Under the Stars
Two billion years ago, cyanobacteria oxygenated the atmosphere and powerfully disrupted life on Earth. But they didn’t know it. Two thousand years ago, Romans aggravated soil erosion and flooding by cutting forests to build ships to fight Carthaginians. They didn’t know it either. Quite unintentionally, changes in human ways often affect nonhuman nature. The arrival of the automobile, for instance, eliminated huge flocks of sparrows that once fed on the horse manure littering every street. To create a world means to destroy one or many, to transform the cosmological dimensions of being-in-the-world.
We are the first species that has become a planet-scale influence and is aware of that reality. We have learnt that the historically accumulated, global environmental effects of a growing human population, technological innovation, and economic development have become inseparable from the Earth’s geoprocesses. We have entered an epoch unlike any in human history, say scientists – the Anthropocene, where the climate is tipping out of control due to mining, deforestation and the burning of oil, gas and coal. We have begun to understand our influence upon nature but we now need to learn how to restore our balance with nature.
What are the roots of our environmental crisis? Are we aware that human ecology is primarily conditioned by religious beliefs about our nature and destiny? American historian Lynn White denounced Christianity, especially in its Western form, as the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen. Christianity inherited from Judaism not only a concept of linear, cumulative and progressive time, but also a remarkable story of creation, with God creating light and darkness, the heavenly bodies, the earth and all its plants, animals, birds, and fishes, then Adam and Eve. Man named all the animals, thus establishing his supremacy over them. God planned all of this overtly for man's benefit and rule: no item in the physical creation had any other purpose but to serve man's purposes. And, even if man's body is made of clay, he is not part of nature: he is made in God's image. Christianity, in contrast to ancient paganism and Asia's religions, not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God's will that man exploits nature for his proper ends. Furthermore, in Antiquity every tree, every spring, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit: centaurs, fauns, and mermaids. Before cutting a tree, mining a mountain, or damming a stream, man had to pacify the spirit in charge. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature without any concern for consequences.
Of course, we live now in a different, scientifically advanced age, but the essence of our acts and thinking often remains incredibly similar to that of the past. Our daily habits of action, for example, are dominated by an implicit faith in perpetual progress which was unknown either to Greco-Roman antiquity, or to the Orient. It is rooted in the Judeo-Christian theology, which proves that we continue to live today mostly in a context of Christian axioms. Our science and technology have also developed out of Christian attitudes toward man's understanding of nature, from Roger Bacon and Galileo, to Leibniz and Newton. Buddhism and Eastern spirituality in general promote a more holistic worldview, based on the concepts of interdependence and impermanence, which could provide a valuable source for addressing the interconnected problems of the current age. From its origins in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ, Buddhism spread throughout Asia and is now exerting an ever-increasing influence on Western culture. Idealists such as Schopenhauer, Romantics like Thoreau, the composer Wagner, architect and social reformer Rudolf Steiner and the artist Joseph Beyus – all acknowledged the influence of Buddhism upon their work and thought.
Interdependence refers to the idea of ‘oneness of nature’, with every being and every aspect of reality reflecting and containing all others within it. The concept is vividly conveyed through the well-known image of Indra‘s Net with a jewel at each node, metaphorically portraying the universe as an infinite relational field of phenomena and entities. As the author of the term ‘interbeing’, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh said: “When we look at a flower, we may think it is different from non-flower things. But when we look more deeply, we see that everything in the cosmos is in that flower. Without all of the non-flower elements - sunshine, clouds, earth, minerals, heat, rivers and consciousness - a flower cannot be.” Organisms are just configurations of energy, moments in a network of relationships, knots in a web of life. The doctrine of impermanence affirms the transience of all phenomena and, implicitly, as contemporary ecologists and philosophers agree, the nature’s state of constant flux rather than stable equilibrium. Since Darwin, it has been understood that flexibility and receptivity to change define all natural beings and that all species are subject to mutation at any time.
Are we, subsequently, prepared to radically rethink our deeply inbuilt spiritual axioms and explore alternative paradigms? To consider pivotal questions about our global impact as a species and re-imagine ways of being-with-the-world and being-on-earth? Then we have to (re)sensitize ourselves to the ground beneath our feet, the trees around us, and the stars above first.
Simona Nastac, residency and exhibition curator
Works produced during the program
(Not) Under the Stars, Beware: Ivanka Also Loves (wild) Strawberry Jam - Sanjeev Khandekar & Vaishali Narkar
(Not) Under the Stars, This is the Way World Ends... Not with a Bang but with a Whimper - Sanjeev Khandekar & Vaishali Narkar
A critical reading of Nature in selected poems of Rabindranath Tagore
Music InContext: The Attic residency
Silvia Amancei & Bogdan Armanu - artists"
The artistic residency In Context is one of the few projects of this type in Romania that act in the urban periphery area for educating the local population and integrating it into the national cultural circuit. Although the development of contemporary art projects can be difficult in this social setting, with a public without exposure to living artistic creation due to the absence of specific spaces and programs in the area, we believe that such actions are all the more necessary to balance the socio-cultural discrepancies between the capital and periphery."
Sanjeev Khandekar & Vaishali Narkar - artists"
Time spent in Slanic Moldova - when we look back, it seems like a dream. It's too unreal to be real.
Even after a month, we are still marked by what we have been living in those mountains, among those forests, wild flowers and crystalline springs that have healed our thirst. The deep tranquility, in the presence of natural elements in their wild and naked form, was overwhelming and it is not easy to overcome this fascinating experience, to return to the confusing cacophony of daily routine. We want to stay in the same mood of hypnotics.
"A poetry is never over, there is always an accident that stops it," Paul Valery wrote, and it is true. Our resident at Slanic was like inspiring the essence of a poem, and for its existence in the world, it seems, we had to abandon it. So we can make it public and write about it ..."
Shilpa Rangnekar - artist"
Artists are usally looking for getaways in search of new ideas and to inspire themselves. Artist residencies are one such options. The time at Slanic was like a dream living in such a beautiful landscape. Adding to this was the excitement of its geographical location in Eastern Europe and the wide array of artists that were coming for this program.
This artist Residency program is a new initiative that I felt is an attempt to not just introduce contemporary art to the public but also develop new opportunities for the residents to re-engage with their surrounding and also for the youngsters to understand the nuances of creativity and observe and participate in the process of creation. The enthusiasm of the local authorities and the young students from Slanic and near-by towns was a proof of its success and the urgency of its continuation.
Preethi Athreya - artist"
What is unique about being a resident artist in the town of Slanic Moldova is that it is an intense and austere experience. The stunning landscape of the Nemira and Dobru mountain ranges makes you feel like you are being watched silently with majesty and grandeur. The presence of the medicinal water springs and their gurgling soundscape keeps ringing in your ear, affecting the way you walk and think. A sense of history hangs in the air with so many closed down hotels and restaurants. Yet, there is a steady stream of keen patients for the physiotherapy clinic and the healing waters.
Populated predominantly by the very young and the relatively older generations, the town swings from being a place of nostalgic charm to a harsh economic landscape. Indeed it is a challenge to makers of dance, music and art to find that which is precious and uphold it with love and care, for the many residents of Slanic Moldova who show fierce pride and loyalty to a time, a place and a people. It was humbling to be a part of this human landscape."
Lochan Upadhyay - artist"
The scenic beauty of Slanic Moldova was the first thing that striked me. All surrounded by the fresh water springs and thick forests and mountains were the immediate source of interaction for all the artists. The long morning treks with other artists at the beginning of the residency gave me an entry point to develop a dialouge with the place. The long history of this place and the changing future with younger population moving out to bigger cities for more opportunities has now left kind of a void in the place, which became a point of curiosity for me. In such a situation the residency program emerges as a possibility of developing new opportunities for locals.
The active involvement of the schools and the residents provides a foundation for the artists to think and develop their ideas. These kinds of collaborations often turn into a lifetime of friendships.
I feel this initiative of collaborating with artists and the local public should be continued to explore the place but also present new possibilities for the viewers to look at their surrounding from a different perspective."
Sneha Khanwalkar - artist"
I had no idea what a residency is like. This was my first. I had a hard time getting over my momentum of the city. But, surprisingly, for my fellow resident artists, the forests were a playground. They took long walks to and from the springs and the rest of Slanic. Very inspiring bunch! Great talks and exchange of thoughts. Passionate arguments. Unexplained affection towards some and the constant conflict with Art. But one tiny experience that stood out for me, was when I got to stay with the locals. Emilia, a darling lady hosted me in her home, and let me stay there for a week. The sounds I found there, at any given time, were somewhat the following:
the chickens, the dog
the coffee brewer on gas
wooden floor creaking
the wall clock ticking.
my own breathing
That is it. Emilia and I never spoke. We had a language barrier or let's just call it a bond. I got inspired to lose language for a bit. Between TristanTzara's presence in that region and this sonic environment, I'm deeply deeply convinced about staying quieter even inside my head. I'm grateful to Alina and The Mayor of Slanic for making this experience happen. Thank you for the wine, the cherries and the inedible berries."