Session 7

Friday, June 4

10:30–12:00 (Helsinki, EEST, UTC +3), Congress Room 1

Chair: Virpi Kaukio

Max van der Heijden (Tilburg University, The Netherlands):

Art in the Anthropocene: Affirmative Re-engagement with Nature through Tragic Art

One public response to the climate crisis listed in Bruno Latour’s Facing Gaia (2017) is that of ‘lethargy’ (p. 12). Faced with earth’s rapid transformations, the lethargic have decided that these changes can ‘neither be ignored, nor, alas, be remedied by any radical measures’ (p. 12). Hence, the lethargic sees the ecological crisis yet feels unable to do something about it. This paper seeks to explore how art can help the lethargic to engage by re-establishing an affirmative relationship with nature. It does so by offering an analysis of Friedrich Nietzsche’s book The Birth of Tragedy (1872), in which Nietzsche explored art’s powers to help humanity into an affirmative relationship with nature.

Nietzsche explored this by distinguishing the ‘idyllic’ and the ‘tragic’ relationships with nature that humanity had built with the help of ‘idyllic’ and ‘tragic’ art, i.e., opera and Greek tragedy. The first part of this paper discusses the distinction between idyllic and tragic art and explores how these two art forms relate to nature. Expanding upon this through the perspective of environmental aesthetics, the second part of my paper explores how the aesthetic and tragic affirmation of the Anthropocene might take shape. In dialogue with Matthew Fuller and Olga Goriunvas work Bleak Joys (2019), I raise the question whether a Nietzschean aesthetic affirmation of the Anthropocene might lead the lethargic to productive action motivated to make the world a better place or whether tragic art offers us emotional comfort only in the face of the Anthropocene and the demise of humanity.

In sum, this paper explores through an analysis of The Birth of Tragedy how art can help humanity out of its powerlessness faced. Can art kindle action to turn the ecological disaster around and help us re-establish an affirmative relationship with nature?

Tiina Prittinen (University of Lapland, Finland):

Symbioses Stories – Sea Buckthorn the Warrior

The sea buckthorn is one of the frontline plants. It offers remediation, wisdom and nutrition.

It is a thorny, stubborn plant that has lived in Finland since the ice age, retreated to the coast and found today also tamed in some home gardens. Several coastline patches of the Baltic Sea give room to sea buckthorn. It has been proven to have the capacity to fight against blue-green alga that is taking over the Baltic Sea.

The symbioses the sea buckthorn (lat. Hippophaë rhamnoides) is involved in, is that of the root nodules and their nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Also, some birds eat sea buckthorn berries and spread the seeds. Sea buckthorn needs the wind for pollination. Sea buckthorn will survive because it helps humans. It may even be willing to work more to our advantage if we would pause to observe and learn.

For one thing, the resilience and time perspective of plants is vast and give us framework for pondering. The movement of the plant distribution, the retrieval has happened slowly, giving space to other plants. The plant could also show how to appreciate the coastline. It cannot be treated as a dilluting area of the industry and agriculture. There is no wasteland, no waters to waste.

Sea buckthorn is contradictory in beauty, because the freezing wind and harsh natural conditions make its stunted form. The wild sea buckthorn crouches beside rocks and near to ground. If you want to pick the berries, you have to be ready to endure the thorns and the cold autumn breeze around.

All in its outlook states the rough conditions it has lived through and it still is willing to protect and serve like a warrior. Perhaps the sea buckthorn is willing to serve as one of the mediators in the crisis between us and the nature.

For humans, sea buckthorn berries are already “a health bomb”, even in preventing cancer. The sea buckthorn is known as a remedy already in many parts of the world.

Maybe The Sea Buckthorn wants the Baltic Sea free from eutrophication, maybe also nuclear power free. The sea buckthorn may carry a sense of protectiveness, a sense of multigenerational appreciation.

The sea buckthorn may teach us healing powers against the rootless, exploitative and deeply nonaesthetic qualities of our culture.

I will present my argument in the form of a visual essay, including a short audio or video of visiting a wild coastal sea buckthorn.

Amrutha MK (National Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bengaluru, India):

Lore and Legends of the Sacred Groves

Sacred groves are great repository of many endemic, endangered and medicinal species and they support immense diversity of life forms. These thick green patches of land engulfed with climbers and creepers with the chirping of birds and buzzing of bees are showers of hope for the future. Decades ago there were thousands of sacred groves in Kerala, but many have disappeared and some are on the verge of extinction. Sacred groves could be owned by a community or it is private property, in both these cases, sacred groves face serious threats. It is very difficult for these tiny patches of land to resist further encroachment.

Active participation of local people and their indigenous knowledge on sacred groves are valuable for biodiversity conservation. Various rituals associated with the ethnic performances help to safeguard natural resources and play a crucial role in rescuing the last shelter of biodiversity. Local communities have been preserving these tiny patches of forest in the name of god. Various lore and legends associated with these ritual performances play an important role in maintaining the delicate balance of nature. This is a study based on the fieldwork experiences in the sacred groves of Kerala (India), particularly focusing on the Malabar region. This presentation attempts to study the role of aesthetic sensibility and imagination in the conservation of nature through the lore and legends and their significance in curtailing the encroachment of sacred groves.

The introductory section will focus on the traditional image of sacred groves of Kerala, where the isolated patches of self-sustainable ecosystems become sacred. The first section of the presentation focuses on the unfortunate consequences after the encroachment on the sacred groves due to urbanisation. The second section will focus on the role of ritual performances in protecting and preserving the sacred groves and the lore and legends associated with them. The final section of the presentation studies the recent changes in the performances which have once nurtured these sacred groves and the need to preserve sacred groves in the present times.