Degrading #2, 2009
IN THE WOODS:
The nature of nature
What is the nature of nature? Is it the magical place where I buried all those dead animals, built tree houses, spent hours on my own, pretending to be an animal myself, at a time when nobody ever asked where I had been? Where I encountered incomprehensible but exiting half rotten dirty books and their weird presentation of the secret world of grown ups? Is it the place I go for a walk on Sunday? Something I would like to view from my hotel room? Or is it a dark place where animals cruelly eat each other? Where the Cynipid wasp lays her eggs inside the brain of a caterpillar that will not die but carries on living, providing the baby wasps with food for a long time. Where large aggressive groups of chimpanzees attack smaller chimpanzee groups to beat them up, rip their baby-chimps apart and eat them. Yes children: that's nature too. A place in which one would rather not get lost, especially not after dark.
As a child, nature was presented to me as some divine master plan, a complicated puzzle where everything is in miraculous but delicate balance. I am still shocked when confronted with the dark side of nature. And what about the nature of women? With their periods, giving birth to children and their overall emotional wildness, the nature of women is supposedly naturally close to the nature of nature. Women want to run naked through the woods. Only, if you do so, it really hurts your feet. I know because I tried. I guess I am not really a natural woman.
When I walk around in nature, mostly on shoes in the woods around the Veluwe, I do not feel the harmony people are supposed to feel in nature. I feel surrounded by decay, inhaling the smell of rotting leafs. For me there is no relaxation, no carefree joy, or anything like that. I feel impressed, a little scared, excited, afraid of getting lost, not finding my way out before it gets dark. And most of all: I am always afraid of finding a dead body. This is rather unlikely, I know that. But I always feel I have to watch out.
Apparently I like that uncanny feeling, because I keep returning to the woods. I go there all the time. I love nature. But I certainly do not think it loves me.
Pépé Smit, december 2009