On nature, culture and disaster - Tsunami Memorial Site, Oslo, Norway

Project text: PRODUCTORA y Ruth Estevez, 2006


NATURE / According to Aristotle nature is the principle and the cause of movement, of the inherent evolution and constant change of things. When we observe nature through time, we perceive how fragile and blurry the limits are between its different elements: life and death, solid and air, sea and land seem to coexist in an ever evolving landscape. The history of nature is the tale of invisible metamorphoses and spectacular incidents in a scenography without curtains: on a almost microscopic or extremely slow level - the accumulations of corals, the evolution of animal species or the moving of tectonic plates - or by specific shifts such as earthquakes, fires, floods, dryness, plagues, hurricanes- nature evolves without conscience. It is there.

CULTURE / As a human characteristic and incited by the idea of reason, the function of culture is to give a meaning to the natural order. One of the most primary acts of civilized man is the conquest of space (territory): to draw a rectangle in the sand to delimit what's yours. The inside is defined as cultivated space, while the outside is nature. This instinctive need to make an enclosed space, delimitation or a boundary embodies the quest for a space of comfort and protection against the natural elements. This superposition of culture on nature has always been a ferocious conquest of the other ; the result is an unstable equilibrium of opposites. The geography questions nature, frames the known world, and classifies it by landscapes and territories. The drawing of the mapa mundi .

DISASTER / In a pure context of nature the disaster doesn't exist: it's called change. The disaster is a cultural denomination of the natural phenomenon of abrupt change. Without the superposition of human structures (culture) on nature, disasters - as such - don't exist. On moments of natural disasters the balance between nature and culture is shocked abruptly. These moments makes man stand still and rethink his situation. It reminds man of it's ancient fight against the uncontrolled savage, or - in somewhat more contemporary terms - of it fragile equilibrium in it's relation with the surrounding ecological system. Disaster reactivates our conscience about nature.

LANDSCAPE / Landscape is the geographic translation of the natural environment; the homocentric interpretation of our natural context. Land art finally was a kind of poetic geography: a new way to articulate the existing landscape apart from the factual delimitations of territory and the exploitation of resources, a mark in the landscape that could provoke an unusual perception in space. It pretended to bring us a new experience that could emphasize the relations between the human and the natural logics.

MEMORY / Nature doesn't have memory. It doesn't recognize guilt. It is set outside any historical order. Finally, the monument. Architecture without any function, except from commemorating, emphasising and communicating the signifying moments and loci from our collective memory. By introducing a monument into an environment, we force the context into the logic of historical space and time. The monument is by definition the strongest cultural token in the field of symbols. It is there to leave a trace of our existence or - on the other hand - to disguise our fear to disappear.

PROJECT / When we commemorate the victims of the Tsunami disaster, we are obliged to focus - not on the personal loss and grieve- but rather on this fragile relationship between culture and nature, between the Cartesian space and the entropic unknown. By inserting a perfect square into the site - trapped in between the condition of sea and land - we propose a reflection on the dialectics of man and nature. We provide a frame of special experience around (and in) a constantly changing piece of nature. Situating the platonic form in between low and high sea level, the square can become an extension of land towards the sea, or can be ´taken´ by the sea and almost disappear. A reflection about space, about nature, about us.


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