Embodiment, Technology and Ecological Awareness at the Site of Deep Ecology

by Tine Blom

The research project

I am an artist and research practitioner who is interested in nature, ecology and the practice of field recording. In this research, I explore, articulate artistically and elaborate theoretically my experience of the area by Tvergasteinstjørnet at Hallingskarvet mountain range at the geographical centre of southern Norway. This is the site and source of Deep Ecology and joy and wonder are part of the motivation.

I am interested in the on-going practice of being on the mountain, how it heightens sensitivity to its forces and textures and what they tell about what is happening. Moreover, I am interested in how technology influences experience and knowledge of the mountain.

I aim to evoke ecological awareness through embodied encounters, through the practice of field recording and in dialogue with my recorded materials. Moreover, I explore ways to articulate different aspects of the mountain experiences through diaries, recordings and audiovisual artworks.  

The urge to express and communicate this particular site turned into the research questions: How do I convey nature and nature experience through audiovisual artworks?  What is the impact of technology on my experience and what can I learn from recordings and artworks?

This calls for more depth regarding the concept of nature, how I gain knowledge of nature and what can I learn from experience. The philosophical foundation for this is Alfred North Whitehead (Whitehead 1964; Stengers 2011) and Næss (Næss 1973; 1976), which I will shortly present on page 2.

Bridging the gap between the real mountain, my experiences when I am there, the recordings and artworks turned out to be impossible. I reflect on why this is so and what is lost in the transmission and what might be the contribution of artistic research.

Rather than asking what I find at the intersection between the mountain and me, as is the phenomenological position (Merleau-Ponty 1966), I ask what is happening out there on the mountain that is causing a particular perception, experience or thought. The aim is not introspection; I intend to keep the attention oriented outwards.

Artistic research: methodologies and methods

The methodologies are practice-led research and autoethnography, and it is site-specific with similarity to a case study. Research questions and themes develop through the process, and there is an interchange between practice and theory that feeds back into the research process (Nelson 2013).

Autoetnography provides the artist-researcher with three roles or voices: the sensory participant and artist, the reflective subject, and the analyst. This gives access to the complexities and nuances of perception and are resources for artistic articulation and theoretical reflection (Ellis 2004), (Sunstein and Chiseri-Strater 2007). I elaborate on theories or perception in page 2.

I combine several practices that during the research process change between being research themes, methods, experiments and part of the outcomes. 

The core practice is field recording. I make photographs, sound recordings and videos and I write diaries where I document and reflect on what happens on the mountain.  

I read literature from a range of disciplines, among them philosophy, nature science, social science and art- and media studies, where I search for concepts and theories that inform and resonate with my experiences. For example, the readings encouraged attention to sensory perceptions and embodiment, and tool theory helped to make sense of experiences with recording technology. Altogether, the readings made nuances of nature experiences more significant and helped to identify their connection to broader issues and to research themes of other disciplines.

Art is both method and research outcome. Artistic articulation helps to clarify the vagueness of sensory experiences. As an ongoing practice, it feeds back into the fieldwork and thereby enhances sensibilisation. The photographs, sounds and artworks help to articulate and communicate mountain experiences in ways that I could not do otherwise. They are like reports of stages during the process, and they are parts of the research outcome.

Moreover, I have studied other artists with similar research concerns. I compare and discuss how my research relates to James Balrog’s Chasing Ice (Balrog 2012a; 2012b) and to Eija Timonen’s Icephery and the Ice score – concepts for a multisensory approach (Timonen 2019) with emphasis on how we explore, make sense of and communicate what happens in our respective research sites.

The site of Deep Ecology

Hallingskarvet mountain range stretches east to west, about 1500m above sea level. Here is Tvergasteinstjørnet, which is about two-three hours uphill walking distance from society’s infrastructure such as railways, roads, shops and electricity. I have wandered and practiced field recording here for about ten years, through various seasons and exposed myself to a broad range of weather conditions. 

This is where the philosopher Arne Næss (1912–2009) wrote his ‘Ecophilosophy T’ or ‘Deep Ecology’ (Næss 1973; 1976). The 'T' refers to his cottage Tvergastein, named after the tarn.  Etymologically, it means dwarf stone, or rock crystal, which, according to Norwegian folklore, were forged by the dwarfs (Raade 2009). 

‘Deep Ecology’ is based on the premise that the biosphere and ecosystems have a natural self-regulation in the form of symbiosis between species, including humans. Næss considers an awareness of being part of this natural symbiosis as a source of happiness – the process of discovery and wonder creates joy.

A basic principle of Deep Ecology is: "The well-being and flourishing of human and non-human life of Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: inherent worth, intrinsic value, inherent values). These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes." (Bhaskar, Høyer et al. 2012, 86).

In this research, I am interested in how the experience of ‘inherent value’ of the mountain comes about in real life practice. I am interested in what the ‘T’ or Tvergastein implies, beyond being a symbol or myth.  I am interested in the textured materiality and the forceful aliveness of the mountain and the sensorial, affective and emotional experience of them. Moreover, I am interested in whether recording technology is facilitator or barrier.

Ecological awareness

In this research, ecological awareness is moments of epiphany, a deeply felt sense and an understanding. It is holistic, implying that everything is interdependent and part of larger processes. It is non-anthropocentric in the sense of experiencing oneself as a tiny, integrated part of nature and the understanding that humans are not the centre of the universe. 

From ecological awareness follows humbleness. It follows from an open and conscious orientation towards outward reality. It means to be sensitized to how weather, terrain, humans and other species are interdependent. Ecological awareness is the capability to connect what one senses, sees and hears to what happens in nature. This requires  to transcend, see or imagine nature beyond human culture and beyond technologically mediated perceptions.

This is a process. It is to be touched, bodily and emotionally, like in this case being exposed to the winds in a literal sense, and it is to develop thought and conceptual framework. Awareness happens with the ability to connect what is sensed with the emotional and intellectual level of consciousness. 


In the following pages, I elaborate on the concept of nature and the ecology of the mountain (page 2), on nature, perception and embodiment (page 3), and on field recording and technology (page 4).  Finally, I reflect on themes and methods of Artistic research in relation to the works of other artists (page 5). The last page is References (page 6).