An exhibition called In Search of the Miraculous opened up last night at the Camera Club of New York. It runs till March 28th.
While the above image, by photographer Ian Bugaskas, one of the artists represented in the show, is not actually on display there, Baguskas will instead be exhibiting a series called Sansaram (Mountain People), which visually surveys a very particular landscape microculture in South Korea.
According to the Camera Club:
Ian Baguskas’s portraits made in South Korea of local mountain hikers depict the intersection of recreation and spiritual communion with nature. His project Sansaram from 2005, meaning “people of the mountain,” combines landscape views with documentary portraits of native visitors to the Sobaek mountains, encountered on hiking trails. The popularity of this activity can be attributed to the indigenous religion, which is centered on the worship of nature and mountain spirits, and has come to be fused with Buddhism.
The series, visible on Baguskas’s website (caution: resizes your browser and requires Flash), is a fascinating look at the intersection of geology and anthropology – in other words, how massive landforms can be appropriated by and incorporated into cultural movements and religious traditions.
The human experience of the earth’s surface here takes on the form of small picnics, ice cream carts parked on paved platforms, lone hikers gazing out over urban developments below, and families standing quietly in the sun. But behind all of that lies bedrock, a huge intrusion of solid, crystalline form that has pushed up from below into detectability and self-exposure.
This reminds me, though, that if I could start a university – or, for that matter, simply teach at one – I would love to form a new department, studio, or program called Landscape Anthropology, a specifically and enthusiastically spatialized look at human culture. From the layouts of medieval villages to the floorplans of corporate bank towers, from national parks and monuments to the strange geotechnical rearrangements we force upon rock, digging tunnels, excavating mines, and installing towns and cities, how do human beings experience the earth? This would seem to be one of the largest and most important questions we could possibly ask.
In any case, if you’re in New York City between now and March 28, consider stopping by the Camera Club for a glimpse of In Search of the Miraculous.