top of page


11.01 - 17.02.2018

Versus Art Project, Istanbul, Turkey


Emre Zeytinoğlu


There is a lot that has been speculated on the relationship between man and nature. The sum of hypotheses and arguments on the matter can accumulate to a some thousand pages when we think of where man stands in the world of nature since the beginning of time. And when we examine these arguments, the conclusion is that: 1. Man attempts to discover nature, 2. Man debates where to situate himself in the vast nature that he tries to explore... The way to exploring nature has never been changed: He first takes all in with the fives senses, expands the possibilities of the pre consumed data with his vast imagination and intellect, and finally takes a shot in designing an optimum “habitat” that travels beyond space and object... Perhaps this is a step in constructing the “mathematical world” and delving deeper into the universe. Because a “mathematical world” is one that transcends the ordinary senses of the mortal world. 


The true train of questions begins afterwards and are as follows: Who actually perceives nature, realizes it, and constructs the aformentioned “mathematical world” and its counterparts? One also wonders; who is it that transforms nature into one that is evaluated on mathetatical terms? The answer is quite obvious... Naturally, the mankind...If we were to delve deeper into the conversation, and continue from the classifications mentioned above, we must argue that: “Nature” only consists of an “object”, a “man”, and a “thought”. 


This trilogy lies on the very basis of the numerous attempts in expanding to the universe and defining it. And what might we derive from this? It is the idea that nature is a holistic phenomena in which man accepts and comprehends that not everything can be comprehended, and he abides by this continual flow of order. “There can be no idea where there is no experimentation” is a statement that was fully established in the last quarter of the 17th century, during the Western Enlightenment with crucial actors such as John Locke and Immanuel Kant. 


All these contemplations bring about a single conclusion: man’s constant battle in fixating nature to his own worldly order. After all, isn’t he who designs the perfected, optimum nature and defines what the universe stands for? 


The relationship between man and nature hasn’t in fact come along so smoothly but instead has given birth to endless debates. For example, if we were to focus solely on the arguments that arose especially during the 19th century, we would be faced with quite an interesting observation. To understand such an observation, one must first look at how Friedrich Hegel has allocated Kant’s ideologies. There is an apparent difference between the two; Kant argued that we could only judge and accept the being of “things” ( and of nature of course...) within the frame of their proportion to us, men. We could understand and evaluate the properties of things, but can not know it’s “thing-in-itself” ( Ding and sich ), meaning its main quality. It is crucial to underline that, man is able to comprehend that there are things he might not be able to comprehend. Kant, developed his very own definition of “self” according to this realization. On the other hand, Hegel’s approach was a tad different, which could be summarized in the idea that if man knew the properties of “things”, he would also be able to know the “things” themselves. The only thing left in this argument would be what was left outside the properties of “things” that man perceived, and if our senses, in the future, could develop enough to teach us just that, there would be nothing left unknown to mankind of the “thing-in-itself”. 

Hegel, along with fully rejecting Kant and his arguments, turned the idea of “self ” from an ideal envisagement into an idea described solely by its operational actions, which meant that a man’s relationship to nature was re-defined and re-constructed with his actions. Man found himself continously changing, while also dominating nature. In this case, Hegel argued that the relationshup between man and nature was a continuous battle, a never-ending quest, more than a universally accepted ideal and its rationalities. 

One must emphasize that the single rule to men’s awareness of himself relies on his victory over nature, which brings about it’s need to constantly move forward and conquer. Because this way, he will become one with nature, once he succeeds in reaches the knowledge of “things”. In this case, the rationality of moving forward, also means a level of humanization, and a level mutual sharing, an uninterrupted chain of change. 

Doesn’t Hegel’s idea of “constant change” expose man’s ability to change, evolve, dominate, and interrupt nature? What is emphasized here is a layer that outines man in relation to his own, and man in relation to his surroundings. On the other hand, Hegel has also suggested the very mutual change in the context of “self”, because in comparison to man’s battle with nature, he also is ( and must be ) in constant unison among each other. One “subject” or “self” could not become a whole unless it received approval regarding his humanly qualities and morals from another human, which suggests the foundation of a society. Man could only become a “subject” to the extent that he was able to oppress his own nature within. This act could be defined as a newly formed “nature”, one that constituted from man’s non-homogeneous free-will. And that is purely, “the second nature”. 

Kant also embaraced the term, “the second nature”. He was a significant source of inspiration for Hegel when discussing the practice of freedom in a ideal community. They suggested that the concept of “freedom” can not be examined through a communal lens, because it was apparent that the free spirit of individuals would eventually ask to behave on their own, hence sabotaging the very rights of freedom. “Freedom” was to be used as more of a critique against the obligations emposed by societal norms. When we approach Kant’s concept of the “second nature” from an aesthetics point of view instead of the lens of ideal society, we come across a much more distinct definition. Kant himself has used such definition widely, in context of the construction of the “subject”, when talking about the relationship between man and nature. According to Kant, the “subject”, meaning “man”, must discover his own nature within, and the relation to his surroundings in order to adopt certain morals and in order to grow. Frankly put, man must re-create nature, a second nature that is man-made, using the materials from the original. Whilst doing so, man must always continue the dialogue amongst each other, in which the conversation will be based on aesthetics. And aesthetics could only be achieved through “art”, which Kant spoke of as the objectification of spirit through the human genius and intellect. 

Kant’s findings of the “second nature” on the arts and aethetics has become one of the stepping stones in defining modern art. For example, when commenting on the polyphonc mustic of the Western culture in his book “Marxism and Form”, Fredric Jameson says; “Because polyphonic Western music is absolutely ‘out of nature’ as long as it is not an institutional equivalent in any other culture. / ... as if a new emotion was invented (because the mathematical language is so different from the ordinary one, the effective, interpreting concentration that determines this type of listening is so far from ordinary listening), a new organ has developed and a new type of perception has appeared. “ 

Jameson’s use of the term “out of nature” inevidently emphasizes a form of nature that is man-made, which adopts a language much like that of the language of the “mathematical world”. Furthermore, such language creates a neccessity to add a new layer of response whilst performing the act of listening. Man changes simultaneously whilst changing nature, and the mutual sharing continues. According to Jameson, the interchangeability between man and nature points to a move forward; When music breaks out of the natural world and begins to take place in a historicity, its development is linked to the history of an autonomous cult of self-creation. And what does this mean? That the man-made second nature constantly draws man into itself, which is defined as “progress”. 

All that has been written so far tells us that the “second nature” travels back and forth between mentality and practice, or between action and ideology ... In other words, it has a function of “inventiveness of ideal subjectivity” ... And on the other hand, an ideal “subject” which is in constant dialogue with the “second nature”, which can be defined by the “progress” within humankind. But there is another prominent situation here; which is that what is called “progress” is gradually changing its meaning ... There are numerous theoreticians and texts which emphasize that “progress” is actually a “process of the thought of death being absorbed by the soul.” For example, Friedrich Engels wrote, “The Industrial Revolution has lost its revolutionary character in 1830”. According to Engels, the bourgeoisie was more afraid of the working class than of feudalism, and that the bourgeois revolution was indeed moving towards becoming a socialist revolution. Following Engels’ words, Werner Sombart stated in 1913 that “progress” was a ridiculous idea, and that it destroyed any ideal action performed by men. Henry James mentioned in 1914 that the idea of civilization had fallen into a bloody and dark abyss. Max Ferdinand Scheler claimed in 1915 that the spirit of the modern civilization was not a “progress”, on the contrary, it was the decline of mankind. Italian philosopher Paolo Rossi notes that these pessimistic approaches on the meaning of “progress” had turned into a grand choir in the 1930s, where everyone sang all at once. 

Perhaps one of the most interesting approaches in critical thinking came from Emile Zola, who came close to Engels’ criticism of “progress”. In his novel “La Bête Humaine”, written in 1890, Zola describes a stray locomotive: “The locomotive was moving quickly and purposelessly in a state of increasingly irreverent fear of its own breathing ...” In the novel, locomotive engineer and machinist, had gone into a jealousy outrage, and both fell down during the train during the fight. The train absent of its machinist continues reaching an unsupervised pace. Passengers on board who are unaware of the happenings, begin to get drunk with the adrenaline of the train’s fast pace, breaking into cheerful songs and anthems. The reality that they are heading into the darkness of death is unexpected and hence impossible, as they are happily drunk by the speed. Zola, the author, repeteadly visualizesthe locomotive as an animal freed of its reins. Zola suggests that the passengers identify with the machine due to their satisfaction in the gradaully increasing speed of the train, which is a symbol of a form of animalization. 

However, theoreticians who argue that “progress”, which has become a fully accepted belief since the 19th century, has led to a level of degeneration with the concealment of social violence, has been ignored by those who perceive “progress” as a sacred concept. Rossi says, “It’s as if those thousands plus pages ( on progrss) have never been writte.” Thus, the concept of and “ideal subject” and therefore the concept of “progress” proposed has become, in particular, an instrument of capitalist systems, which has been corrupted with capitalist processes. 

Now we must turn our head to Gökhan Balkan’s work. Balkan in his work, advocates the “third nature” and speaks of the theory of “post human”. As he begins to explain the theory in his own text, he draws out the following conclusions: “It is clear to us today, that human beings are far away from what they have initially created, especially in the process of transitioning into industrialization and advanced capitalism. The concepts may be naive, but the mind is distorted as it passes through the filter of the intellect, in order to serve the dominant segment within a society. Out of this context, the post-human theory seems to suggest a correction, a revision. And within this process of correction, it breaks away from the system of anthropocentric humanism."

The exerpt from Balkan’s text suggests that the phrase “human being” is a critique of a human philosophy that takes its roots from the 18th century Enlightenment. A more elaborate definition could be presented as: the idea of rebuilding a world where the “subject” that has been distanced from “everything” around it or from “every object”... or the idea that relates the “subject” to its surroundings, which are then associated with the human body...A “body philosophy” that is re-invited in to the body of the “subject” which was once forgotten in a spirited environment. This process of inclusion tells us how the body is shaped in relation to the systems of power and what kind of identity is given to us in the world we live in. The following inscriptions in the same text by the artist contain more information about the relationship between body and power. Gökhan Balkan continues as; ”You must have a dominant identity to survive within this nature, and only with your identity do you become an accepted part of it. It is not possible for bodies to refuse to be subjected to the regulations. The wholesome couple that is the body/mind that are present in the City-Language- Communication channels trilogy that surround you, is enforced upon you from head to toe. Because of these very reasons, the post human theory suggests that men should live in a unison along with all living beings who are not confined to the human body in a different nature.” 

The artist here is introduces the idea of a hybrid body; a “moment” in which the distinction between man- animal-machine, city or technological apparatus is integrated with the human body and enters into a “flow” along with it. Then, what we call “human beings” is literally translated as “border-destruction.” Let’s remind ourselves of Jean Baudrillard’s critique of Andy Warhol’s book; “Transparency of Evil” where he wrote: “Where the others seek an additional spirit, he calls that additional machine; Where they seek an additional meaning, he calls for an extra artificiality. He damages the wizardry of the machine through the reproduction of the ordinary precision of the world, becoming less and less true to self and less contrived. 


It would be a shame to bypass the following by Witold Gombrowicz: “Being a person means being an actor, imitating to be human. It is to act like a human being, even if he is not human in his essence. What can be asked of him is for him to only be aware and accepting of his artificiality, and confess it in return.” 

The overall result? It is now time to build a man-made robot inspired by his own true essence. It is now time to fully adopt and understand “The Third Nature”. 

bottom of page