... Nature’s signs, I mean, function ecdytically rather than mimetically. They work by way of identity rather than by way of representation. Our modest suggestion is that the human mimesis might best be seen as an outgrowth of this species of sign, rather than as a radical rupture --the human exception-- which would set human representations of nature up against nature itself, looking at it as if across a great divide.
Bridging the illusory gap between ecdysis and mimesis, on this account, amounts to a small but crucial supplementation of the broader project of Kohn, Ingold, and others, which consists in collapsing, to the extent possible, the distinction between nature and culture. The aim is not to prove that human beings are ‘just’ animals, that a Le Corbusier apartment bloc is ‘just’ like a termite mound or that a Modigliani sculpture is ‘just’ like a cicada husk. Wherefore this modifier, ‘just’? It obscures the project, and betrays the position of the opponent who invokes it as having been settled in advance.
The aim is, rather, to regain, for nature, its lost share in what was once a vastly more capacious and ambitious science of aesthetics. Until the 18th century, culminating in Kant’s 1790 Critique of the Faculty of Judgment, the aesthetic regard was principally focused upon moss-covered rocks, tangled branches, leaves. Aesthetics, understood in Alexander Baumgarten’s sense as the science of perception, could not ignore the fact that living nature imposes itself on our senses in a particularly vivid, in a literally im-pressive way. Yet by the 19th century aesthetics has largely shrunken the scope of its interest to a small sub-class of human-made objects, those namely belonging to the ‘fine arts’. This shrinking had mostly to do with economics, with the increase of circulation of art objects as capitalist goods par excellence. But that system has largely collapsed, and now we are lurching around, trying to see what all we might be able to regard aesthetically besides the masterworks of painting and sculpture. We have tried out the aesthetic gaze on mass-produced objects, on object-less performance pieces, on celebrities lying in glass cases. Meanwhile nature --to invoke a medieval verb subsequently revitalized by Spinoza-- continues to nature, and to patiently await its rightful return, in a postcapitalist age, to the center of our aesthetic attention.