British artist Alex Hartley reflects on the power of nature in his latest work, A Gentle Collapsing II, as part of his After You Left exhibition at Victoria Miro in London. The work—set in the gallery’s garden—features an abandoned modernist dwelling that has been engulfed by a jungle landscape, provoking thoughts on decay, the built environment, and nature itself.
The aesthetically appealing juxtaposition of wild and the artificial goes hand-in-hand with Hartley’s take on modernism: The International Style house embodies the architectural movement’s ideals of form and structural purity, but all sense of order has been lost. The forest is the victor.
With A Gentle Collapsing II, Hartley references Plato’s notion of artifacts being in a “state of becoming.” In this instance, by making the audience explicitly aware of the building’s natural demise, viewers become all the more appreciative of its presence and its obviously finite existence. This too is a nod to another philosopher—Martin Heidegger—who said “mortals nurse and nurture things that grow and specifically construct things that do not grow.”
Subsequently, audiences are afforded lines of thought relating to entropy: What happened before the dwelling entered this state of dereliction? What were the possible paths of destruction that lead to this? What will/can happen next? The unpredictability of nature versus the rigid lineage of the building plays out for the viewer.
After You Left and A Gentle Collapsing II are available to see through December 16 this year.