The Altered Landscape

From my catalogue essay for the exhibition The Altered Landscape at 499 Park Avenue Gallery, New York City, 2009:

I’m seeing a psychiatrist, my shrink. We’re trying to save the future by looking at the past, she tells me. So things can be different, so the future won’t be just like the past…so far things look like they’re going to turn out pretty much the same.
                                                                                  Vernon Fisher,” Future Tense”

In primal cultures, the psychological well being of the tribe depended on their ability to live in total integration with the natural environment, to achieve a sustained balance between give and take, and an acceptance of the inherent uncertainty of their existence. It was the job of the shaman, the tribal shrink, to constantly monitor that balance, to preserve ancestral knowledge, to be able to penetrate the veneer of day-to-day reality to discern relations and disintegrations that were invisible or inaccessible to the other members of the society. Using ritual devices including images, movement and incantations, the shamans created embodiments of natural forces that helped their people achieve a deeper sense of their place as an integral part of the whole, and to live in accordance with that realization. It is safe to say that this was not an easy job, as human psychology has proven to be fundamentally unable to embrace the vast uncertainty of natural flux. Indeed the entire history of humanity might be seen as an epic existential struggle -- a constant battle to overcome our vulnerability by gaining dominance over elements that ultimately sustain us, supplanting natural systems with technological “improvements” while ignoring the slippages that point to the possibility that our dominance might be a finite illusion...  continue reading HERE

David Maisel, Lake Project 20, 48 x 48 inches, color photograph (image from the artist's website)