nouvelle amie animée, La Chute / La Goutte) ? Comment nous animent-ils ? Comment redire l’idée du dehors ou de la nature, longtemps imaginée comme espace idéal à recouvrer ou à regagner ?

La nature de la nature ? J’ai une relation d’artiste à la théorie. Généralement, je démonte le mécanisme et en fais quelque chose d’autre avant même de comprendre de quoi il s’agissait au début. C’est parti, ou replié dans quelque chose d’autre, ou déchiré en mille morceaux, empilé, ou immédiatement perdu dans une mer de distractions. Processus de pensée matériel-corporel, ou inaptitude chaotique, selon le point de vue. Un processus intuitif utile que je semble réussir à mener est la capacité de trouver une ressemblance entre des éléments bizarrement disparates, comme une idée et un bout de bois. Voilà qui m’aide à me relier aux autres. Une compétence, finalement !

À part cette neuroparticularité personnelle, il existe une relation spécifique de l’artiste à la théorie : plutôt que de chercher une description parfaitement cristallisée d’une situation (ou du monde entier), ce qui fait partie d’un discours complexe en développement, l’artiste cherche tout simplement quelques mots pour décrire quelque chose qui se passe, quelque chose qu’il·elle est en train de faire. La complexité se situe à l’intérieur de ce qui est en train de se passer. Cela est vrai de beaucoup d’autres gens également : « artiste » est un terme décrivant le fait d’acquérir de la connaissance de cette façon. La théorie est nécessairement une simplification, un conte. Un langage. Une reconnaissance et un étiquetage provisoire de la complexité : ainsi nous pouvons y revenir, reposé·e. Les mots sont d’utiles petits leviers lorsque nous retournons au matériel, au supputatif, ou à toute autre sorte de bric-à-brac. Une « idée et un bout de bois » est une chose réelle. C’est un exemple de la nature de la nature humaine. Ce que constitue cette exposition en atelier ou recherche partagée.

La nature est un vieux mot simple. Il existe des mots plus vieux pour des idées-matérialités similaires. Il en existe de bien plus neufs. Mais « nature » semble un bon point de départ. C’est quelque chose à propos de quoi nous nous inquiétons beaucoup. Nous nous inquiétons pour elle. Et pour nous-mêmes. C’est un mot qui décrit ce point de jonction. C’est ce dont il s’agit vraiment : qu’il y ait quelque chose là dehors qui a besoin de sollicitude, pour que nous puissions continuer à faire preuve de sollicitude. Ou continuer tout court. Mon mode préféré de recherche ici est bouffon. Une tentative tragicomique légère au seuil de notre accès à cette nature. Nous tombons tous·tes. Nous nous relevons tous·tes devant les autres. La maladresse est un outil sérieux. Comment animer la matière autour de nous, et comment elle est animée. Comment c’est, la vie. Pas notre vie. Nous maintenons une démarcation entre dedans et dehors, entre nous-mêmes et la nature. Nous personnifions les choses que nous connaissons comme si elles étaient des êtres qui fonctionnent dans le même cadre sensoriel, spatial et temporel que le nôtre. Une goutte d’eau s’alarme à l’instant d’avant le contact. Ce n’est pas une question d’images et de leur faillibilité, mais des manières dont nous pouvons être. La manière dont nous appréhendons la nature est à la fois accès et faux pas.