When using the word “nature” in everyday life we expect to be understood. Content-wisely, however, we most often mean to denote something vague such as, for instance, something “authentic”, “holistic”, or, very simply, “given”. As such, “nature” is a collective term with which we traditionally seek to describe those areas of reality we consider as having come to being independent of man, of man’s contribution. The current political discourse appears to indicate that we can no longer speak of nature straightforwardly. More so: the power structures and image politics the word nature is embedded in are eroding its very entity. Speaking with Bruno Latour, we thus witness the “total dissolution of nature”.
Point of departure of the work After Nature was a critique of the meaning of the term nature by means of a concrete situation. Over the course of several years the artist photographed the changes in the former strip-mining regions of Lusatia. That landscape its subject, Hommelsheim’s work cycle shows a double movement: the realization of a production of nature – in the form of renaturation – as well as the echo of an exploitation of nature originating in the industrial age, one whose foundations were based on an opposition still between nature and culture. Furthermore the title Nach der Natur addresses the increasingly problematic character of the term “nature” with the aid of its most effective topos - that of landscape. In the specific way its image objects suggest landscapes the line of works actually performs its detachment from the representation of landscape, thereby focussing on that semantic blank position the word “nature” confronts us with today.
Within the works by Ruth Hommelsheim After Nature stands for yet another, specific, way of confronting the relational. It is informed by the approach of understanding the world not as an object or vessel but as a relational context of reference. Therefore the pictures show not so much landscapes but refer to a relation: to the relation we maintain with what we call nature.