If nature had a say in “natural selection,” would it have created the human race at all? We personify nature as though it were conscious of its creations and the mechanism of its desecration.
“Mother Nature” is both nurturing and vengeful, depending upon the news of the hour. The other “mother” is necessity, the mother of invention. Of course, invention has become synonymous with technological progress, which places these twin maternal images of nature and necessity even more in striking opposition. Yet opposites can also attract. Such is the case in MANUAL’s use of increasingly complex digital tools as a way to get closer to the meaning of nature within the constructed world. This is particularly evident in the progressive series of works the two artists have created over the past six years exploring the meaning of the Arcadian myth in contemporary terms. MANUAL I errant arcadia offers several perspectives on this recent body of work.
This publication complements an exhibition of MANUALs work organized by the international Center of Photography (ICP). MANUAL: Two Worlds, The Collaboration of Ed Hill and Suzanne Bloom explores twenty-eight years of their work in photography, video, and computer-based media. However, this retrospective is also prospective-ICP has commissioned a new three-channel videowork that extends the Arcadia Project from rich panoramic still images to resonant time-based media in an installation environment. The ar kadea video installation is a fitting extension of the approach taken in the photographs. Loosely following the ten Eclogues by Virgil, ar kadea provokes a Socratic dialogue using image, sound, and spoken word. For ICP, this commission is also a clear declaration to explore “humanistic photography” on new and very different terms. The Center’s focus often has been on photography as an agent for social change. Given the subtle framing of ecological issues in MANUAL’s Arcadian investigations, this exhibition and publication demonstrate that not only traditional documentary photographs but also works that function on an allegorical or metaphorical level can serve that end.
Willis E. Hartshorn
International Center of Photography
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