Art and Ecology

Of course, our human-made artifacts inevitably retain an element of more-than-human otherness. This unknowability, this otherness, resides more often in the materials from which the object is made. The tree trunk of the telephone pole, the clay of the bricks from which the building is fashioned, the smooth metal alloy of the car door we lean against-all these still carry, like our bodies, the textures and rhythms of a pattern that we ourselves did not devise, and their quiet dynamism responds directly to our senses. Too often, however, this dynamism is stifled within mass-produced structures closed off from the rest of the earth, imprisoned within technologies that plunder the living land. The superstraight lines and right angles of our office architecture, for instance, make our animal senses wither even as they support the abstract intellect; the wild, earth-born nature of the materials-the woods, clays, metals, and stones that went into the building-are readily forgotten behind the abstract and calculable form.

From The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram