88_DO03_Koerner-Steiner_Bismarck_Landscape Painting (Jungle) 3
Julius von Bismarck Landscape Painting (Jungle), 2015.
Photo : courtesy of the artist, Marlborough Contemporary & Alexander Levy

Nature, Time, and the Anthropocene: Julius von Bismarck’s Landscape Painting

Henriette Steiner
Natalie Koerner
Entering into dialogue with an idea of “nature” as simultaneously image, place, and encounter, the ongoing series Landscape Painting (2015) by contemporary German artist Julius von Bismarck allows reflection upon the relationships between our understanding of landscape and the temporal and spatial categories attached to it. Landscape Painting is a provocative example of how trite nature/culture dualisms could be rethought along the fault lines of our own involvement with the world that surrounds us, particularly when it comes to framing the encounter with what we call “nature.” It thereby taps into current cultural-theoretical discussions concerning concepts such as the “Anthropocene.”

In his essay “Acknowledging the Anthropocene,” landscape architect Martin Prominski advocates use of the “Anthropocene” designationfor the current geological epoch, bearing in mind that the consequences of human activity affect the entire planet. No place on earth is left untouched either by direct human contact or by substances generated by human practices, such as carbon or nitrogen emissions.1 1 - Martin Prominski, “Acknowledging the Anthropocene,” in On the Move: Landscape Architecture Europe #4, ed. Lisa Diedrich (Wageningen: Blauwdruk, 2015), 173 — 77. Recognizing the inescapable presence of humankind on earth is, in Prominski’s words, irreconcilable with the “Western concept of ‘Nature’ as something independent of human influence”2 2 - Ibid., 173. and therefore inevitably entails a questioning of the dualistic understanding of nature so prominent in Western culture. In acknowledgment of this predicament, Prominski proposes the notion of “andscape” to replace the idea of landscape. The word andscape refers to the writings of Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky, whose 1927 text “und” [and] encourages the dissolution of dichotomies and urges a more synthetic form of thinking and artistic practice, grounded in fundamentally entangled relations rather than objectivized separations.3 3 - Wassily Kandinsky, “und” (1927), in Essays über Kunst und Künstler, ed. Max Bill (Bern: Benteli, 1963), 97 — 108. Prominski calls for landscape architects to take up this notion, which has the potential to serve as a conceptual term for addressing and communicating the synthetic, integrative character of landscape architectural design when they seek to “transcend outdated dualisms.”4 4 - Prominski, “Acknowledging,” 176.

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This article also appears in the issue 88 – Landscape - Landscape

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