Plastic Invader

The boundaries between urban nature and artificiality are blurring in the photographic works of Vanja Vukovic.

Over centuries urban settlements formed at their own rhythm. Cities evolved gradually with their inhabitants and their needs, responding to the conditions of the given surroundings. Although such urban landscapes are not areas of unspoiled nature, they still are structures that grew organically.
However, in the last decades, contemporary town planning has been accelerating rapidly. New developments no longer “grow”, but are imposed on the urban canvas, so to speak, or new land for building is developed.
Decisive are mostly speculative, commercial interests, and not the sustainable development of living space. “Nature” increasingly disappears from the grown townscape – be it organically grown urban structures, or plants, trees, green areas that are supplanted more and more.

In “Plastic Invader”, Vanja Vukovic traces the tracks of the grown and growing city in China. In Chinese town planning in particular (though not only there!) urban development can be observed that partly assumes extreme proportions, as do many other things. Ever larger areas are densely built-up with ever larger buildings, without regard for natural rhythms – neither of the residents, nor of the environment.
In Vukovic’s series that was taken in summer 2012, mainly in Shanghai, nature encounters plastic, artificial creations, constructions – no other material conveys more artificiality than plastic. An invasion by plastic, by the non-natural? Or an intrusion of nature into the artificial town? Trees, reeds, “weeds” reclaim green islands in a concrete city.
Vukovic’s photographs – snapshots in time that are afterwards combined in collages – develop a poetic visual language, revealing enigmatic sceneries to the observer. One’s gaze comes to rest on an in-front-of, on a behind-of, where architectural elements and plants are layered one upon the other, without any clear differentiation as to what takes centre stage. By means of the combination of motifs, the pieces literally unveil an ambiguous, multilayered complexity that prompts questions.
Nature and town encounter each other – what came first? Do building developments invade natural spaces, evolved towns? Or does nature intrude, does it push itself back into urban spaces?
And: can urban development be natural? What role do urban plants, green areas play? How do we live?

Simone Kraft, MA

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