A point of no return: Artistic transgression in the more-than-human world

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One of the characteristics of arts-based environmental education is that it encourages participants to be receptive to nature in new and uncommon ways. The participant is encouraged to immerse him or herself in nature, to seek a “deep identification.” In my paper I explore if there could be cases where such immersion may reach – or even go beyond – a point of no return. A point, where the “intertwining” with nature causes the subject to sever the “life lines” to the world which would enable him or her to maintain the psychological, cultural and spiritual integrity of the ego. The dissolving of the ego’s boundaries through artistic practice can be seen as having certain shamanistic qualities, specifically in cases when this transgression involves efforts to connect with other animal species. Such undertakings may constitute – at least in the perception of the shaman-artist – a form of “going native,” becoming “one” with the non-human Others.
As relevant cases I discuss the “trespassing” from the world of culture into the world of nature by Joseph Beuys in his famous studio encounter with a coyote and Timothy Treadwell entering the life-world of the grizzly bears in Alaska, for which he ultimately paid the price of death (the tragic story was documented in Werner Herzog’s film “Grizzly Man”).
I analyze these phenomena along the distinction between Apollonian versus Dionysian sensibility in cultural activity as articulated by Nietzsche. Finally I discuss some pedagogical implications for teachers and facilitators who encourage an attitude of radical amazement and vulnerability in arts-based environmental education.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Environment, Embodiment & Gender
Place of PublicationBergen, Norway
PublisherHermes Text.
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9788299759755
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • ecological philosophy
  • art-based environmental education


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