Ever since Hasler Lab Coordinator, Kelly O’Ferrell, launched our “Art @ Hasler” series, beautiful exhibitions of aquatic-themed art have graced our walls. The current series of photographs by Stuart Deets is especially profound, as is his essay on their creation and their meaning.
Rhetoric is a means of negotiating life in common.
I took an class in rhetoric this past semester. This class specifically was focused on rivers and water, and how we talk about them. We had to do something radical for it: an action project. It was expected that we would “give a shit about something,” enough that we would do something about it. That might seem to not have a lot to do with words and rhetoric, but it turns out that it has everything to do with it, since rhetoric is about understanding arguments. And of course, behind all of our projects would be an argument about, say, art and photography. And if, I, say, took some photographs of lakes and developed them in water from those lakes, that’s making an argument about lakes, and photography, and the relationship between the two. Which is rhetoric. Of course, that’s exactly what I did, but we’ll get there.
Art has always been about communicating ideas that matter in new and novel and interesting and engaging ways. To engage with art is to create a world, imaginative and placed in the future. Art and rhetoric are how we can locate ourselves in the world.
This is why art and rhetoric are so important. Beauty allows humans to orient themselves.
Control over art and its rhetoric is a path to freedom.
But art and rhetoric are complex systems that depend on inputs. The environment, and ecology, are complex systems too. Isolation is not in their nature, for ecology or art. They are both ambivalent. They are like water; they move to fill the shape of the container they are placed in; they are essential to life. Water is always alive, always interconnected with the other water around it. It courses through you. Words can do the same thing, if they’re in the right order and said at the right time in the right way. And for some people, images do the same. They can feel them in their blood. The images, and the words, can free them from this world and return them to the world of feeling, like art and words were always supposed to do. Maybe, we can create images that can change the world.
But art and rhetoric are complex systems that depend on inputs. The environment, and ecology, are complex systems too. Isolation is not in their nature, for ecology or art.