A recent travel report published in the German newspaper Die Zeit (20th August 2015) by journalist Julius Schophoff portrays the Norwegian touring art festival Salt at Sandhornøy (see site). What the article says and what the website shows is a beautifully arranged festival site amidst an arctic landscape – impressive wooden architecture nearby the sea; sauna and strange northern sunlight that brings the author into a mood to defend the natural beauty of that place against all possible intruders and exploiters.
Does an aesthetic experience change human behaviour towards other beings? What if the „Salterian“ experience might serve as a blueprint for the upcoming climate conference in Paris this Autumn/Winter? It remains a tough question and any kind of answer must stay illusive for the very problem represents the many individual understandings of beauty and ugliness. Not to forget the big unknown of how to translate experience into political and moral actions … And yet, I would prefer to see a future debate about changing aesthetic patterns in times of manifold ecological crises that pays tribute to what Bruno Latour writes about the need to overcome purely constructivist and naturalist approaches to our world. Hence, the issue gains momentum of how to create art works that neither refrain from reality nor deny the social framework of supposedly „objectified“ science.
In fact, this is a difficult endeavor for Nature with N has never ceased to play a crucial role in Western aesthetics – especially in Romanticism and its obscure legacy in both supposedly vernacular and rationalized capitalist cultures. Here, one may think about pictures of Alpine landscapes on the walls of fast food restaurants and Tirolean suburbia homes.
And still, I feel that research has only begun into what constitutes the cultural bedrock of Western anthropology – the ways our post-industrialized societies relate to other species and materials by using the language of art, in my case.