ArtlessBlogNatural Aesthetics

Artless 1. Introducing the Curlew Camp walks

Artless 1. Introducing the Curlew Camp walks

Circular Quay, Sydney. From marshlands rich hunting for the Cadigal peoples to a port. Wlak 1, Jan 2018.
The ferry rounds Cremorne Point

The three bushwalks are naturally discursive, interested in what comes to hand and mind.

They start at Circular Quay. As a tourist (we are all tourists now), I aim right and fire when the eggshells fits in the sights, then swivel left for the bridge arcing across the scene and fire again. This pair of valuable icons proliferate as devotional downloads. Tourists shake snow over the Opera House displacing sailors.

Artistic practices of all kinds are found in very culture. Clearly art is important to humans, we like to make things, play and fiddle. I like to write poems and take photographs! What I want to insist on is that our interest in art has gone too far, that a broader aesthetics is in play, one which is healthier for both the planet and ourselves.

We are at a crossroads, at a tipping point between a planet ravaged by global warming, water wars, food shortages, and collapse of biodiversity and abundance. One way we may avoid this and find some kind of ecological sustainability is to reconnect to the natural, to enjoy it, to savour its aesthetic.

View from Curlew Camp, January 2018, Walk 1

Since the 18th C philosopher Alexander Baumgarten, aesthetic discourse has narrowed to the arts, ignoring the natural, though Kant in his Critique of Judgement claimed natural beauty is superior to fine art, writing: ‘the beautiful in nature  . . . [provides] a voluptuousness for the mind in a train of thought that we can never fully unravel.’[1] John Dewey alerted us – the aesthetic is cut off from everyday, even though it arises through active engagement with our environment, involving, as he put it, ‘the entire living creature’.[2]

I agree with Alva Noë (and John Dewey), ‘that we are all artists. For we are all engaged in the making of experiences, in comprehending the form and meaning in the cycles of doing and feeling, of acting and undergoing the consequences of our actions, that organise our lives at the most basic biological level.’ [3]

Being immersed in nature offers such rich aesthetic experiences, and not just with the eyes, which our culture encourages us to focus on.

Stranded, August 2019, Walk 2

Hearing greatly enhances our perception of environment because it is a multidimensional sense, sounds being evaluated on magnitude, clarity, aesthetic, relaxation, familiarity, and mood dimensions. Douglas Porteous [4]

Allen Carlson reminds us, ‘Aesthetic appreciation [of nature] is not simply a matter of looking at objects or ‘views’ from a specific point. Rather it is being in the midst of them, moving with regard to them… also smelling, hearing, touching and feeling.’ [5]

And in this case of three bushwalks, the whole process of walking and movement is part of the aesthetics.

All of these issues I will discuss in much greater detail down the track.


[1] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement (1790), S42, trans. W. Pluhar, Hackett, 1987, p166-7.

[2] John Dewey, Art as Experience, (1934), Perigee, 1980, p48-50.

[3] Alva Noë, Strange Tools : Art and Human Nature, Hill and Wang, 2015, p205.

[4] Douglas J. Porteous, Landscapes of the Mind: Worlds of Sense and Metaphor, U of Toronto P, 1990.

[5] Allen Carlson, ‘Formal Qualities in the Natural Environment’, Journal of Aesthetic Education, 13, 1979, p107.

Show More

Related Articles

Check Also
Back to top button