Nature & Politics


Sun’s Glow Kissed Maple

There is a certain crispness in the air these day. When it is sunny out, the trees glow brightly with all the warm colors of the spectrum. Walking down the road causes dry leaves to rustle at your feet. Fall has fallen, autumn has awakened, as nature displays one last spectacle, before winter dark and dreary comes our way.

With southern summers and northern winters, Saint Louis has never been known for nice weather. Years ago, during a brief period of uncharacteristically fine conditions, this city’s mayor quipped that if the weather was like this all of the time, then none of us could afford to live here. There is one season though that Saint Louisans can reliably count upon and that is this one. Fall is our season.

Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Interior 2, Max Planck IPP, Garching, Thomas Struth, 2009

I enjoyed a cool autumn walk today, when I hoofed it over to the art museum. I went to see the new show there, entitled “Nature & Politics”, by Thomas Struth. This photography exhibit’s title is intended by the artist as a “partly comical provocation.” The subjects of his photos are complex technological constructs, like aircraft factories, robotics labs, and nuclear fusion reactors (pictured above). All these sites represent humanity’s attempts to understand and harness unseen forces of nature, often at great cost of resources. Quoting the artist, “Nothing that you see would be thinkable without nature but in everything you see, there is politics because there’s political strategies that impact you subconsciously.”

As artist statements go, I find his to be suitably obtuse and sufficiently artsy. I found this show interesting, full of images of high-tech wizardry, but also lacking in beauty. Maybe, it is because I spent my career working in and around environs, similar in form if not function as the ones depicted. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that. The devices portrayed are not lovely to behold. Often they’re a jumbled mess of wires and tubes. What gives them true beauty is the secrets of nature that they help to unlock, but you can’t see that in a photograph and Mr. Struth purposely avoids any explanations of his subjects. Leaving we his audience to gawk ignorantly. Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Maybe making magic is what Struth was shooting for. That would certainly explain the odd selection of images from Disney’s Magic Kingdom in his show.

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