Artist James Prosek: Why Categorize and Limit Nature into File Cases?

Artist James ProsekRemember memorizing taxonomy in our biology classes? – “Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus …” But why do we really try to name and categorize every species our eyes lay on? Why do we attempt to label the natural world? James Prosek, “professional observer”/artist asks in his creative works…

Humans/scientists have this seemingly obsessive impulse to categorize every species despite its inherent traps and deceptions – like the platypus, the furred beaver mammal that looks like a duck and lays eggs. (The mixed characteristics and confused categorization only led taxonomists to invent a new order for the platypus: the Monotremata.)

James Prosek, like the platypus, is someone who defies classifications. You can regard him as a writer playing music, a painter who likes fishing, or a naturalist or explorer sculpting and making films. And unlike many self-professed nature lovers who admire the world in the comfort of their own homes, Prosek’s ardor for nature is real.

“Through trout work I found how unreliable naming systems are. You can’t really define a species. Humans need to name things in order to communicate. But you can’t take a fluid thing and chop it up into pieces.”

His advice to people inclined to biophilia is,

“[Don’t] accept the conventional rules that are force-fed to you. When you visit a museum, nature is presented to you in certain way. That’s not anything real—that’s the decision of a few people, the interpretation of a few people… The world is there not for naming. Look for yourself and un-name and rename the world for yourself… The truest experience is seeing things for yourself.”

Read more about his works, thoughts, and childhood and current natural explorations: Artist James Prosek: Why Force Nature Into Boxes/

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