m a r t e n   b e r k m a n

the ecology of perception


A Background to Remote Sensibility: the ecology of perception


Remote Sensibility is the theme of my current artistic practice. Using the parameters of new visual technologies in interpreting and reflecting landscapes, I wish to provide an experience of the many and complex layers of meaning and relationships between the Earth and global industrial culture. In this process, art may challenge assumptions and dualities, providing a contemporary vehicle for sensitive relationship with the planet's remote and "wild" places.

The Origin and Meaning of Remote Sensibility

My connection with the rest of the natural world has been innate since childhood, and has pervaded my work throughout my life. Yet I experience an irony every day, the seeming dichotomy in our culture between the human and the natural. On the one hand we can be passionate about wilderness, and on the other passionate about our industriousness turning that nature into commodities we need. Both perspectives are real, and mutually exclusive.

Or are they? Is not our industriousness our own very nature? Is our footprint essentially dissimilar from any other species finding or creating its niche on the planet? Where then does the duality and conflict take place? Is it a matter of disparate meanings overlapping in the same geography?

People care for what has meaning to them, and the meaning of landscapes may be as diverse as the people on the planet. Visual art, photography and film have been wonderful vehicles for me to reflect the meaning which landscapes have for me, with those who have a shared experience of wonder and humility with the Earth.

But I appreciate there are many who do not have this shared experience, and for whom the photograph of place might not have more meaning than the aesthetic of light and dark, composition and form. Is there no substitute for the direct experience of place?

In our global industrial culture, the experience of wild places may be no more immediate than through an airplane window or the background scenery of an automobile ad. Even those living close to wild areas, may have a livelihood dependent on the unraveling of ecological systems. Remote sensing, the acquisition of data about remote geographies, precludes that the picture we draw is quantitative versus qualitative. In each of these instances, our relationship with place is shaped by the technology we use.

So how can we on the one hand enjoy pretty pictures of nature, yet perpetuate a industrial practices which diminishes the subject of what we consider “aesthetic”? What visual language and tools do I use to effectively reflect meaning in the landscape for a technological culture which is separated from it? For a culture now physically removed from large and vibrant ecological systems, can art provide the vehicle for discovering meaning in the remote environments we are intimately connected to but never experience first hand? In a technological society, are technological interfaces our windows of perception into the material and immaterial qualities of the world? Like the fire ignited in our soul by music or poetry, is there a contemporary visual palette which will ignite our consciousness to immaterial experiences, before we have ever gotten our feet dirty in a wetland or touched the sky from a mountain top? What is the means to our remote sensibility?

When Dr. George Schaller, eminent wildlife biologist, offered opening remarks at the World Wilderness Congress Wildlife Photographers Symposium (where the International League of Conservation Photographers was founded) in 2005, he made an interesting point. Photography of the wild had improved in leaps and bounds over the past 30 years. But that had no parallel in our behaviour, as the world is ever approaching ecological collapse from human activity. My work as a photographer, film maker, visual artist is a colossal failure if I have not actually conveyed the meaning of the rest of the natural world to my fellow humans.

And so I found it necessary, and exciting, to move beyond the classic landscape photograph.  The  technologies which have been our nature to create, shape our human world and can orphan us from the more-than-human world. This begs technology to then become a vehicle, not an impediment, to our ancient relationship with the rest of nature. With this palette, the artist as mediator becomes essential for our perception to keep abreast of our relationship with the land from the vantage point of our manufactured spaces.

I aspire in my own practice, whether digital collage reflecting layers of meaning, stereoscopic projection dissolving the distance to remote geographies, interactive installation blurring the duality between ourselves and the land we behold... that these mediums are our remote sensibility. Open to the intuitive, the qualitative, the emotive, creativity with our technology becomes a part of our ecology: the ecology of our perception.

sensibility vrs_v.html
remote sensibility ivrs_iv.html
remote sensibility iiirs_iii.html
remote sensibility iirs_ii.html
remote sensibility irs_i.html
apostrophes in timeapostrophes.html
trompe d’oeiltrompe.html
cascade of lightcascade.html
silence in the sea of cortezcortez.html
dancing shadowsafrica.html
chasms of silencechasms.html
two extremesextremes.html
early workearly_work.html
sensibility virs_vi.html
chasms of silence/abîmes de silenceabimes.html
the easel/le chevaleteasel.html
projection intérieure projectionpip.html
murs intérieursmurs.html
Hart to Heart:
Erratic Silencees.html
remote sensibility viirsvii.html
sensibility viiirsviii.html