Saturday, December 6, 2008
Steve Miler's Health of the Planet project
I’m fascinated by artist Steve Miller’s recent project “Health of The Planet,” in which he X-rays diverse Amazonian flora, giving the Brazilian rain forest, and by extension our entire planet, a medical checkup. In Miller's words, "The Patient is the Planet." See:
For Michel Foucault the “gaze” of western clinical biomedicine (which preceded the actual emergence of X-ray technology) presupposed the privileged power/knowledge of the physician, who possessed unique capabilities for interior-directed expert looking into the body of the patient. Miller in this series, however, seems to be liberating the X-ray from its standard position as a technology of expert power/knowledge, by rendering these images in forms that are accessible to a worldwide lay audience.
How are we to understand the seductiveness of these images, deftly fabricated so as to evoke a sense of spiritual wonder in the viewer? (Consider, for instance, the print #3, "Roots,: in which the right-most tendril reaches out towards the light; or the delicate progression upwards of the elements in print #7, Solo Saco Velho; or the playful fairy like beings atop #14, "Night Orchard") My guess is that these motifs of yearning tends to evoke a sense of common destiny among all who view the images. I'm struck as well by the repeated hints of human form in these shadow works. The net effect is continuous transpositions between the natural world and the human body. A poignant example is #6, "Jaca" (reproduced above) which could be read as a parent nurturing a child. So, although Miller proclaims that the "patient is the planet", his patient would equally appear to be all of humanity itself.
As we enter 2009, the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origins of Species, and approach Charles Darwin's 200th birthday on February 12, Miller's project is an exquisite, if painful, exploration of the glories of biodiversity and the looming cataclysm of mass species extinction.