The Life of the Logs

By Lena Trydal.


Joakim Blattmanns sound-installation Treverk 8 Meta.Morf 2018 / Trondhjems Kunstforening. Photo: https://jblattmann.com/works-2/treverk-8/

Cords and logs are two components that seems to belong to different worlds, but that comes together in artist Joakim Blattmanns sound-installation Treverk (9) exhibited at The National Annual Autumn Exhibition in 2018. Five pieces of chopped off wood in different shapes and sizes are placed on the floor. Each one has a black cord gently placed on them, leading to one main log. From each piece there are discrete sounds that to me sounds like something crunching, rattling or pecking. As I view the artwork it strikes me as a piece that is caring and curious, like the artist is a doctor with a stethoscope listening to a patients heart. I learn that Blattman has recorded the sounds of wood as it is twisting, changing humidity and as a home to insects. The sounds that are originally in such a high frequency that humans cannot hear them, are modified so that humans can hear them [1].


The patient-like treatment and the interest in wood as something that is alive reminds me of the much discussed philosopher Peter Singers use of “Speciesism”. For Singer speciesism is a term parallel to sexism and racism, meaning discriminating based on species [2]. He uses this term while discussing animal rights, but it can also be transferred to the remaining natural world. The idea that humans are the superior species on earth, with the right to do whatever they want to nature and the climate, is a speciesist idea. In other words, the current environmental situation could be read as a result of a speciesist mindset. In his article «Environmental Values» Singer places speciesism among the core Western-values with roots in the Antiquity and the later Christianity. In Genesis the Christian God gave humans the superiority over all other living things, but - as Singer sarcastically points out - He does not care how we treat the reign that He gave us [3]. Seen from this perspective, Blattmanns work could be seen as political, as a critique of a western world view, one where humans dominate the rest of the natural world as Singer would say.


Seeing Treverk (9) as a demonstration of Singers anti-speciesism is nevertheless not without conflict. Placing the chopped off wood in a gallery space with sounds that are adjusted to humans can also be critiqued as speciesism. It is chopped off by a human to be used, and in this case it is used in an art piece. Is the tree really given a life of its own in Blattmanns installation?


I interpret Treverk (9) as a poetic rebellion against speciesism. At least that is how I interpret its intention. Yet as mentioned there is a possible contradiction as he uses the wood to make the art piece, and as far as I am concerned art pieces are intended for humans. But one could also view the art piece itself as a tool for humans to realize that woods have lives as well. Like the doctor with the stethoscope, Blattmann listens to the heartbeats of the woods, and invites the audience to hear the otherwise inaudibly sounds of the living trees. Treverk (9) shows that there are more to the world than what humans usually can hear and see. Other species – in this case trees - have abilities and capacities that are beyond human sensory experience and understanding, and that realization might pick on the human arrogance, or the western practice of speciesism.


Notes

[1] Høstutstillingen, «Treverk (9), 2018». URL: https://www.hostutstillingen.no/2018/joakim-blattmann/ (Lest 23.09.2018)

[2] Peter Singer «Speciesism and the Moral Status», 572

[3] Peter Singer «Miljøet», 164


References


Høstutstillingen, «Treverk (9), 2018». URL: https://www.hostutstillingen.no/2018/joakim-blattmann/ (Lest 23.09.2018)


Singer, Peter, «Miljøet» in Exphil II: Tekster i etikk. Translated by Bente Christensen and Per Ariansen. P 162-179. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk forlag, 2015.


Singer, Peter «Speciesism and the Moral Status» State University of New York. URL: http://www.oswego.edu/~delancey/Singer.pdf (Accessed 17.09.2018)


OSLO FORM LAB 2018