21st CENTURY ROMANTICISM

In the present age, there is a contradictory attitude towards 19th century Romanticism. Undeniably, our take on concepts like 'nature' and 'landscape' is rooted in the Romantic philosophy as developed by poets, writers and artists of 19th Century. We appreciate nature as being 'sublime', 'primitive', 'mysterious' and we value it as 'good' (as opposed to civilisation which would be 'bad'). These are all characteristics of the Romantic movement that started in 18th century but went to its height in the 19th century. 

On the other hand, urbanisation and the impact of human presence on earth has never been greater than nowadays. More than 50% of the world's population is living in an urbanised area and environmental issues make up the greatest challenge humanity has faced on a global scale. So, we exalt in the jubilation of nature while destroying it for our comfort on the other hand.

I think this is a logical consequence of the Romantic philosophy that in its attempt of sublimation also alienated us from our environment. By singing the virtues and grandeur of nature and landscapes, it created a different mindset. We have a letter of the Italian Poet Petrarca in which he describes his ascent of the Mont Ventoux (1912 meter) in 1342. He describes in this letter his fears and anguish and even terror experienced during the ascent. It's the first record we have of someone climbing up a mountain for nothing but curiosity or pleasure. When we were still nomads and hunters, nature was met with respect and fear and climbing up a mountain was not something you did for pleasure. In his excellent book 'Philosophy of Landscape' Dutch philosopher Ton Lemaire marks it as the turning point of our relationship with nature. From being dominated we evolved into domination. In his book, he shows this evolution by means of the mastering of perspective in Landscape painting.

In the Romantic Movement, this concept of 'domination' come to a height. Nature was presented as something to look at, to cherish maybe, to visit but this also demystified the landscape. Combined with new possibilities of travelling and visiting far-out destinations, man set out to conquer the world. In the subsequent two centuries we only developed this attitude to dizzying heights. It's hard to find a place on earth that hasn't been extensively travelled and visited and the most beautiful spots nowadays are under a heavy strain of tourism and exploitation.

In that sense, 21st Century Romanticism as a continuation of 19th Century movement, is as destructive to its object of veneration as can be. Mainly because we don't really understand what the concept of Nature means. 

With this series of photographs and its reflections on Nature and Romantic concepts, I try to gain some insight in how an environment as the Pyrenees works and by presenting the works, I invite people to ponder and reflect on our position in it.