I have just signed off from my presentation at Geumgang. Skype is an imperfect technology, however amazing it is that I can be giving a presentation and asking questions live across the other side of the world. It was often quite hard to hear.
That said, there were some interesting questions, particularly the one from Ko who asked about the term ‘Nature Art’ and whether it was understood in other places in the world. There was quite a long discussion after this about whether or not this term is useful. It has its roots in the 1980s and the earliest days of Yatoo and has a clear parallel to the Land Art movement that had started in the US some few years earlier.
Although the term is still useful, particularly in the context of Yatoo and its activities, it’s feels like it’s time to move the conversation on. As a label, ‘Nature Art’ could be seen to be oppositional – perhaps. Clearly in its roots it was trying to claim some territory of its own and claim some ground not just for contemporary art but for Korea. In this sense, the work of Yatoo has been quite extraordinary. It has been consistent and has brought together some of the most experienced artists from across the world, as well as younger artists beginning to experiment with their work.
We no longer need to claim this terrority. It is so well-established within the contemporary art canon that we should now be able to move forward our conversations about ‘art’, ‘nature’, ‘environment’, ‘ecology’ and so forth. We do not need head-of-a-pin discussions about terminology. They are boring and unnecessary. We need instead to be proud of the territory claimed, and continue to make work that cares about the planet and which looks outward, not inward. So much of this, of course, speaks to ‘the ecological thought’ (Morton), and to many of the other philosophers who understood perhaps before we did as practitioners/makers, that we have reclaimed some important territory in this art-making. Whether or not we wish to communicate a particular environmental message, we understand – we know – that this work is no longer the preserve of just a few. It should now be considered mainstream.
But Yatoo’s claimed ‘Nature Art’ label still feels useful. They should keep it.