Ex Natura July – October 2019

In 2010, Rohini Devasher stood atop Mount Saraswati to peer into an infinite cosmos at the Indian Astronomical Observatory in Ladakh. Devasher’s journey to significant astronomical sites was part of her artistic investigation into the world above the stratosphere, and the communities on ground—amateur and expert—that study it. Using varied techniques, artists in Southeast Asia are exploring lifeworlds that lie beyond the naked eye, and simultaneously, engaging with popular ideas of evolution, ecology, and difference.

The early concomitance of art with new technologies in shaping the visual representation of the physical world has been well-documented, from the detailed illustrations of plant cells in Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (1665) to Edward Whymper’s engraving of a mountaineering feat in the Ascent of the Rothorn (1871). Art has served a descriptive function, constructing detailed pictorial representations of natural phenomenon that aspired to depict the ‘real’ with utmost accuracy, a narrative function, enforcing the foundations of modernity, science, and progress, and an evidentiary function, reinforcing the factuality of science.

Artists have also turned a critical gaze to this function of recording—questioning the objectivity ascribed to visual representations. Artists practicing in Southeast Asia have used various mediums to explore these developments, and interpret the natural world. Rejecting a dominantly visual apperception, artists are building poly-sensuous experiences that seek to capture the many ways we feel, think, inhabit and relate to the physical world. Performance and new media installation are bringing forth the political and social processes which shape collective beliefs about technological development. Their practices build new material conventions—drawing from elements and phenomenon such as wind, rain, fossil, and fire—and explore processes of birth and decay hidden in deep, geological time, unraveling the structures and forms which shape the physical and the digital world. The rise of robotic and algorithmic art incorporating artificial intelligence, posits the vision of a post-human horizon, where the organic and the machinic morph and mutate into cyborgic/algorithmic art.

For the upcoming issue of Write Art Connect: Ex Natura, we invite submissions that probe what resides in the interstices of art, technology, and science. We understand technology to imply both pre-analogous and digital, to emergent modes, and welcome writings on various lines of enquiry drawing from disciplines across performance, visual, culinary, video, and film arts. Please submit brief outlines not exceeding 200 words to [email protected] latest by 31 May 2019.

Image Details Rohini Devasher
Genetic Drift – SYMBIONT II Cavum Oris Plantae (Mouth Plant) (detail)
Colour pencil, pan pastel, acrylic paint, charcoal, dry pastel, print on vinyl, on wall, 33.5 x 12.8 feet, 2018
Image credit Anil Rane, courtesy the artist and Project 88, Mumbai