About                Submissions                 Contact                 Shop                Instagram 

ZGRIPTOR
SHOW:  All  ESSAY  INTERVIEW  RESOURCES  ART  REVIEW  PROJECT






Submit     Contact     Shop     Instagram


Independent journal exploring the intersections between material and digital cultures, and broader themes to do with our bodies, labour, and time.
Aims to promote discussion about how technology will reshape ideas around community action, communication, and the arts.

ZGRIPTOR

Changing Conceptualisations of the Rural

Minna Coke
Time of Publication: 14:55,  16/2/23



‘The Artwork as the dialectic between the essential impenetrability of the thing-in-itself, “the earth”, and the subjective “destiny of a historical people”;’

- Martin Heidegger, as quoted in Jacob Emery “Art as the Industrial Trace”



    In 1565, Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted The Harvesters (Fig 1.). In a rural landscape he depicts peasants, monks and townsfolk deploying contemporary technologies as they mediate their relationship to the land. In 2019, Tadao Cern lifted a form from the painting and re-installed it within the digital realm. In doing so, he positioned his work within the trajectory ‘of the thing-in-itself, “the earth”, and the subjective “destiny of a historical people”;’.


Figure 1. Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters, 1565, oil on wood, 119 x 162 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Figure 2. Tadao Cern, French Exit (The Harvesters), (viewpoint 1), 2020-2021, digital installation, 2000 x 1500 pixels

    Cern’s work of art, titled French Exit (The Harvesters) (Fig.2, 3 & 4), comprises an extraction and re-contextualisation of a particular ‘form’ from Bruegel’s painting. It is this artistic act of appropriation that provides the terrain through which I shall explore our changing interaction with the earth, but more specifically, the rural. Tim Ingold’s essay “The Temporality of the Landscape” (1993), paves the way for my own study, but unlike his, my own is not limited to one framework. Nor is it confined to one discipline, which is necessary and fruitful when it comes to art ‘engaged with nature’, a genre which Jeffrey Kastner assures is ‘uniquely positioned to benefit from the dislocation of disciplinary specificities’ (1).  Artistic appropriation is central to the narrative in question, it raises ‘the notion of originality and … court[s] an active role for the viewer’ (2). It will be no surprise then that Roland Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” (1967) and multiple theorists whose work substantiates his core deliberations are looked to in this study. Such an undermining of artistic direction is not meant to condemn the artist, but rather, and sympathetically, comprehend the conditions within which he is condemned to work.


Figure 3. Tadao Cern, French Exit (The Harvesters), (viewpoint 2), 2020-2021, digital installation, 2000 x 1500 pixels

Figure 4. Tadao Cern, ‘Preliminary Work’ for French Exit (The Harvesters), 2020-2021


    Cern used CGI to create the series of digital installations which French Exit is part of. Resisting overt human intrusion, he subtly intervenes by gently moulding in, or cutting out simple shapes. In their scale and simplicity, the wheat takes over as the authoritative subject in each room and directs the viewer’s movements whilst engendering a calm and contemplative atmosphere (Fig. 5 & 6). The most recently unveiled room is French Exit (The Harvesters) which, according to Cern, is a ‘physical and spatial embodiment’ of Bruegel’s Harvesters (3). In it, a bed of dried wheat in the shape of a dense downwards-pointed arrow is contained within a continuous thin plank of plywood, elevated upon scaffolding. Flanked by grey partition panels, it sits in the centre of a white cube gallery space, accompanied only by apples scattered around the floor.



Figure 5. Tadao Cern, French Exit, 2020-2021, digital installation, 2000 x 1500 pixels

Figure 6. Tadao Cern, French Exit, 2020-2021, digital installation, 2000 x 1500 pixels


    Discussing this project Cern explains that he is ‘filling the pages of our collective memory book, because we might be leaving this place without a proper goodbye’ (4). Two aspects of this statement are particularly intriguing; the mention of a ‘collective memory book’, and his denotation of ‘this place’. Firstly, if the contemporary artwork in Bruegel and Cern’s dialogue constitutes a collective memory book, then the earlier work stands for a scene remarkably more in tune with a collective living. Secondly, in their ambiguity, Cern’s words ‘this place’ evoke an imagination of the earth in its entirety, of the globe, both physically and in its digital state. In other words, the ‘network society’ (5).  Cern has expressed his desire to focus ‘on the aspect of what we would be missing the most during the last seconds of leaving this place’. He says ‘my guess is that it would be something banal, like fields of wheat during the sunset’ (6). In doing so, Cern intimates that together, these four rooms might initiate an atmosphere of contemplation upon the concepts of farewells, human nature and its boundaries (7). During the production and publication of French Exit, the COVID-19 pandemic erupted and spread across the globe. This crisis made Cern’s installation even more potent. His work offered a population in isolation a harmonious space, for facing the finitude of human life and coping with the fear that accompanies it.

    Like his own explanation, previous interpretations of Cern's work are anthropocentric in their outlook. This is not surprising considering ecocritical sensibilities still lie within the margins of art historical analysis. This essay positions itself firmly within these margins, taking on non-hierarchical principles, and paying attention to every aspect of the artwork and the conditions in which it was produced. Andrew Patrizio (who assembled the tools for an eco-critical art history in 2019), argues that this imperative speaks to the ‘deep interconnectedness that defines ecological conditions’ (8). The previous anthropocentric interpretations of Cern’s work inherently assume a powerful subject - a human subject, capable of determining the discourse around the appropriated form, or object. Jacques Lacan’s critique of central perspective illuminates how the move from two dimensions into three, challenges this. He argues that by sharing the space with the object, both central perspective and the vanishing point become obsolete. Lacan explains that in this process ‘something comes into play that would be elided in a purely geometrical relationship – the depth of field in all its ambiguity, its variability, its resistance to my control’ (9). Lacan’s polyvalent perspective, combined with Patrizio’s ecocritical methodology facilitate an analysis that speaks directly to Felix Guattari’s “The Three Ecologies” (1989). In the context of Cern’s immersive installation, the transposal of subjectivity within appropriation productively engages with Guattari’s own deliberations. He states that ‘subjectivity is able to install itself simultaneously in the realms of the environment, in the major social and institutional assemblages, and symmetrically in the landscapes and fantasies of the most intimate spheres of the individual (10).  Hence, conditions are created which enable the crop, the gallery, the audience and the artist to enter into interconnected flows of subjectivity, which mould and redefine one another.

    Current historiography fails to recognise two of Cern’s most important decisions: to turn away from the present by recalling the past, and to turn away from the ‘urban’ in favour of the  ‘natural’ or the ‘rural’. The research event, “Rethinking the Rural” held at Whitechapel Gallery in 2019, addressed the fact that the ‘rural’ has been long neglected in contemporary art theory. On the few instances when it is mentioned, discussion tends to be in terms of its visibility alone, as something worth looking at rather than living in (11). Similarly, artists are not immune to this reductive tendency. By recognising that ‘how we see the ‘land’ is a blueprint of how we (want to) relate to it’, I will unpick the ways in which both Bruegel and Cern explore the notion of the rural in their work (12).

      The Harvesters is one of five surviving paintings in Bruegel’s ‘labour of the months’ series, painted in 1565. Each painting depicts communities performing the agricultural activities specific to certain times of the year. The Harvesters portrays the months of August and September. The foreground is dominated by peasants harvesting a golden wheat field. A pathway cuts into the crop and leads us through the landscape into the town in the midground and onto the port of Antwerp, active in maritime trade, in the background. Bruegel has depicted peasants at work, at play and at rest. In every case they interact with, and are integrated into, the landscape. His intricately composed pathways also enable us to ‘experience the contours of the landscape by moving through it, so that it enters – as Bachelard would say – into our muscular consciousness’ (13).  In “The Temporality of the Landscape” Ingold analyses The Harvesters in so much depth that it readily performs a comprehensive visual explanation of his concept of the ‘taskscape’. Ingold sees the ‘taskscape’ as the crucial counterpart to the ‘landscape’. The term essentially refers to the totality of the activities (animate and inanimate) which occur within the landscape. For Ingold, The Harvesters ‘is the taskscape made visible’ (14). It is the rural as lived in. He explains that the relationship between ‘taskscape’ and ‘landscape’ is composed of two integral elements: time and space. By temporalizing the landscape it becomes apparent that it is constantly interacting and evolving alongside the taskscape and by paying attention to space, the viewer may explore the social, ecological and economic conditions of Bruegel’s Antwerp.

    Cern’s appropriation of form inherently alters the internal make-up of landscape and taskscape. This essay identifies and interrogates four main areas of difference that emerge in Cern’s ‘embodiment’ of The Harvesters: Firstly, the consequences of extracting and isolating the crop; Secondly, the artist’s decision to depopulate the landscape and the implications this has for participation; Thirdly, the specifics of place and the notion of belonging; And finally, with the knowledge that ‘art develops together with social and technological changes’, the work’s engagement with the trajectory of Western capitalism (15). This final section situates the work in relation to Bruegel’s Antwerp, exploring how the older painting sets in motion a value system which Cern continues today.



Extraction and Isolation


    The removal of the crop from its physical position within the landscape necessarily separates it from its temporal context too. In the act of extracting part of the wheat crop and re-contextualising it within a digital white-cube gallery space, Cern engages in an important dialogue. The Harvesters is rich in allusions to a historically situated community. Just behind the golden arrow of the crop is a church, an entity deeply ‘charged with temporality’ (16).  It contains the remainder of the village’s inhabitants, people who participated in the taskscape and so shaped the landscape. As Ingold acknowledged, it pays homage to inhabitants now dead, but it also serves the living and it holds promise for the future. The Harvesters also emphasises a reliable cycle of cultivation and consumption. The haycart in the distance points to the scale of the harvest whilst the picnic party in the foreground consume the product of their labour. In doing so, they complete the harvest’s cyclical nature and sustain their participation in taskscape and landscape. The absolute abundance of corn is indicative of the glowing and healthy landscape they lie in. There is a sense of stability and comfort and these are assured by the cyclical nature of the seasons. Bruegel’s adherence to the medieval notion ‘the labour of the months’ pays homage to this, and portrays ‘the place of the hard-working, productive peasant in an orderly and predictable landscape’ (17). In French Exit (The Harvesters) the crop has not only been isolated but also transferred inside. It no longer lies beneath the beating summer sun. Separated from cyclical seasonal changes, the crop is instead subjected to a monotonous digital cloud made up of artificial, rather than natural, lighting. If the reliable progression of the seasons enables a consistent harvest within ‘an orderly and predictable landscape’, then Cern’s rendition looks into an unpredictable and turbulent future (18).

    Speculation over the materiality of Cern’s French Exit has led one critic to see in his choice of dried wheat an ‘easily available and delicate material’ (19). Whilst corn has been easily available for millennia (for some), this is a privileged and narrow-minded analysis. It speaks of the reality that ‘art history’s main activities are in Western or westernised cultures that are largely protected from many of the immediate environmental threats that poorer populations face every day’ (20). By suspending the crop above ground, Cern removes the soil. In doing so, he takes away the stability which healthy soil provides. Perpetually available corn seems to be the reward for stable seasons and healthy soil but deracinated, it becomes a limited and precious resource. According to geologist Dave Montgomery, we are currently losing soil on a global scale at the unsustainable rate of 0.7% per annum (21). Whether Cern is aware of this phenomenon or not, it is a real one which demands our attention. Cultivation becomes impossible without healthy, or even adequate, topsoil conditions. In 2020 it was estimated that if regenerative practices are not pursued on mass then the rate of top soil erosion means we only have sixty harvests left (22). In the passage of time between these two artistic interpretations of the rural, it transpires that today ‘the Earth’s resources are subject[ed] to the same exploitation and lack of long-term foresight that in earlier centuries afflicted village commons’ (23).  At the same time, Cern’s decision to raise the crop upon scaffolding imbues it with a sense of value. Could this bring us to the realisation of how delicate and valuable our harvests are? Ripped from its roots in the soil, Cern thrusts it into a barren cube of modernity. The plentiful crop from Bruegel’s Harvesters responds to these conditions of ecological crisis.



Depopulation and Participation


    Humanity’s physical dependence on the land is present in Bruegel’s painting but removed in Cern’s response. Ingold’s ‘taskscape’ is generated out of a consistent collaboration between body and landscape. With this in mind, the outline of the original crop shape in The Harvesters is therefore the product of an active taskscape. Understood in this way, its edge ‘is an interface, whose outline is progressively transformed as the harvesters proceed with their work’ (24). The people merge with their environment, each mutually sustaining the other. Motifs of this sort are present throughout The Harvesters. The sleeping man leaning against the tree echoes the arrowed form of the crop whilst the bodies of the women on the right, tying the bundles, emulate the pyramidal stacks they work with and among. Following the women who transport the bundles along the pathway, it becomes apparent that the entire community is involved, extending to the monastery, village and port. If the shape of Cern’s corn was initially crafted through interactions with people, then the absence of people alongside its final form becomes all the more obvious. Without this interactivity, and without the soil rooting it to the ground, the crop hovers ambiguously in our space. That feeling of unease, which Lacan recalled, arises and the lack of human presence is emphasised by the sporadically scattered apples. In The Harvesters a man perched upon a branch in the right-hand tree shakes it and sends apples down upon the figures below who collect them. Similarly, Cern’s apples are scattered around the gallery’s floor, though no one is there to collect them. They lie still, but spread out into space, articulating the lack of human presence in the room. Since the digital installation is intended to be immersive Cern might anticipate that we, the modern viewer, take the place of the peasants. However, although French Exit (The Harvesters) is available to be looked at by a global audience, it is inaccessible physically, and this is the case in both the digital and material realms. In the latter, the work cannot facilitate participation because the wooden plank that delineates it creates a barrier that finalises the form and denies the sort of subject-object interaction occurring in The Harvesters.

    Rosemary Shirely recently coined the phrase ‘rural mythologies’. She claims that because, in general, ‘any idea of rural labour or hardship’ is absent from contemporary art and theory, myths concerning the ways of the rural are naturalised and reinforced (25). The Harvesters illustrates that this is not only a contemporary issue since even Bruegel was guilty of romanticising the rural. His work provides a fantasy about the escape from work, it is a sentimentalised view of the labourers’ existence. Cern takes this a step further by removing the rural population altogether. Farming becomes invisible, and the rural is mistaken for the natural (as demonstrated by the pervading view of nature as a calm retreat in previous responses to French Exit) (26). This exposes the current anxiety of living in an alienated world. By creating space between the appropriated object and its context Cern facilitates a romanticisation of the real. Only by resisting these mythologies can we extract the true nature of the rural and enable the work of art to perform its subversive and rupturing function. Since the seventeenth century, events such as the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions have resulted in large swathes of western communities becoming increasingly alienated from rural labour. The isolated crop is demonstrative of this; ‘muscular consciousness’ is prevented and physical labour is forgotten. The globalised and industrialised viewer consequently adopts a similar stance to the corn and hovers ambiguously in the room. The anxiety generated in this empty space brings to mind Dipesh Chakrabarty’s theses “The Climate of History” (2009). He states ‘the discipline of history exists on the assumption that our past, present, and future are connected by a certain continuity of human experience’ (27). By depopulating Bruegel’s landscape, Cern engages in the possibility of a future without the human; from within the continuum of life he identifies the finitude of death.

    Without the people who have produced it, the golden crop loses its original function, taking on a ‘relic-like’ status. Relics often bear traces of the dead but are used by the living and are intended to be looked at rather than engaged with. If it is the loss of function which leads to the adoption of a ‘relic-like’ status then it is worth investigating what the implications of functionality are, especially in relation to agriculture. Sixteenth-century agriculture, as a function, inherently involves people’s bodies. Its adherence to cyclical seasonal changes requires these bodies to engage in rhythms and repetitions. Paul Connerton suggests that social memory operates most successfully in the merging of recollection and bodies. He says that ‘images of the past and recollected knowledge of the past … are conveyed and sustained by (more or less ritual) performances’ (28). Ingold claims that ‘perceiving the landscape is an act of remembrance’; it is ‘engaging perceptually with an environment that is itself pregnant with the past’ (29). As Bruegel’s peasants merge with a landscape ‘pregnant with the past’, they are interacting with its recollections (30). And through the repeated nature of the harvest a ‘habitual memory’ emerges which is, ‘as it were, sedimented in the body’ (31). In their everyday activities farming communities perform habitual and social memory, and in doing so maintain a social living. In this way, The Harvesters illuminates how agriculture, as taskscape, merges recollection with bodies therefore functioning as ritual, albeit profane. By contrast French Exit (The Harvesters), devoid of people and their interactions, illuminates how this sort of agriculture has become, for the most part, a relic.



Place and Belonging


    It is becoming more understandable now why Cern decides to turn to the land in his quest to create a collective memory book. The land he turns to is unique because it is specific to a ‘place’. The Harvesters with its identificatory landmarks, grounds itself in local scenery. Cern extracts the crop and recontextualises it into an empty and generic gallery space. Ingold explains that ‘place’ is ‘the union of a symbolic meaning with a delimited block of the earth’s surface’ (32). French Exit (The Harvesters) is available to a digital, global, crowd. By evoking ‘place’ Cern offers each individual a localised refuge from the purportedly unlimited reach of digital software. His installation mediates their relationships to the local, which Lucy Lippard sees as ‘one antidote to a prevailing alienation’ (33). Cern continues the ‘call to return to local environments and communities as a way of overcoming the modern alienation from nature’, a notion which has been pursued since the nineteen sixties (34). However, in reaching back into the past to obtain the local, its inaccessibility is impressed upon us. Nicolas Bourriaud defines ‘appropriation’ as détourage, meaning the process of blocking out the background (35). Cern’s installation satisfies this definition and therefore his digitisation actually takes ‘place’ out of the equation. In contrast to Bruegel’s painting, which is extremely directive through the inclusion of pathways upon a geometric composition, Cern’s digitisation is ambiguous. In isolating one plane from Bruegel’s composition, French Exit (The Harvesters) presents us with deracinated dried wheat. Its form is made up of thousands of intricate parts – yet there are no paths. A distinction is highlighted between the ‘culturally constructed body and [the] contextual experiences of embodiment that are embedded in the specifics of place, time and physiology’ (36).  These ‘contextual experiences of embodiment’ exist within The Harvesters but the digitisation and delineation of the wheat prohibits their survival in French Exit (The Harvesters). Through the act of re-contextualisation its locality is lost as it is thrust into a global network.



Globalisation: Trade, Alienation and Person


    Over the duration of Bruegel’s lifetime, a historical change in Antwerp’s economy took place. Since art can be a ‘metaphorical expression of [the] hard historical facts of economic life’, what follows is an analysis orientated around a globalising economy (37). Globalisation is most widely understood in terms of the rise of global consumption and western capitalism. However, there is an argument for an understanding that incorporates the individual so that it can be understood as a ‘human and “felt” phenomenon’ and this shall also be considered here (38). The Harvesters encapsulates a local scene on the fringes of a global one. Jan de Vries identifies the Netherlands as the first modern economy, with 1560s Antwerp as the ‘nexus’ of the ‘European world-economy’ (39). In the sixteenth-century, Antwerp’s traditional labour was on the cusp of shifting from rural agriculture to ‘the urban world of early capitalist production and trade’ (40). The shipping industry was proving itself to be ‘the economic lifeblood of Antwerp, and through Antwerp the entire capitalist exchange of Europe with the world’ (41).  The inclusion of maritime trade in The Harvesters suggests that Bruegel was aware of the fundamental changes traditional production was undergoing and agriculture’s role in these. The gold lathered crop indicates that wheat was already becoming a prosperous commercial enterprise, perhaps hinting towards the Baltic grain trade, known as the mother of all trades. In the same year as The Harvesters, Frans Huys painted Dutch Merchant Ship (Fig.7). He places a three-masted merchantman ship on the left, in  close proximity to a Flemish boier on the right. The former tells of international trade whilst the latter remains anchored to the local, embarking on ‘coast-hugging short runs’ (42). Close attention to the left hand ship in The Harvesters (Fig. 8) shows it is also a three-masted merchantman and so we see the cycle of cultivation and consumption expanding, perhaps breaking, to include commerce. Bruegel’s ships sail upon a horizon made up of pale blue hues. The sea and sky have an entirely separate colour palette to the fore and mid-ground devoted to land. In contrast to the locality of the land, the sea represents the global, an undefinable mass which intimidates yet invites. This cool colour palette resonates with the atmosphere of Cern’s French Exit but operates to different ends. In his installation, the isolated mass of wheat symbolises the safety of a lost local whilst the pale hues of the immersive space provoke chilling feelings of alienation, anxiety and the search for a place.





Figure 7. Frans Huys after Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Dutch Merchant Ship, 1565 copper engraving, 24.1 x 19.4 cm

Figure 8. Pieter Bruegel the Elder,The Harvesters, 1565, oil on wood, 119 x 162cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (Detail)


    As the ships forge new ties to the global economy, Bruegel marks a fundamental breakage and reconstitution in the agricultural world (43).  In this capitalist reconstitution of agricultural production, Karl Marx identified a ‘metabolic rift’ which sharply accelerated mankind’s separation from their natural surroundings (44). French Exit (The Harvesters) is symptomatic of the conditions of capitalism which have developed since then, including alienation. The process with which Bruegel created The Harvesters and the process he depicted the peasants participating in - painting and harvesting - have been subjected to the same value system in western thought. The finished painting is preferred over painting as procedure. Likewise, a crop’s yield is prioritised over the processes of production (as exhibited in Cern’s disposure of the soil) (45). In the acts of painting and pre-industrial farming, physical interaction is inherent and an indexical bodily trace is left upon the material or land. Indeed in figure 9 Bruegel’s own fingerprint is proof of his physical interaction with the paint and the panels. By contrast, digital art ‘operates as an instance of globalisation, emerging from its flows of media and technology’ (46). Both digital art and today’s techno-scientific farming methods depart from using the human body. By focusing solely on the aesthetic quality of the crop and not the social or ritual aspects of it, Cern neglects the ‘range of other value systems that ought to be considered, including social and aesthetic ‘profitability’ and the values of desire’ (47). The global capitalist economy has manipulated and hijacked these values of desire by prioritising the product over the process. However as Cern taps into the value of mankind’s ‘desire to situate [them]selves within a broader context’ when confronted with farewells, his non-participatory yet immersive interpretation addresses Guattari’s plea of ‘reinstating socially useful activities on the surface of the planet’ (48).



Figure 9. Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters, 1565, oil on wood, 119 x 162cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (Detail)

    When approaching the rubric of ‘globalisation’ it is easy to overlook the roles of individuals. Digital art and artists, as symptoms of globalisation, can be understood as ‘drown[ing] in the sea of data that circulates the internet’ (49). However, what digital artists also facilitate is a global community and what their art extends to us is global citizenship. Digital art is capable of embodying the ‘iterations of human encounter, experience, memory, and response’ (50). In the context of this essay these are all things which Cern directly engages in. French Exit (The Harvesters) enables us to ‘experience globalisation’s replicated and at times, contradictory effects: “temporal dislocation,”’ – in the displacement of light and isolation from the land; “human connection,” – in the purported infinite accessibility of the work of art; “sensory overload,” – in its silence and scale; “urban acceleration,” – in dislodging the soil in favour of the scaffolding and moving the wheat into a white cube space; and “remembrance of home”  – in the turn towards the local (51). Having identified these potentialities of digital art, a seamless relationship between The Harvesters and its modern rendition transpires despite the differences in medium, as they both function as records of social and ecological conditions.

    By incorporating ecological and ethico-aesthetic considerations this essay has reaped its own harvest from Bruegel’s painting, Cern’s installation, and the intricate implications of their interaction with one another. Having considered how each work approaches Guattari’s alternate systems of value, this essay itself tries to adhere to his suggestion by ‘creat[ing] a new kind of value and bring[ing] a moral force … to art historical enquiry’, specifically by paying attention to the other-than-human (52). Wheat gains its own subjectivity and speaks for itself. It is loyal neither to Bruegel nor Cern but rather it tells of the realities of social, economical and ecological conditions. A curious addition to this analysis presents itself when we consider that both of these works of art were produced against a backdrop of growing unrest and fear: ‘The years between 1555 … and 1569… were some of the bloodiest in the history of the Low Countries’, whilst ‘French Exit’ arose amidst the uncertainties of a global pandemic (53). Both turn away from the ‘urban’ to find solace. This makes it clear that the characterisation of the rural as a place of refuge must be a structural foundation of Shirely’s ‘rural mythologies’. It is therefore, of the utmost importance that we go against the grain by interrogating conceptions of the rural in order to ‘kick the habit of a sedentary discourse’ (54). Beneath Cern’s positive intention to reunite man with nature lies the answers to why we became alienated from it in the first place. It is appropriate then that he himself recognises, and is vocal about, the fragility of the artist’s role, often referring to himself as ‘nobody’ (55). The questions pursued in this essay have revealed that rather than fulfilling his claim to physically and spatially embody Bruegel’s Harvesters, Cern’s installation expresses and is conditioned by technical,  ecological, and social developments which have occurred since then.



Footnotes:


1. Jeffrey Kastner, ‘Introduction//Art in the Age of the Anthropocene’ in NATURE, ed. Jeffrey Kastner (Cambridge and Massachusetts) p.17.
2. David Evans, ‘Introduction//Seven Types of Appropriation’ in APPROPRIATION, (Cambridge and Massachusetts, 2009), p. 13.
3. Cern, Tadao. ‘‘I am filling the pages of our collective memory book’, (https://www.instagram.com/p/CLZGXRPBJK_/?next=%2F)
4. Cern, Tadao. ‘French Exit, 2020-2021’, http://www.tadaocern.com/gallery_french_exit.html, (accessed 27/02/21).
5. Melissa Langdon, The Work of Art in a Digital Age: Art, Technology, Globalisation, (New York, 2014), p.1.
6. Grace Ebert, ‘A Field of Dried Grass Is Suspended from the Ceiling in ‘French Exit’ by Artist Tadao Cern’, This is colossal, (26/02/2021), https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2021/02/tadao-cern-french-exit/, (accessed 06/04/21)
7. ‘ “French Exit”, Tadao Cern Ponders Human Nature By a Field of Dry Grass’, iloboyou, (n.d),
https://www.iloboyou.com/french-exit-tadao-cern-ponders-human-nature-by-a-field-of-dry-grass/, (accessed 22/04/2021).
8. Andrew Patrizio, The Ecological Eye: Assembling an Ecocritical Art History, (Manchester, 2019), p. 179
9. Jacques Lacan quoted in Horst Bredekamp, ‘Origins and Concepts’ in Image Acts: A Systematic Approach to
10. Visual Agency, ed. Elizabeth Clegg (Berlin and Boston, 2017),
https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/courtauldia/reader.action?docID=5150951, (accessed 06/05/21).
11. Felix Guattari, the three ecologies, (London and New Brunswick NJ), p. 69.
Whitechapel Gallery, ‘Rethinking Landscape: The Rural’, (Soundcloud audio, 15/03/2018),
https://soundcloud.com/whitechapel-gallery/rethinking-landscape-rebecca-chesney-rosemary-shirley, (accessed 18/04/21).
12. Myvillages, ‘Introduction’ in The Rural p.13.
13. Tim Ingold, ‘The Temporality of the Landscape’, World Archaeology 25, no. 2 (1993), p.167, https://www.jstor.org/stable/124811, (accessed 25/03/21).
14. Ingold, ‘The Temporality’, p. 167
15. Emery, ‘Art of the Industrial Trace’, p.119
16. Ingold, ‘The Temporality’, p. 169
17. Margaret A. Sullivan, Bruegel’s Peasants, (Cambridge, 1994), p.17.
18. Margaret A. Sullivan, p.17.
19. ‘“French Exit”, Tadao Cern Ponders Human Nature By a Field of Dry Grass’, iloboyou
20. Patrizio, The Ecological Eye: Assembling an Ecocritical Art History, p. 183.
21. Dave Montgomery, ‘Dave Montgomery – Dirt: The Erosion of Civilisations’, Youtube, The University of Britis Columbia, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQACN-XiqHU&;t=2288s, (accessed 14/12/20).
22. Kiss the Ground, Directed by Rebecca Harrell Tickell and Josh Tickell. Produced by Rebecca Harrell Tickell, Josh Tickell, Ryland Engelhart, Darius Fisher, Bill Benenson, and Brian Swibel. The Redford Center, Big Picture Ranch, Benenson Productions, 2020, https://kissthegroundmovie.com, (accessed 20/11/2020).
23. Heise, Sense of Place, Sense of Planet, (Oxford, 2008), p.25
24. Ingold, ‘The Temporality’, p. 168
25. Whitechapel Gallery, ‘Rethinking Landscape: The Rural’
26. Whitechapel Gallery, ‘Rethinking Landscape: The Rural’
27. Dipesh Chakrabarty, ‘The Climate of History: Four Theses’, Critical Inquiry 35:2 (2009), p.197.
28. Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember, (Cambridge, 1989), p.4.
29. Ingold, ‘The Temporality’, p. 168
30. Ingold, ‘The Temporality’, p.168
31. Connerton, How Societies Remember, p.72
32. Ingold, ‘The Temporality’, p.155
33. Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local: Sense of Place in a Multicentred Society, (New York, 1997), p.7.
34. Heise, Sense of Place, Sense of Planet, (Oxford, 2008), p.20-21
35. Nicolas Bourriaud, ‘Deejaying and Contemporary Art // 2002’ in APPROPRIATION, ed. David Evans (Cambridg and Massachusetts, 2009), p.159.
36. Christiane Paul, ‘Introduction: From Digital to Post-Digital- Evolutions of an Art Form’ in A Companion to Digital Art, ed. Christiane Paul, (John Wiley & Sons, 2016), p.11.
37. Emery, ‘Art of the Industrial Trace’, p.119
38. Langdon, The Work of Art in a Digital Age: Art, Technology, Globalisation, p.1
39. Jan de Vries, The First Modern Economy, (Cambridge, 1997), p.iii; Larry Silver, ‘Pieter Bruegel in the Capital of
Capitalism’, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek (NKJ) / Netherlands Yearbook of History of Art 47, (1996)
https://jstor.org/stable/24705971, (accessed 28/03/21), p. 125.
40. Silver, ‘Pieter Bruegel’, p. 132
41. Silver, ‘Pieter Bruegel’ p. 127
42. Silver, ‘Pieter Bruegel’, p. 128
43. Maryan Ainsworth, in ‘The Harvesters’, Youtube, The Met, 2010, https://youtu.be/T-XAR-p790c, (accessed 03/03/21).
44. Patrizio, The Ecological Eye: Assembling an Ecocritical Art History, p.5
45. Ingold, ‘The Temporality’, p.161
46. Langdon, The Work of Art in a Digital Age: Art, Technology, Globalisation, p.4
47. Guattari, the three ecologies, p.64
48. Ebert, ‘A Field of Dried Grass’; Guattari, the three ecologies, p.31
49. Boris Groys, ‘Art Workers: Between Utopia and the Archive’ in Mass effect: art and the internet in the twenty-first century, ed. Lauren Cornell and Ed Halter (Massachusetts, 2015), p.358.
50. Langdon, The Work of Art in a Digital Age: Art, Technology, Globalisation, p.2
51. Langdon, The Work of Art in a Digital Age: Art, Technology, Globalisation, p.4
52. Patizio, The Ecological Eye: Assembling an Ecocritical Art History, p.180
53. Christina Currie and Dominique Allart, ‘A Great Painter of the Renaissance, his Heir and Copyist and the
Antwerp Art Market’ in The Brueg[H]el Phenomenon, ed. Lee Preedy (Brussels, 2012), p. 42.
54. Guattari, the three ecologies, p. 41
55. Caroline Meeusen, ‘Immerse Yourself in the Curious and Mesmerising Art of Tadao Cern’, Visual Pleasure
Mag, https://www.visualpleasuremag.com/magazine/tadao-cern, (accessed 30/03/21).


Bibliography:



Barthes, Roland. ‘The Death of the Author’ in Image, music, text, (London, 1977), pp. 142-148

Berger, John. ‘The Clarity of the Renaissance’, in LANDSCAPES John Berger on Art, ed. Tom Overton (London and Brooklyn, 2016), pp.101-103

Böhm, Kathrin and Feenstra, Wapke. ‘Introduction // Rural Art is…’ in THE RURAL, ed. Myvillages (Cambridge and Massachusetts, 2019), p.12-19

Bourriaud, Nicolas. ‘Deejaying and Contemporary Art // 2002’ in APPROPRIATION, ed. David Evans (Cambridge and Massachusetts, 2009), pp. 158-162

Bredekamp, Horst. ‘Origins and Concepts’ in Image Acts: A Systematic Approach to Visual Agency, ed. Elizabeth Clegg (Berlin and Boston, 2017), https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/courtauldia/reader.action?docID=5150951, (accessed 06/05/21).

Burkhardt, Jeremy. ‘The Rural Idyll: A Critique’ in Creating the Countryside: The Rural Idyll Past and Present, (London, 2017), pp. 64-74

Burton, Joanna. ‘Subject to Revision // 2004’, in APPROPRIATION, ed. David Evans (Cambridge and Massachusetts, 2009), pp. 205-213

Cern, Tadao. ‘French Exit, 2020-2021’, http://www.tadaocern.com/gallery_french_exit.html, (accessed 27/02/21)

Cern, Tadao. Instagram profile: Tadao Cern, https://www.instagram.com/tadaocern/, (accessed 02/21 – 04-21)

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. ‘The Climate of History: Four Theses’, Critical inquiry 35:2 (2009), pp.197–222

Cole, Margherita. ‘Immersive Installation Suspends a Field of Grass From the Ceiling to Contemplate the Nature of Goodbyes’, My Modern Met, (18/03/21), https://mymodernmet.com/tadao-cern-immersive-installation/, (accessed 06/04/21)

Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember, (Cambridge, 1989)

Currie, Christina and Allart, Dominique. ‘A Great Painter of the Renaissance, his Heir and Copyist and the Antwerp Art Market’ in The Brueg[H]el Phenomenon, ed. Lee Preedy (Brussels, 2012), pp. 37-74

De Vries, Jan. The First Modern Economy, (Cambridge, 1997)

Ebert, Grace. ‘A Field of Dried Grass Is Suspended from the Ceiling in ‘French Exit’ by Artist Tadao Cern’, This is colossal, (26/02/2021), https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2021/02/tadao-cern-french-exit/, (accessed 06/04/21)

Emery, Jacob. ‘Art of the Industrial Trace’, The New Left Review 71, no. 5 (2011), pp.117-133, https://newleftreview.org/issues/ii71/articles/jacob-emery-art-of-the-industrial-trace, (accessed 29/04/21)

Erker, Nicholas Ryan. ‘Pieter Bruegel The Elder’s The Months: A Perspective, (Master of Arts Thesis, The University of Kansas, 2006)

Evans, David. ‘Introduction//Seven Types of Appropriation’ in APPROPRIATION, ed. David Evans (Cambridge and Massachusetts, 2009), pp.12-23

‘“French Exit”, Tadao Cern Ponders Human Nature By a Field of Dry Grass’, iloboyou, (n.d), https://www.iloboyou.com/french-exit-tadao-cern-ponders-human-nature-by-a-field-of-dry-grass/, (accessed 22/04/21)

Gerszi, Teréz. ‘Pieter Bruegel and the Influence of His Landscape Art’, in The New Ideal of Beauty in the Age of Pieter Bruegel, ed. Judit Borus, exhibition catalogue, Szépművészeti Múzeum, (Budapest, 2012), pp. 63-88

Graw, Isabelle. ‘Fascination, Subversion and Dispossession in Appropriation Art’ in APPROPRIATION, ed. David Evans (Cambridge and Massachusetts, 2009), pp.214-218

Groys, Boris. ‘Art Workers: Between Utopia and the Archive’ in Mass effect: art and the internet in the twenty-first century, ed. Lauren Cornell and Ed Halter (Massachusetts, 2015), pp.357-367

Guattari, Felix. the three ecologies, (London and New Brunswick NJ, 2000)

Harreld, Donald. ‘Dutch Economy in the “Golden Age” (16th-17th Centuries)’, EH.Net Encyclopedia, ed. Robert Whaples (August 12, 2004), http://eh.net/encyclopedia/the-dutch-economy-in-the-golden-age-16th-17th-centuries/ (accessed 11/04/21)

Heise, Ursula K. Sense of Place and Sense of Planet, (Oxford, 2008)

Ingold, Tim. ‘The Temporality of the Landscape’, World Archaeology 25, no. 2 (1993), pp.152-174, https://www.jstor.org/stable/124811, (accessed 25/03/21)

Iverson, Margaret. ‘The Discourse of Perspective in the Twentieth Century: Panofsky, Damisch, Lacan’, Oxford Art Journal 28, no. 2 (2005), pp.191-202, (accessed 08/04/21)

Kastner, Jeffrey. ‘Introduction//Art in the Age of the Anthropocene’ in NATURE, ed. Jeffrey Kastner (Cambridge and Massachusetts, 2012), pp.12-19

Kiss the Ground, Directed by Rebecca Harrell Tickell and Josh Tickell. Produced by Rebecca Harrell Tickell, Josh Tickell, Ryland Engelhart, Darius Fisher, Bill Benenson, and Brian Swibel. The Redford Center, Big Picture Ranch, Benenson Productions, 2020, https://kissthegroundmovie.com, (accessed 20/11/2020)

Langdon, Melissa. The Work of Art in a Digital Age: Art, Technology, Globalisation, (New York, 2014)

Levine, Sherrie. ‘Statement // 1982’ in APPROPRIATION, ed. David Evans (Cambridge and Massachusetts, 2009), p. 81

LeWitt, Sol. ‘Sentences on Conceptual Art’ 1969, in Art in Theory, 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, (Maldon - US, Oxford - UK, Victoria - Australia, 2002), pp.849-851

Lippard, Lucy. The Lure of the Local: Sense of Place in a Multicentred Society, (New York, 1997)

Meeusen, Caroline. ‘Immerse Yourself in the Curious and Mesmerising Art of Tadao Cern’, Visual Pleasure Mag, https://www.visualpleasuremag.com/magazine/tadao-cern, (accessed 30/03/21)

Montgomery, Dave. ‘Dave Montgomery – Dirt: The Erosion of Civilisations’, Youtube, The University of British Columbia, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQACN-XiqHU&t=2288s, (accessed 14/12/20)

Montias, J. M. ‘Socio-Economic Aspects of Netherlandish Art from the Fifteenth to the Seveneenth Century: A Survey’, The Art Bulletin 72, no. 3 (September 1990), pp.358-373, https://www.jstor.org/stable/3045746, (accessed 29/03/21)

Mund, Hélène. ‘Foreword’ in The Brueg[H]el Phenomenon, ed. Lee Preedy (Brussels, 2012), pp. 15-17

Olison, Marisa. ‘Lost not found: The circulation of images in digital visual culture’ in Mass effect: art and the internet in the twenty-first century, ed. Lauren Cornell and Ed Halter (Massachusetts, 2015), pp.159-166

Parker, Geoffrey. ‘Philip II’, (Boston and Toronto, 1978)

Patrizio, Andrew. The Ecological Eye: Assembling an Ecocritical Art History, (Manchester, 2019)

Paul, Christiane. ‘Introduction: From Digital to Post-Digital- Evolutions of an Art Form’ in A Companion to Digital Art, ed. Christiane Paul, (John Wiley & Sons, 2016), pp. 1-20

Ralph, Iris. ‘Ecocriticism and the modern Artist’s Notice of Nature’, William Carlos Williams Review 32, no. 1-2 (2015) pp.116-134, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/willcarlwillrevi.32.1-2.0116, (accessed 14/03/21)

Shirley, Rosemary. ‘Introduction’ in Creating the Countryside: The Rural Idyll Past and Present, (London, 2017), pp. 8-12

Silver, Larry. ‘Pieter Bruegel in the Capital of Capitalism’, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek (NKJ) / Netherlands Yearbook of History of Art 47, (1996), pp. 124-153, https://www.jstor.org/stable/24705971, (accessed 28/03/21)

Sullivan, Margaret A. Bruegel’s Peasants, (Cambridge, 1994)

‘The Harvesters’, Youtube, The Met, 2010, https://youtu.be/T-XAR-p790c, (accessed 03/03/21)

Welchman, John C. ‘Global Nets: Appropriation and Postmodernity // 2001’ in APPROPRIATION, ed. David Evans (Cambridge and Massachusetts, 2009), pp. 194-204

Whitechapel Gallery, ‘Rethinking Landscape: The Rural’, (Soundcloud audio, 15/03/2018), https://soundcloud.com/whitechapel-gallery/rethinking-landscape-rebecca-chesney-rosemary-shirley, (accessed 18/04/21)

White, Lynn Jr. ‘The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis’, SCIENCE 155, no. 3767, (1967), https://www.cmu.ca/faculty/gmatties/lynnwhiterootsofcrisis.pdf, (accessed 14/11/20)