Bangalore, 2014
The perceived division between nature and culture is both outmoded and defunct. Nature is in us, in as much as it is in everything that surrounds us. Examining this loss of our intrinsic connection to nature in a modern and technology driven world, Catrine Val collaborates with Madhu Nataraj and the dancers of Natya & STEM Dance Kampni of Bangalore, India, to produce her newest series titled Transcendence. 

Through the resulting intercultural perspective of this vibrant collaboration, she constructs a bridge between the philosophical pasts and presents of the West and Indian metaphysical traditions, exploring their iconographic peculiarities and interdependencies. In a post-digital age, we conceive of nature as a romantic abstract concept that is seemingly disassociated and distinct from our lives, realities and identities. Idealising nature within a fixed reference point in the past, when man and nature were in harmony, we bemoan the accelerated demise of the same in our industrialised age. Advocating the notion that instead of abstracting nature, we must use the vantage point of the abstract in order to understand it, this work articulates that nature, both is and becomes; simultaneously existing as subject and environment, as object and effect.Seeking, in cooperation with the dancers, a new concept of identity that takes into consideration cultural and social circumstances, developing perspectives on different traditional philosophical schools of thought and their current relevance, this collaborative project attempted to create – through movement and dance, through stillness and framed tableaus, each with their respective forms of expression and interpretation – an exciting, open, and artistic journey. Intertwining occasionally, merging often, and moving parallel to each other at other times, the different registers of dance and photo art ensured that varied approaches combined to produce a complex exploration of global transformations, the contemporary relevance of historical philosophical figures and their philosophical impact on social thought and life.

Val consciously choose to shoot this series in the midst of nature and lush greenery, a rarity in most Indian metros, in order to avoid the clichéd ways in which India is usually framed in a Western context and compose a narrative that moves beyond ‘in nature’ and ‘with nature’ to ‘women as nature’. The lens of gender underlines the precarious position of women in philosophy, and emphasises the historical presences (and absences) of women within analytical and logico-rational spaces/fields.Val’s conscientious artistic practice foregrounds the importance of reflecting on the role of art in a world suffused with, and highly sensitised to, visual material, where the boundaries that mark truth and authenticity are heavily blurred. Exploring the changing relationships between nature and technology, language and body, body and space through the dual lens of gender and time, this photographic series aims to step beyond a discursive postmodern mode.