22 March 2008

Promiscuity, philosophy, democracy and Unreal Nature

In matters informational, I tend to promiscuity. I take the same British newspaper every Sunday, and there are two others (of diametrically opposed political stance) which I read roughly once a week, but for the most part I try to range over the gamut of the available press (the Assam Tribune today; New York Times tomorrow; Shabab Yemeni the day after that; Australian Times...)

I take the same approach to blogs. There are a couple that I look at every day, a couple more that I call in on regularly but less frequently; for the rest, I skip around and one here, one there...

As I commented to Thinking through my fingers earlier today, politics tend to be tribal; in fact views and opinions on many things tend to be tribal, and chreodic too. Reading the same things all the time, in my opinion, entrences tribalism and chreodicity. Democracy thrives on mental independence, which in turn thrives on plurality of information sources and viewpoints.

At the same time, despite all that, I do have those sources I visit more often ... and, of course, they tend to be ones with which I have something in common. You won't find, in the list of "other voices" to the right of this column, any habitual supporters of military adventurism, nor strident creationists - I'm careful to listen to both, despite my disagreement, but they're not in my top ten regular ports of call.

Yesterday I discovered a new addition to the list: Unreal Nature which shares its name with a website by the same person, digital artist Julie Heyward.

When I first started to do something with my photo.net subscription, four months ago (a couple of years after first joining photo.net ... I'm not one of nature's fast movers) I was attracted to the "Philosophy of Photography" discussion forum. I soon discovered that there was actually very little philosophy discussed in there (nothing necessarily wrong with that - just my own misperception), but Julie Heyward was exception. Once again, I was slow (another four months) to follow the trail from those forum posts first to her profile and portfolio, then to her website and blog - but having arrived there, I'm captivated.

Her Sky Stones and Four Ways series particularly hold me, singing in harmony with landscape artists like Martin Hill, Richard Long or Andy Goldsworthy, but to melodies and cadences all their own. I particularly love Four Ways 1037, in which the single line of the snake curves as a mark making signature across the formally multiplied kaleidoscope of the ground.

So much for the website. The blog (you'll see that it has joined my "other voices" list) is equally compelling, on different grounds. If I was taken by Ms Heyward's willingness to talk philosophy at photo.net, I'm even more impressed on her home ground. Recently, for example, she responds to the assessments of Robert Sokolowski and Peter Singer with an intriguing suggestion that digital manipulation (by undermining lazy, uncritical and unjustified assumptions that photographic images speak unadulterated truth) encourages critical thinking and thus actually buttresses democracy.