Monday, February 13, 2012

Nick Olson Talk

Nick Olson's talk showed one possibility of what you can do with your life after Lawrence. He showed that it's possible to live that crazy dream Christopher McCandless or Thoreau so desperately wanted to live. And you can document it. And show it to people. You can still go on spiritual pilgrimages and build log cabins in the woods. Even though you have a college degree.

Not so sure about this guy anymore

I thought the talk was interesting but probably not in the right way. As someone who is also interested in nature, the environment and sustainable living, I really do respect what Nick is trying to do. I am just afraid for the future of environmental art if all we continue to do is emulate the ideas of the past. The past is irrelevant to the way that the environment is right now. The ideas of Thoreau don't really stand up anymore. Sure, it's great to get in touch with yourself by living simply. I totally agree. But this isn't an environmental statement anymore. It's not about yourself. It's about the bigger picture. It's about the way in which humans are destroying nature. Is building a log cabin really the most sustainable thing you can do? What does it prove? Where is that going to take us?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I have the answer to an art that speaks for the protection of the environment. I just think it has to be pushed farther. We can't just look to the past and be nostalgic for what we've lost. We have to be visionaries of the future if we have any hope of restoring the balance of nature.


  1. Thats a really good point you make about how we can no longer "just" live simply within the environment if your making a statement about it. I wonder what sorts of actions he would take if he was interested in, as you say, pushing it farther...

  2. Olson's serious use of Thoreau certainly seems like he's trying to go back in time and individually lead a life detached from society. However, his pieces that chronicle landscape change show that there really isn't a strict dichotomy between nature/society. That being said, his work reflects a personal way of living, but also documents a larger vision of the environment-- even if it doesn't have sustainable focus.

  3. I agree with the fact that his artistic ideas are forever lost, nostalgic, and never coming back. But I guess that the fascinating thing about it for me is how he can live a utopian and spiritual artistic life that fulfills him. I think that maybe yes, being stuck in the past is his thing, but he seems so content with his lifestyle. Maybe I am romanticizing all of this, but it is a little fantasy world that I am enchanted with. And also, the tintypes are so beautiful!

  4. He looks at the present through eyes from the past. He visited us after that summer at Camp Tintype and described how startling re-entry was. All the mirrors, the advertisements, the speed, the noise, the visual clutter. It changed the way he sees.