In defence of the pathetic fallacy, 2017
Pigment print on archival rag paper 91 cm x 235 cm replicating a palimpsest of 14 overlaid plein air toned gelatin silver film photograms. Produced in an edition of one + artists proof.
The contemporary mind resists enchantment. Indeed, nineteenth century critic, John Ruskin, coined the term ‘pathetic fallacy’ to describe the mistaken attribution of human traits to natural phenomena. Yet his and our well-reasoned suspicion of anthropomorphism has become an irrational and exploitative indifference to nature-for-itself—an indifference central to the ecological crisis that besets us all. If we are to mitigate this crisis, giving nature a ‘voice’ through personification may be one antidote to anthropocentric arrogance. This densely-layered camera-less image records the nocturnal shadows of old Belah trees (Casuarina pauper) found on the remote Meringur Flora Reserve in northwest Victoria. Mimicking the oblong shape and muted hues of that hot, dry, crackling-underfoot tangle of relict Mallee eucalypt, cypress-pine and whispering casuarina, the work invites us to consider whether sensing its ecological ‘spirit of place’ is a pathetic fallacy worth defending.
In defence of the pathetic fallacy was exhibited in the Art & Herbarium Project at Lab 14, Carlton (Melbourne) in March 2017 and as part of Climart in the group exhibition Flow at Counihan Gallery, Brunswick (Melbourne) in April-May, 2017.