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Towards the exhibition Natura in Vita/Vita in Natura by Jana Lulovska

Anna Frangovska, curator

If we agree with the American theoretician Timothy Morton’s view that the environmental disaster gradually began as far back as 1784, when the steam engine was invented, then it is devastating for humanity that it has been struggling with this problem for two and a half centuries, without finding ways to systematically solve the challenges along the way. On the contrary, it goes even deeper into the darkness and the exit has become even more questionable. Since then, the process of climate change has been happening at a rate that has not been recorded in previous history. With the invention of the machine, this industrial revolution is directly connected with the beginnings of capitalism, hence the term Capitalocene , its name used to define the following era and is one of the main causes of the ecological crisis in which humanity finds itself, in addition to man himself, of course.

In addition to all other scientific disciplines, natural and humanistic, art has a special meaning and can act as a catalyst and prism for thinking about different aspects of the problem of social justice. The art that is actively engaged with environmental issues has the potential to reevaluate politics, as well as to politicize the relationship of art in terms of the problem of environmental protection. The clear and critical positions of artists in the public sphere have initiated the much needed discussions about the eco - social crisis and sustainability policy, but they have also established new and different models for fair treatment of the environment. The artists’ involvement has become increasingly important in the efforts to find creative solutions for new and different social relations and connections based on the principles of solidarity and social justice.

In recent years, discourses on ecology and environmental protection have become more relevant on the Macedonian art scene, which indicate to the fact that artists are a powerful tool in raising awareness and sending clear signals to political actors about the urgency of systematic changes. One of those visual actors is the artist Jana Lulovska, who uses her multimedia approach, in which her fundamental medium - photography and all its experimental perpetuations - has a dominant position, and contributes towards the search for mechanisms for returning to nature.

NATURA IN VITA/VITA IN NATURA is the title of her latest project, which consists of photographic documentary archives of life and work in the countryside; wide-angle landscape photography (all photos are trasferred, depending on the cycle, with experimental methodologies on various grounds in order to give this medium a different, more conceptual and contemporary dimension), sound installation, olfactory semantics and a self-sustaining green indoor garden and all that amplified with the aspect of interaction, i.e. involvement, in which the recipient of the visual project feels that he/she contributes to the whole narrative.

In fact, the concept consists of three contextual units, which intertwine and build on each other. The first one, already exhibited at the White Night event in 2021, is called Natura in Vita and includes a photographic-ambient installation consisting of panoramic photographs of landscapes applied (transferred) on wooden guides - arrows, i.e. different directional arrow signs that we can usually see in mountains and ethno-sites; bean bags – or comfortable, reclining seats for the visitor to feel at ease and ambient sound of nature, which while the recipient is sitting comfortably, further relaxes him with a pleasant sensory stimulation of sounds of nature, as if you were right there, outside in the environment.

The second segment is a “social green garden”, titled The Greenhouse, which is artificially installed in the middle of the gallery, aiming to prompt people to think about nature and its advantages, as well as sustainability. And it is precisely that sustainability in this artificial constellation, that Lulovska anticipates in a participatory way, i.e. through a process of interaction with the audience, who are invited to take one of the herbs that are “tended” in the garden, but also bring other/different plants in return, and thus perpetuate that social exchange and the feeling of co-nurturing and self-initiated cultivation of green products and return to nature. Another sensory element in addition to the olfactory and visual is consumption, i.e. taste, because some of these natural herbs are offered to the recipient as tea, to accentuate the authentic sense of nature and its abundant treasures. 

The third part of this conceptual idea is Vita in Natura, i.e. an installation that consists of documentary photographs of life and work in the countryside, in nature, as a kind of an archive that should be memorized, but not because it should be left in the past, but for it to become our new present and new reality because it is precisely this forgotten nature and all of its treasures that we have pushed aside and the work space it provides that is our mode of salvation from all crises, the crisis we now face and those in the foreseeable future. These photographs have been recreated using the photo transfer technique and have been conveyed on to cardboard pieces, and the rustic appearance, i.e. the intentional “aging” was achieved with the intention of emphasizing exactly that dual discourse of archiving, which in this constellation can be a trace/document of forgotten - past actions or an admonition/appeal for “bringing forth” the benefits of nature and rural environments and activating them immediately. This photo-installation is complemented by ambient music that transports us directly to the precise location, to the village and to all the activities related to the forgotten trades – mowing (with a scythe), sharpening the scythe, plowing the land, reaping, etc.

With this project, Lulovska puts emphasis on the illusions of the present day – i.e. that we see nature as an isolated entity. The relationship between humanity and nature is much more complex and their dynamics have changed throughout the centuries. Simultaneously, it is necessary to change the more anthropocentric conceptualization of the natural world, in which nature is always seen as a “resource” that serves human needs. Nature, according to T. J. Demos, must be decolonized.

Hence, it is necessary to devise alternative forms of collaboration between people and the non-human natural world, particularly focusing on coexistence of all species of the living world. In order to achieve this goal, we need to devise symbolic and practical methods that will bring us closer to a new union with other beings, recognizing the critical importance of the interdependence of species as the only righteous path to a new post -humanistic age. Perhaps we should follow the example with the lichen, as suggested by Donna Harraway, and that is the creation of a symbiosis of algae and fungi in a shared co-existent life that we should all strive for!!!

Lulovska pushes the boundaries of the everyday comfort zone, asking questions, offering solutions, and it is up to us, the critical observer and consumer, to accept the message in this project and to act, first of all with our activity on the project and then individually, certainly in the context of sustainability, which we keep talking about recently. Therefore, we bow, artistically and environmentally before Lulovska for this awareness raising project and for the interaction with the audience as a necessary co-actor in maintaining i.e. the struggle to maintain the eco balance.


1   The term Capitalocene refers to an entire era based on the capitalist mode of production that has led to the current ecological crisis. In contrast to the term Anthropocene, which attributes this crisis to human activity, that is, to all of humanity, the term Capitalocene points to the minority of large capital owners as the main cause of environmental disasters.


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