New York

“The (Un)Making of Nature”

Whitney Museum of American Art

The American pragmatist A.O. Lovejoy distinguished at least 66 senses for the word “nature.” Given the concept’s multivalence, it might be said, at the risk of rankling scores of environmental activists, that nature doesn’t exist, except as an ideological construct. Throughout history, nature has functioned as the prototypical and subservient Other: it has served as a prime term in debates in which the real is opposed to the ideal and been used to substantiate God’s existence or to sanction nationalistic claims such as manifest destiny. The title “The (Un)Making of Nature” suggests an attempt to dismantle the concept’s sustaining if contradictory statuses as preeminent force or disposable commodity, and it offers the enticing prospect of an approach designed to reveal the underlying social codes that encircle the representation of nature. That’s a tall order, but the Whitney Museum

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