in, with, or
without Nature

[master thesis project of practice-led research, including a short film, 35mm photography,  book design and production]

With the aim of questioning our (human) relationship with nature and concepts of nature that structure this relationship, this thesis investigates natureculture, synthesizing the terms nature and culture, proposing their fundamental inseparability. Central to this project is the effort to pull apart hierarchical roots of the distinction between nature and culture and to examine the complex interrelationship that ties us together, as we are a part of nature too. Horizontality, as a nonhierarchical positioning among beings, along with Slow research[1] practices are crucial approaches to question natureculture and our own understanding of nature. This thesis looks to Nature Writing, Ecospirituality, Ecofeminism, and concepts of nature from Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Timothy Morton, William Cronon, and Jacques Pollini. In parallel, the art works of Andy Goldsworthy, Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller, and Martin Roth are considered for how each explores natureculture in practice. These theories and practices are stitched together in the diversity of approaches employed by each in their investigations of how we understand and relate to nature.

The research question guiding this thesis asks: how can visual communication probe us to rethink our relationship to nature? Through research and experimentation, the primary goals are to: initiate reflection upon and rethinking of our personal and cultural concepts of nature, focus on the current natureculture of Switzerland, and maintain the approach of horizontality and Slow research throughout. The methods used in this project include interviews with individuals whose work focuses around the ecological and cultural sphere, photography as a process-oriented tool, and video-based images inspired by the interview content that demonstrate emotional and ambiguous aspects of unearthing natureculture. Hence, the interviews support the project as both research and medium, enriching the complexity and diversity of natureculture.

Altogether, the composition of interview-audio, video, and sound becomes an intimate experience that reveals differing perspectives on natureculture and initiates self-reflection on concepts of nature. Although the final video outcome does not offer a solution to the issues of natureculture, it introduces questions that lead to further lines of inquiry, promoting the unlearning and rethinking of our own concepts of nature. In this work, it becomes clear that hierarchical thinking must be replaced with interdependent, collaborative, and horizontal thinking.

[1] Slow Research, founded and directed by Carolyn F. Strauss

Master Thesis
Spring–Summer 2022, HGK FHNW
Basel, Switzerland
Concept, Design, Production: Nicole Salnikov
Mentors: Dr. Selena Savić, Jiri Oplatek, Prof. Michael Renner

Short Film
Length: 8m34s

Camera: Leica IIIc rangefinder
Lens: Canon Serenar f/2.8 35mm, Industar-22 f/3.5 50mm

Process Documentation Book
Edition of 4
Format: 17 x 24 cm 
Pages: 148
Typeface: Univers LT Std
Paper: Puro 100 g/m2

Written Thesis Paper

Introductory Video
Length: 1m13s

© 2024 Nicole Salnikov