Hyle ( a.k.a Upheaval in the Forest School) [2017-2020]

18 silver-gelatin and pigment photographic prints from analog media, various dimensions, narrative.

It happened so accidentally — at least in Ancient Greek, the birth language of Western philosophy — that the same word would be used for “wood” and “matter”.

This word is “hyle” and it invites to think about the ambiguities of matter. I imagine ancient forests, that engendered and sustained innumerable species. Weren’t they slowly logged by people, to warm them up and provide for construction of their civilisations? Akin to these prehistoric woods, which preceeded humans, matter is foreign and way more ancient power than our consciousness. Yet, the world’s matter is seen as a mere mean for industrial development of our cultures.

Kitayama is a hilly area north of Kyoto, famous for its cedar wood production. As the climate change exacerbates seasonal typhoons, these plantations become unable to withstand the power of storms. Metric and ordered space of the plantations is transformed overnight into a chaos of everything half-dead and half-living. I have been observing such areas for two years, with the goal to find out what kind of forest will spontaneously re-grow in these spots. I was curious what will be a regenerative response of the forest matter? The photographs were taken by me during this process.

Landscape is by far one of the most technologically mediated entities. Perhaps, the early photography, constrained by the low photosensitivity of chemicals, began with the landscapes due to the convenience provided by that immobile subject. The seeming stillness of landscapes, supported by the metaphysical ideas about the passivity of matter, also justified their transformations by mining, agriculture and reclamations. In “Hyle”, I am trying to bring to attention an anarchic, resistant and regenerative agencies of the landscape.

“Hyle” is conceptually whispering to the photographic agenda of Toshio Shibata, whose images collide our ideas about aesthetics and ethics, and at the same time serve as the documents of the political and economical choices pertaining to modernisation.

Sugi plantations as geontopolitical witness (PDF)