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Zine LAYERS - part of the Terra Nullis project -
is a visual dialogue about methods in Earth sciences
by Xena Poleshchuk, Earth scientist and artist,
and Asya Kaplan, artist and curator.

Here you can see a web version of a zine that was already
printed in Russian with overlays of translucent paper.

Exploring this web-zine we suggest you to imagine
an old geological report with diagrams drawn by hand
on transparent paper and typed as a result of a field-work.

This work was inspired by our experience in natural sciences:
(Xena) has been studying past climate changes on Svalbard,
(Asya) has an education and field-work experience in soil sciences.
This background is the basis for our collaborative artistic research,
which lead us to idea of this project about methods
which we use in natural sciences:

As scientists, we are used to thinking about Earth sciences as the only representation
of natural reality, and about the scientist as the only mediator of nature.
As artists we would like to question: 1 - the role of the observer and 2 - how methods
of building scientific knowledge informs our image of reality.

Pic.N. Geological outcrop #M.

While trying to observe reality we simplify it
by systematically dissecting the environment into filtered objects.

The scientific approach raises the question -
Does singling out the object of study in this way
enhance our knowledge?
If not, so _________________?

A retreating glacier illustrates two different ways of perceiving
natural changes: on the one hand, its rapid melting become a signal
of climate crisis; on the other hand, the melting glacier itself
can be seen as dynamic object and thus a valuable object of study.
Time in the context of one glacier's lifespan could be perceived as a period
during which we observe its dissapearance.

Absense creates presense: a new form of life overtakes the territory.
In this case we no longer worry about climate change; we indifferently
observe the emergence of new life.
1 - Absence. Shows past contours of the glacier
which were part of it when one was mapped.

2 - Presence. Satellite imagery shows the position
of the glacier at the present moment.

To get closer to the object we use different instruments.

Changes to an observer's position lead to changes
of observation scales: we start from an aerial photo
which allows us to stay on a higher level
of generalization and then proceed to descriptional
field practices which include our subjective feelings -
for example, organoleptic methods in Earth sciences.

The proceeding scale supposes a maximum level of sterility -
the researcher dissects nature, cleanses it
of excessive information, and puts the processed image
in the eye of an instrument. Paradoxically,
the process of cleansing results in the opposite:
knowledge is soiled by the traces of our interpretations.
1 - first level, ecosystem/complex of landscapes.
Approximation method: remote observation
2 - second level, part of ecosystem/unit of landscape.
Approximation method: observation in situ
3 - third level, property/history of landscape.
Approximation method: microscope
Our knowledge of nature closes in upon itself,
culminating in a reduced image of natural processes.
The more we participate, the greater the distance
between nature and our image of it. By changing
our perspective and refusing distanced position
outside of studied system we could produce
knowledge which is closer to reality.
If not _____________ - how?

*instead of simplification, observe the entropy of natural systems, recognizing oneself as part of it (?)

*stop seeking order in chaos, stasis in dynamism, human-like in non-human (?)

*instead of adjusting nature, embed ourself in it (?)