painting-earth“Geologic” conjures up references to the science of geology – the study of the origins and structures of the earth – but today artists, architects and philosophers are adding aesthetic sensations and new layers of meaning to the term. It is a development suggesting that the geologic is something we live within and is not something ‘out there’ as only a branch of study. We are truly embedded in the geologic.

To take up the geologic at the level of sensation, impelled by accelerating planetary-scale changes traceable to human activity, and confronting changes that make the artist realize that the earth hasn’t been like it is ‘now’ and has indeed looked very different and will continue to change, I have become a force of planetary geologic change.

Present artistic generations are witnessing an accelerated change, often mapped-out as catastrophe.  How can we meet the urgency of the moment? The material realities of the planet are outpacing our human ways of knowing and we find ourselves caught in a mesh of interrelations that exceed our scale. We are engraving upon the face of the earth a qualitatively new and different planetary situation, as we are all now caught in feedback loops some which have dire consequences. We have to confront the rapid change and we have to do it pretty quickly. Our age necessitates a demand that we reconfigure and rethink what we know. And that is where the arts and philosophy enter the scene because we need thinking, expressions, sensations, and aesthetics that will gravitate us towards geologic reality. What is geologic reality? The condition of the geologic is our present time. Geologic-catastrophism is therefore a proper theme for art.

Deep within consequences of a co-mingling with the nonhuman, for the artist the situation necessitates taking up forms consistent with earth’s morphological scales in order to arrive at a vision of the other’s unfolding. Since the artist is just another emergent material phenomena on the plane of earth processes, geologic is a force that ought to be reckoned with existentially. The artistic imagination sites-out ways of being and knowing revolving around such immanent facticity.

I can only offer speculations and perhaps create forms in reference to a situation that exceeds me – most of our concepts move much slower than our material conditions. Meanwhile, our daily experiences are outstripping our inherited assumptions as to what is human and what is nature, and dare I say what is sensible and what is intelligible. The modernist bearing is a catastrophe – a mythic order of the always-the-same reckoning the most horrific expressions of nihilism, and the ruins are piling up around us. In the meantime, nonhuman actors, tendencies, trajectories, flows and forces are taking the stage and prompting us to completely rethink our productive and even ethical capacities. Thrown into a new assemblage, what is needed are expressions that attempt to depict the fact that not only has humanity become an agent of global change but increasingly nonhuman agents are appearing that the moderns (those prometheans who thought they conquered nature!) could hardly conceive.

I speculate this is because the moderns acted and conceived as if material is a dead, passive thing, and began trying to manage the dynamics of the earth from this position. What is demanded currently is a shift in attitude towards matter as a living material, which essentially means relearning what we already intuitively knew.Most of us as children loved to play in the dirt. The essential thing that I am trying to grasp in my painting is that matter is not a dead, inert, raw or passive stuff: many of us have been conditioned into this view that humans are the active agents while ‘stuff’ is a passive recipient relegated to our desires, and the inherited assumptions in modern painting rely heavily upon this assumption. But when making a work of art the materials take on a character of their own, often arranging into beautiful structures with no prodding by the artist. Objects aren’t stuff in the sense of raw things, as if void of their own stubborn activities. The artist is not they who fashion the object out of the authority of the will over form, but the steward of forms – a coordinator of the dynamics exceeding them.

The way we artists handle form is a direct indicator of where we stand as to the attitude towards environment, towards beings, objects, events, towards the fleshiness of being and bodies, towards the others and towards nature. The material realities of the earth storm into the sensory manifold as art is devised as testimonies and conditions of life’s connections to the geologic. Art is never just about itself.

One thought on “On the Geologic Art

  1. “ that matter is not (a) dead, inert, raw or passive stuff…” I agree! I see matter as the clay of the stage and props. Matter is malleable and can be turned into structures. There is inorganic matter. There is organic matter. Both types of matter co-exist with the other. The organic matter, quite literally, “has a mind of it’s own.” It’s the matter that – at least here on Earth – carries the DNA within cells, DNA being the software that makes organic matter animate. Inorganic matter, which doesn’t carry a DNA – style software, is the clay. The North American plate will ultimately sub-duct back into the magma, because land plates moves like frozen dinners on checkout conveyor belts. Planets, also, are on conveyor belts. I hypothesize that there were planets before the ones we now observe in our solar system. More likely, the current planets are on a conveyor belt, being drawn into the sun (biggest nearby mass). Most likely, there were other planets on the conveyor belt before the planets we now seeing, and there will be more planets crunched from space debris that follow those planets we now observe. Only those who cannot process in the abstract are fated to believe “what’s here now” is always going to be here now. We abstract thinkers can see geological epochs unfold in our minds in seconds; we can see planets move on a conveyor belt, pulled into a sun’s bigger mass; I’m really glad I came across your post! You’ve given me a nighttime moment of mental wandering! – JM

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