Jan van Boeckel

Artist, anthropologist and filmmaker Jan van Boeckel will explore how art can encourage us to seek a ‘deep identification’ in nature. Jan’s talk, entitled A Point of No Return (abstract below), will try to formulate some pedagogical implications for encouraging an attitude of radical amazement and vulnerability in arts-based environmental education.

The point of no return:
One of the characteristics of arts-based environmental education is that it encourages participants to be receptive to nature in new and uncommon ways. To approach the world afresh through art, to look at a plant, an animal or even a landscape as if we see it for the first time in our life. In this, the participant is encouraged to immerse him or herself in nature, to seek a 'deep identification' (Arne Naess).

In this presentation I explore if there could be cases where such immersion may reach – or even go beyond – a point of return. A point, where the 'intertwining' with nature causes the subject to sever the 'life lines' to the world which would enable him or her to maintain the psychological, cultural and spiritual integrity of the ego. The dissolving of the ego’s boundaries through artistic practice can be seen as having certain shamanistic qualities, specifically in case when this transgression involves efforts to connect with other animal species such as Joseph Beuys famous studio encounter with a coyote in his performance I Like America and America Likes Me (1974). Such undertakings may constitute – at least in the perception of the shaman-artist – a form of 'going native', becoming 'one' with the non-human Others.

As a case history I discuss the 'trespassing' from the world of culture to the world of nature by Timothy Treadwell, entering the ecosphere and live world of the grizzly bears in Alaska, for which he ultimately paid the price of the death (the tragic story was documented by Werner Herzog in his film Grizzly Man, 2005). I analyze the phenomenon along the distinction between Apollonian versus Dionysian sensibility in cultural activity as articulated by, among others, Nietzsche and Robert J. Pirsig, and see it as an 'unchecked' Dionysian immersion in the ecstatic.

Finally I try to formulate some pedagogical implications for teachers and facilitators encouraging an attitude of radical amazement and vulnerability in arts-based environmental education.

www.naturearteducation.org

video podcast download   Jan van Boeckel: Lecture
Downloadable Video Podcast
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audio podcast download   Jan van Boeckel: Post-lecture Q&A
Downloadable Audio Podcast
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NB: This is a large file (25Mb) and should only be downloaded using a broadband connection