Inspired by Henri Bortoft
15 December 2020
Our way of naming and classifying nature leaves out much of what is taking place.
But the comprehension of this insight is more profound than ‘just’ relating the insight to the protea bud as above, which is a protea repens. I believe the static way of seeing the world is part of what leads us to boredom and lack of nature appreciation. The protea repens is seldom appreciated as a plant undergoing a dynamic coming into appearance because of our static way of seeing, naming and being in the world.
A cognitive bias of shallow attention often leads us to make quick judgements, whilst moving rapidly onto the next task.In this image I am appealing and contrasting the dynamic coming into appearance of the protea, set against our static way of how we typically engage with nature.
The image captures the dynamics of the coming into being of the bud. Follow the bracts, the modified leaves, trace the unfolding symmetry, the radial and spiralling patterns, one bract at a time.
The image is alive with movement. It’s not hidden, it is in plain sight! I wonder what part of our western tradition precludes us from participating which is also to immediately acknowledge a immersion into the world of another, the dynamic umwelt of the protea.
This dynamic data, this information is the plants own proto knowledge, a rich means by which we can transform our mere naming into a dynamic participation. The plant, the image is not static. But our way of seeing and therefore being in nature is.
The thinking behind the artwork
Inspiration for the Protea Wall
Ile de pain, the thinking behind the artwork. 1 October 2020
To what extent do our judgements, theories, cultural reference points and mental models obscure us from seeing what is present? This question remains for me as an artist, profound and provocative. Thankfully I found a means to access this question through Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goethe is known as the equivalent of Shakespeare in Germany. He is famous for writing Faust, a polymath of his own time.
Sadly his profound way of nature observation is little known and seldom practiced. I realised 10 years ago that his way of engaging in nature had never been practiced with the protea family of plants. The protea wall pays homage to his artful insights of tending to nature on its own terms and makes no use of cultural or historical ways of seeing. For example seeing the protea as cut flower however beautiful, is excluded. We fail to see how our classifications shape our perception of reality and thus of nature.
The protea wall attempts to make no distinction, no use of hierarchical indexes or botanical names. There are no preferences for stages of growth, ‘common’ or ‘uncommon’ species. Upside, downside, inside, outside, death, decay or splendour, all perspectives are equally embraced. In the words of the philosopher Emmanuel Kant– the protea wall attempts to ‘see the thing in itself’. The juxtaposition of an essential framework of no judgement brings to presence what is already present in the protea family.
The work has fertilised my belief that our way of seeing and being in the world will always exclude the full dimensions of what is present. That our judgements can exclude higher orders of reality fascinates me! May you see the protea with fresh eyes and perhaps step back from your deepest beliefs and allow for some transformation of your perspective. Paradoxically here we turn full circle, perhaps justifying our cultural way of seeing the protea as symbol of our transformation.
Andre vd Merwe
Blog: Next Steps
Press Release 29th September 2020 Launching The Protea Wall at ile de pain
The aim of this short blog is to succinctly communicate our planned actions over the next few months.
29th September Launch of The Protea Wall at ile de pain as well as the gallery and concept store aletheia.store at # 10B The Boatshed, Thesen Harbour Town, Knysna. Art stock availability to focus on the images from The Protea Wall. Come prototype your own Protea wall in our store.
Launch of the book ‘The Dionysian Attitude of Mind’ in April 2020.
Please note based on emergent and innovative opportunities for collaboration we will be launching The Protea Wall at other exciting venues and locations.