When Technology and Nature Become One

By Sigrid Stenerud Steien.


Lars Aurtande, The Roman Pine, Serigraphy

In the tones of blue unfolds an unknown world within a mystical atmosphere of plants, fantastic creatures, robots and wires in the graphic works of Lars Aurtande. The exhibition at the gallery Norske Grafikere displayed a series of Aurtande’s silk prints that reveal an unknown world. The collection of fifteen portrays different robots, fantasy creatures and animals in a mystical forest, where the unfamiliar world unfolds with its plant life, mushrooms, insects, birds and animals, but also fantastical beings that seems to be hybrids of different kinds of animals, like birds with antlers or tiny creatures with parts of humans and animals put together. The works of Aurtande is rich in its details, especially in the larger works The Roman Pine (ill.1) and Yggdrasil (ill.2). “Observations from a stump” [1] consists of work that are both exploring and humorous, but with an uncanny atmosphere of what’s to come in the near future. With wires as branches and roots in a forest where both robots and animals interact Aurtande portrays nature and technology intertwined with each other.


Lars Aurtande, Yggdrasil Serigraphy

Aurtande’s work has a characteristic look that one can find in illustrated children’s book, which is also the case; the illustrations are also found in his book Larry’s Botanical Studies (2013). At first sight, the images appear to be quite harmless and sweet, but there is also a layer of a grim atmosphere. Wires and cords twist around and capture the creatures, tangles around in the trees and extend through the stump, as seen in the work Yggdrasil. It is as if the technology has intruded upon the nature, where the wires replace the branches of the trees. The wires tangle around creatures and vegetation, holding a firm grip around the nature as it is not able to untangle itself from the technology.


Lars Aurtande, Mother Nature, Serigraphy

While the humans are completely outside of the picture in the works of Aurtande, the human made technology is very much present. With a large consummation of technological equipment, the world and its nature gets flooded of outdated and retired gear. The human made technology has in some way defeated nature, or the nature may have adapted to the technological systems. While the technology is portrayed as dominating the nature, the nature is being presented as nourishing and caring, as seen in Mother Nature (ill.3) and Euphoria (ill.4). The life giving aspect of nature is being portrayed. Throughout the exhibition, technology and nature come together in different situations in this unfamiliar wonderland. The technology is both depicted as a part of the nature, and as an exploring element that is not able to come close enough. In the work The Flower and the Bee [2] (ill.5) a robot with a face of a child is portrayed looking on the flower, not being able to sense it by touch or smell, observing the nature from the outside. The distance between nature and technology gets emphasized, and it becomes clear that humans, or the human made, have detached itself from the nature it once was a part of.



The traditional western perspective on nature is often as the human's opposite. Human is culture, and by understanding the world through dualistic terms, human beings are seen as something outside of the nature, and intrude and intervene with nature for the sake of humans. In that way, nature can be understood as the culture’s other. Donna Haraway writes about how one cannot look at the one without the other; Nature and culture are inseparable [3]. Natureculture, which is the term Haraway use in her text, clarifies how nature and culture affect each other. This may be a needed perspective to understand how human actions have an effect on the nature and contributing aspect regarding climate change.


Yggdrasil may be seen as the main work of the exhibition, as it is the biggest work that is being displayed. Being presented alone at the end wall of the location, this is the picture that communicate to the audience from the street and in to the exhibition as one walks inside. The work portrays a stump, which is also included in the exhibition title. Yggdrasil is the name of the tree of life in the Norse mythology that was placed in Åsgard, the place of the gods. The tree is always green, as it get watered and taken care of by Norse goddesses [4]. The tree connects the light from the top of the tree, to the darkness by its roots, and there are different animals living in the tree. Yggdrasil may therefore be seen as a depiction of the nature. In Aurtande’s work, the tree is cut down, leaving only a stump behind. The Tree of life is gone, and the roots, which in the mythology go deep in the ground, have become hollow, as wires have replaced the organic root system. In the pamphlet of the exhibition Aurtande writes: “Yggdrasil in Norse mythology represents the symbol of the world and life. For me, the stump represents a dystopian symbol of what we have in store” [5]. The tree in Aurtande’s exhibition is no longer a green and vital one. The world in Aurtande’s exhibition has changed to something unknown, to a place where human beings no longer exist and where nature has submitted to the force of technology.



Lars Aurtande “Betraktninger fra en stubbe. ” (“Observations from a stump”), exhibition at Norske Grafikere (09.08.18-02.09.18)

Notes


[1] Free translation from the original title ”Betraktninger fra en stubbe”.

[2] Free translation of the original title: «Blomst og bie».

[3] Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto, 6-7.

[4] Store norske leksikon online, s..v. «Yggdrasil».

[5] Free translation of the exhibition text.


Illustrations

Ill.1: Lars Aurtande, The Roman Pine, Serigraphy. Photo: https://www.norske-grafikere.no/butikk/lars-aurtande-the-roman-pine/ 05.09.18

Ill. 2: Aurtande, Yggdrasil, Serigraphy Photograph of the exhibition at Norske Grafikere.

Ill. 3: Aurtande, Mother Nature Serigraphy. Photo: https://www.norske-grafikere.no/butikk/lars-aurtande-mother-nature/ 05.09.18

Ill. 4: Aurtande, Euphoria. Original title Euforia, Serigraphy. Photo: https://www.norske-grafikere.no/butikk/lars-aurtande-blomst-og-bie/ 05.09.18

Ill. 5: Aurtande, The Flower and the Bee. Original title Blomst og bie, Serigraphy. Photo: https://www.norske-grafikere.no/butikk/lars-aurtande-euforia-2/


References

Haraway, Donna. The Companion Specis Manifesto. Chicago: Indiana University Press, 2003.


Store Norske Leksikon online. S.v. «Yggdrasil». Visited 10.09.18. https://snl.no/Yggdrasil

OSLO FORM LAB 2018