Land-Scope:The Machine in the Garden

Land-Scope:The Machine in the Garden


Steel, water, biomass

  • Artspace, Sydney, 1993
  • Tamworth Regional Gallery, 1993
  • Perth Institute Of Contemporary Art, 1994

My concern with the connection between the natural and the artificial and my growing awareness of global environmental degradation manifested in a series of three ecological installations in the 1990's, Land-scope (the Machine in the Garden), Seascape and World Between. Representations of nature and organic material (living and decaying) were combined in these large-scale installations that referred to a disjunction between nature itself and the attempt to represent, ideate and control it through the sciences and art. Spinoza distinguished between Natura naturans, nature ‘naturing’, being itself, mysterious, unquantifiable, indifferent to and beyond the conception of humanity and Natura naturata the notion of nature being ‘natured’, represented, constructed, domesticated and serving the utilitarian and psychological needs of humanity. This work has continued with recent works such as Desiring Machine. and Terroir/Boudoir which address our longing for and anxiety about the natural world.

The sub-title of the first work in this series was appropriated from the title of an important analysis of American attitudes to the natural world by cultural theorist Leo Marx that was influential on my thinking.


Artist Statement for Land-Scope:The Machine in the Garden

"Then God said let us make Man in our image and then let them rule over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air,...over allthe earth, and over all the creatures that creepeth over the ground. God blessed them and said to them,be fruitful and increase in number;fill the earth and subdue it."

Genesis 1,26,28


A rusted church/prison rises from a body of blue-green algae and weed infested water.

The Judeo-christian ethic with its explicit god given mandate to dominate the wild, to bend nature to mans’ culture is at a critical point. The world is no longer a vast wilderness sprinkled with fragile human settlement. The wild has been pushed into smaller and smaller pockets. The wild is now a garden that needs careful nurturing.

According to the Manichean tradition man was created in Gods image; a transcendant being removed from the vulgar mechanics of nature. Man was an angel fallen from the sky, not a humble beast risen from the earth. Sex was sinful, it became trapped in a rigid moral framework. Human nature is founded in this essential dialectic of culture/nature, the Appollonian and the Dionysian.

Nature has rebelled. The machine has poisoned the garden. Artificial nutrients upset the balance giving rise to monstrous monocultures. Populations of organisms explode, invading others niches.

The music of Lucifer in the Christian creation myth is echoed in the discord of mutated organisms severed from their subtle programming. Mans hubris has created an edifice that strives for the sky yet is imprisoned by the poisoned wastelands that spread at its feet.

Simeon Nelson 1993

Generously supported by Franco Belgiorno-Nettis and Transfield

Related Links
  • Essay by Ross Harley