Indian Summer and Immaterial Land in September

Beautiful warm summer days in the middle of September are rare in Finland, and what we call ‘Indian summer’ always feels like extreme luxury. Very, very soon the dark, damp, stormy autumn is upon us. I went to revisit the slope and the rock I used to visit weekly in the year of the horse in 2002, and now visit once a month this year, and was surprised by the view. After a few days of rain the moss was light green on the cliffs, and all the yellow leaves of the birches were gone, so the few remaining green ones almost reminded me of spring. And it was warm!
I found my notes on a text called “Immaterial land” by Brian Martin in the anthology edited by Estelle Barrett and Barbara Bolt Carnal Knowledge (2013), which I read this summer. It is written from the point of view of the indigenous population in Australia and their view of art in contrast to western notions of art, representation, ideology, and enlightenment. The central notion for the indigenous worldview, according to Martin, is “country” or land, which makes the text sometimes hard to comprehend. It is clear that a more active and sensitive relationship to the earth, the soil and to the environment in general is needed, but too much talking about belonging and land sounds in my ears too much like ‘Blut und Boden’ ideology. Of course I do not mean that aboriginal ideas of land and landscape have anything to do with that, but for my European ears the association is inevitable. On the other hand the idea of a work of art as a map and a ritual aid as well as the materialization of memory is fascinating. And of course the point of refusing the binary between the material and the immaterial or spiritual, is fascinating, too. The few aboriginal works I saw in the last Documenta in Kassel were truly impressive, like huge shimmering colour fields of small ornamental patterns. But the works Brian Martin speaks about are more concrete, like two images of slightly ornamentalized fish. The idea behind them is great though. You catch a fish, you respect it, you eat it and then you paint it and bring it back to life in that way – absolutely perfect. I thought about my colleges who caught a lot of perch on the western shore here, simply by throwing in a fish trap with a sufficiently long rope down the slope, and served us a delicious soup.
I am still wondering, what to do next. Painting fish is not an option for me. Well, how about photographing what I eat? This remake of the Year of the Horse is like a small exercise once a month to keep me warm, while I wait for some new ideas. Perhaps I should simply move to another place, look at another kind of landscape, investigate a different environment…