Fluidly combining the phases of expedition, research, documentation and meditation in the first phase of the project, the artist moves outward into diverse terrains of the natural world and simultaneously inward into the history of artistic practice, renewing landscape as a genre. The project title is instructive: she inverts the two elements of the genre appellation, 'landscape', generating a semantic shift. 'Landscape' announces itself as artifice, for it does not exist in nature; it is the artistic imagination's proposal of a particular way of representing or symbolizing the natural world, of transforming nature into subject. Its mirror twin, 'Scapeland', turns this relationship between subject and artifice around, making the '-scape' the focus of inquiry, engaging with the internalized aesthetic concepts and art-historical categories that form an integral part of our lifeworld.

The resulting findings constitute a territory that belongs equally to the cartographer and the psychonaut, at once geographic and oneiric.

PHASE II (ongoing)

The second phase of Scapelands focuses on two mangrove ecosystems of India on the Coromandel and Malabar coasts, in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The mangroves provide a preview of the challenges ahead for ecosystems. The project aims at an artistic inquiry in this time of crisis to create awareness about conserving these vast laboratories of nature.

The degraded landscapes speak chronicles of past histories, politics, the environment and economics of consumption, a living document of a vicious cycle of depredation that is the tale of 21st century globalization. Shrouded in silence, they are markers of a dystopian nightmare and an apocalyptic vision of times to come. Tied to the sustainability of this vulnerable ecosystem is the ecological security and livelihood security of coastal communities and communities that rely on mangrove resources.

Phase II combines and encompasses phases of scientific research and documentation into a comprehensive project, through a robust interaction with Coastal and Mangrove ecosystems that traverses and negotiates between various disciplines, while interrogating conformist notions about our association with and within nature.

Drawing data and vital information from the fields of microbiology, biotechnology and eco-technology, the projects explore the role of science and technology in preserving vulnerable ecosystems, and examine how they can be allies towards the sustainable development of coastal communities.
© sonia mehra chawla