The Oregon Center for Experimental Landscapes and Language Innovation



Art explicitly concerned with nature finds itself in a liminal place. In the face of globe-changing population, urbanization, degradation, development, and climate change, the pastoral erodes like overgrazed lands. Nature’s signs have long been appropriated by the ruling class and the marketplace. How can art avoid the same culpability? Well, the signs were never nature’s in the first place: though language and art evolve out of real environments, we confuse naming with mastery, depiction with seeing, description with knowledge, and narrative with time. 


Landscape, as we conceptualize and experience it, is highly variable in its details, but it is always open: it is space and conduit. It is outwardly physical, external even as we take it in. Its power comes of its autonomy. Even as we exploit and alter, degrade and destroy, aestheticize and worship: landscape is not merely us. Those who seek to “rule the earth,” or conversely, to “become one with nature,” must accept the true sense of scale involved. The simple subject is obliterated by nature’s vastness. Yet landscape, as a version of nature we might traverse and in some sense apprehend, is a nexus between the self and nature.


Possibilities? As landscape is open, so is landscape art.

Landscape art might well employ traditional approaches, but part of that tradition is innovation. Contemporary environmental realities, and the scales of those realities, necessitate reconceptualization. Landscape need no longer be presented as one among genre categories like “figurative” or “abstract.” And landscapes might intersect/interact with text, sound, and performance spaces as well as a wide array of visual environments.

Look around. Pastoral norms have been questioned. Nature/culture dualisms have been eroded. Traditional figure/ground relationships have been altered. Landscapes have been perceived as vital processes, active systems, and shifting dynamics, rather than as artifacts. Landscape may be seen as immersive rather than merely observed. 


Nature needs no authority: it encompasses. It requires no morality: it is neutral. Nature is unnamable, actually— a fact that writers, musicians, and artists might acknowledge as we bow to our need to create.

Unnamable? Nature: from Latin natura, "course of things; natural character, constitution, quality; the universe," literally "birth," from natus "born," past participle of nasci "to be born”

Birth? We do not come into this world from some ideal realm. Rather, we emerge from the world. And merge with it, thoroughly.


OCELLI presents contemporary landscape art. We value experiment as a means to a means. We crave innovation, not as progress, but because it animates the moment. Though we acknowledge their contextual influence, we do not bow to market forces, culture trends, academic authorities, or political movements. We seek not to be essentialist, but only to be born of need. 

-- John R. Campbell


OCELLI: eye markings for survival


Aposematic coloration is a term used to describe colors and/or patterns that act as a warning to predators that a potential prey species is unpalatable, toxic or dangerous. Defensive markings which have the effect of startling or frightening potential predators are known as diematic patterns. The commonest form of diematic defense is the use of ocelli. Usually these take the form of a pair of false-eye markings which can frighten away a predator, or at least startle it long enough for the insect to make its escape. In many butterflies and moths these ocelli are highly conspicuous and simulate the eyes of monkeys or raptors. Examples include Automeris Bullseye moths, Smerinthus Eyed Hawkmoths and the butterfly Inachis io. In others the ocelli are smaller and simulate the eyes of snakes or lizards. Field observations and laboratory experiments have confirmed that many insectivorous birds are deterred by aposematic and diematic markings. Some reef fish, too, employ ocelli, presumably to confuse predators. On the other hand, in certain instances, like the peacock's plumage, ocelli are employed to attract rather than repel.

-- adapted from Adrian Hoskins