IDSVA’s Cohort ’13 experienced the ICP’s Sebastião Salgado’s exhibition Genesis as part of the New York City Second Year Residency. The photographs nostalgically document remnants of untouched halcyons that remain elusive to development, thus colonization. Martin Heidegger would consider the dialectics of Salgado’s work through the poet Friedrich Hölderlin:
But where danger is, grows
The saving power also...
...poetically man dwells on this earth
Salgado’s photographs return us to a primordial beginning, dialectically exposing man’s will to power which has systematized and quantified the natural world through technology, a harbinger of “progress,” for political and economic ends. Namely, the entrenched system of patriarchal power over every Other. Salgado takes us to the plateau of the Kukenan Tepui in Venezuela, a mountainous region with formal parity to the topologies of Southeast Asia. The ambivalence of a geographical site that has yet evaded the colonizing narrative—this Heideggerian revealing of truth—remains, for a time, in Salgado’s photographs as the root of a pre-technological world. It is in this foregrounding of the recuperation of what will have been lost that Salgado’s black and white images provoke a Nietzschian active nihilism that will save nature from the affect of man, from dilettantism.
This “saving power” returns nature to its original halcyon state, one of organic becoming removed from the dangerously ill-considered affects of humanity. Thus we experience the uncanny when considering Salgado’s Genesis, a moving away from a home that has been ideationally destroyed, in search of a dynamic, new home. If Heidegger considers knowledge as being, as being relationally integrated with the world, Salgado’s work instigates a Lacanian shift from the immanent self to a self projected into his landscapes and thus partially out of the latent technology, an extension of affect, that habituates us to and organizes us within our world. Salgado’s work confirms death, the potential total death of the Urstate, and thus can instigate qualitative cultural growth by poeticizing and philosophizing beyond humanity’s particular and real resourcefulness that has been its destiny.