by Birgitte Kirkhoff Olsen
Translation by Ida Pagh
To walk is the act of volition closest to the body’s own rhythm, breathing and heartbeat - man’s most elementary and fundamental functions. The rhythm of walking results in a rhythmic chain of thoughts. And walking through a landscape is analogous with following up a chain of thoughts. There is a strange similarity between inner and outer movement which suggests that the mind is a sort of landscape too to be walked through. To walk is a way of thinking, in fact walking is thought. This may be the reason why we use the term “tankegang” (the “walk” of thought). And this may be why returning to the original locality of your thought may be recalled by returning to it again.
Base - Atomic Reality are Jes Wind Andersen’s impressions from his wanderings in the Polish mountains and the metropolis, Berlin. “The Base” are the photographic representations of nature and city, the undermost layers, which subsequently have been manipulated in the computer and been texted, invested with “commercial” logos, overpainted and finally lacquered. In other words a series of immediately recognizable cultural signs, in fact more familiar to us than nature itself. The images are sampled and repeated and stand as an infinite, serial representation and, as a consequence, automation of nature and metropolis where the unique, subjective and sublime perception of nature disappears in favour of the peace of mind felt by the familiar and the eternal repetition. A certain alienation enters into the interpretation of nature when it is subjected in the paintings to a bombardement of the mass of cultural signs which suffocate us every day, the result being that we are reminded that our relationship to nature is more cultural than natural in character.
The first walk in nature to be recorded in history is that of the Renaissance poet Petrarca’s climb to Mont Ventoux in 1336. This is the earliest description of nature in literature, as Medieval man perceived nature as functional and not as a subject for contemplation and enjoyment. Petrarca ends his description on the top of the mountain praising The Lord, whereby his excursion takes on a note of “the victory of mind over matter”, of metaphysics contra nature.
In Ancient Greece philosophers would work out their theories while out walking. To the Australian Aboriginals wandering is an ancient ritual where tales of identity and survival are retold. In Asia the purpose of walking is religious: Meditation and pilgrimage. Europeans went on pilgrimages as acts of contrition. Wanderings with cultural purposes became the fashion in the Romantic period and modern ramlings in the countryside originate in the Romantic period’s desire to return to nature and the idea of nature as something “true” and “genuine”. When you seek nature to clear your thoughts, for recreation or talk to a friend, this too is a reminiscence of the Romantic gardens of England which were planned to be so varied that fresh topics could arise if the conversation should stall. Walking in the wilderness is a tradition established by the English upper classes while the promenades in town originate with Baudelaire and the French dandies who dawdled in the Paris of Modernity in a mixed mood of despair and restlessness, fascination and intoxication. In their theories about the nomadic, deterritorialized subject
the postmodern philosophers Deleuze and Guattari see the physical and mental walk is the starting point for progression, change and the definition of new positions. Ever since the human race settled with agriculture, and concurrently with evolution, man has striven to gain mastery over nature. But nature is still seen as the most basic and primeval area to which man reverts, f.instance during walks in town or the countryside.
In the development of modern physics the connection between human thought and the walk became superbly evident when Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg went on walks together, discussing (according to Heisen-berg): “Philosophical interpretations of the atom, the epistemological use of familiar ideas and the importance of correlated “understanding” within the science of physics…”. So in fact the quante theory was evolved in the course of walks. The majority of important physicists have had a predilection for walking and Bohr in particular needed to walk in order to think: Some questions could be solved circling his desk while more complex matters required more extensive expeditions into nature. During their last walk together Bohr and Heisenberg however misunderstood each other to a degree which led to disaster: When Heisenberg explained to Bohr that German physicists were not attempting to develop an atomic bomb, Bohr got it the other way round and subsequently persuaded the Allies that Germany was already working on nuclear weapons which led to an intensified effort on the weapon’s race in Los Alamos.
Base - Atomic Reality refers to the atom as the base for everything - the foundation stone for the physical world and what nature consists of. But the atom is also at the core of nature’s self-destruction. A crypted logo, printed on to the motif, with letters spelling the word atom and referring to the outcome of the fatal walk - the atomic bomb - quoting the code-names Tube Alloys and Fat Boy.
Atoms and our - still romantic - idea of nature is the “base” for Jes Wind Andersen’s works. This fundamental and basic aspect is also apparent in the formal treatment of the theme: In the photographic (indexical) impression, in his use of primary colours, in the stratified composition of the pictures, a technique which exemplifies the process of composing the image. The atomic chainreaction may be seen as a metaphor for the compositorial process, where something grows out of nothing. Movement and composition are the decisive factors.