Second Nature, an exhibition by John L Tran will open on Wednesday 3 June, 5 to 7pm, at the SCA Galleries. Using pairs of photographic images showing his immediate environment in and around Tsukuba, Japan, Tran explores the division of Art and Science; portraying them both with an ambivalent air of hopeless optimism.
"In 2006, I started teaching in the Art and Design department of a Japanese university renowned for its scientific research. The whole town, Tsukuba, actually calls itself ‘Science City’ and is home to, among many research facilities, the Japanese space agency, the primary Japanese lab for climate change research, and a high energy accelerator. The layout of the town is modern and rational and, like most planned modernist urban spaces, seems dated in its positivist rhetoric.
The narrative that I wanted to investigate in this series of work is that which seemed to me to be integral to the design of Tsukuba as an ordered space and space of order. That is to say there is a strong sense of difference between the man-made and the "natural", and that Tsukuba is a place where nature can be investigated from a position of supposed objectivity. This is a position which, on the surface of it, artists are not obliged or permitted to share. Photography however is at the interface of these practices; it can both factually document the world, but also express the subconscious and irrational. It is one of the best ways to investigate and bring to light the nature of things, and at the same time investigate our own inner nature.
Despite the current dominant usage of the word nature to mean the natural environment, the original meaning is 'the innate or essential quality of a thing or person'. In this sense the concept of "nature" indicated that which could not change, and the modern usage of the word derives from the 18th century contrast between artifice and the natural world, it indicated the distinction between the changing world of all that was man-made and the infinite or eternal.
As we become more concerned about our impact on the environment the word ‘nature’ now has, ironically, more of a nuance of something fragile and changeable. In this word there is a small history of the changing ways we conceive of our relationship with what is around us. These seem to me to be narratives. To stand back from these narratives of ‘artificial’ ‘natural’ ‘rational’ ‘science’ and ‘art’ we are left with merely matter and action." John L Tran, April 2009.
Second Nature will be on display at Sydney College of the Arts from Thursday 4 June to Sunday 28 June 2009. Opening Wednesday 3 June, 5 to 7pm.
Gallery hours: Wednesday to Friday, 11am to 5pm. Saturday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm.
Image: John L Tran, Sculpture Student with Discarded Work. Digital archive print, 900 x 1125 x 4mm, 2007.