Home » The Importance of Nature: Art on Film

The Importance of Nature: Art on Film

I’ve been thinking a lot about nature lately. Particularly since the activist fashion designer Vivienne Westwood started promoting a petition “to adopt legislation to prohibit, prevent and pre-empt ecocide – the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystems,” in the EU.

Susumu Shingu, Luminous River, 2009. Image: re-title.com/galerie Jeanne Bucher.

I think we should start a similar petition for Canada. We need to demand that the government legislate environmental responsibility to a greater degree.

So when I was looking at the schedule of films for the Reel Artists Film Festival, one in particular caught my eye. Titled ‘Breathing Earth‘, the film follows Japanese artist Susumu Shingu as he seeks a location for his latest project, an ambitious wind-powered community.

Shingu’s windmill-like sculptures are quite amazing. Often installed outdoors, they make visible the beauty of wind––at one point the camera stops to observe an insect delicately negotiating an edge, his weight pulling the sculpture up and down. The camera is slow, urging the viewer, as Shingu’s work does, to slow down and observe.

Susumu Shingu, ‘sea and clouds’ (detail), 2008 via designboom.com/galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris.

Susumu Shingu, Wind Caravan Morocco April, 2001. Image: http://arts.nthu.edu.tw

As an artist I have been close to nature and have considered how best to convey (its) wonder,” he says and you believe him. His delicate sculptures echo nature’s movements and encourage a reverence for the beauty of our environment that we have lost. It’s unfortunate, he says, since “humanity is developed through contact with nature.”

I would call Shingu’s work restorative, and deeply Japanese. “Man has developed things to control nature, but in the interplay between man and nature, man cannot set the rules or set limitations,” he says. “We need to think more carefully about how we live with nature. That’s my belief.

Susumu’s sculpture is represented by Galerie Jeanne-Bucher, Paris.

I also had the opportunity to see Edward Burtynsky’s new film, WATERMARK. It’s no surprise that it is a visually spectacular film. It takes us to ten countries to see how, in Burtynsky’s words “we shape water and water shapes us.”

An image from Watermark. Courtesy bondinfluence.com

We see water rushing into a dam in China, how (and how much!) water is used for tanning leather in Pakistan, the cracked, arid land of the Colorado River Basin that used to be filled with fish, the pristine glory of the watery landscape that British Columbia’s First Nations depend on, and the stunning visuals of 30 million Hindus engaging in ritualistic bathing in the Ganges.

An image from Watermark. Courtesy bondinfluence.com

An image from Watermark. Courtesy bondinfluence.com

The film smartly lets the images do the talking, and they speak volumes. In both films, the message is that by taking control of nature, we have sadly taken it for granted.

Watermark is available for digital download beginning February 25th HERE, (get a discount by using the code WATER.)

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