Browse Exhibits (6 total)

Capitalist Nature

Capitalist Nature is a "product of a particular phase of history -- patriarchal capitalist modernity" which means that "capitalist nature is uniform, legible, manageable, harvestable, Fordist (Escobar 1999, p. 7). 

There are a good number of car ads which display the features of a Capitalist nature. Escobars observation and distillation of Capitalist nature is spot on enough for us to easily identify the features in the ads that represent the socio-historical shift of the cultural world and attendant landscapes we inhabit.


  1. The landscape is portrayed via a linear perspective; that is, the particular point of view usually this perspective places the viewer outside of the imagined landscape "and thus outside of nature and history" (Escobar 1999; p. 6)
  2. The landscape is usually objectified as a vista, that allows us to see vast amounts of space from one vantage point. This is indicative of the surveillance regime, "and a talizing make gaze which objectifies landscape and women in particular ways." (Escobar, 1999; p. 6)
  3. Totalizing gazes are always accompanied by a scripted "passive role deprived of agency under a totalizing perspective that create[s the impression of unity and control." (Escobar 1999; p. 6) 
Escobar's summation of the Capitalist regime of nature is made more complete with Alexander Wilsons (1992) observation that we can apply to the ads:
  1. "The speeding car is a metaphor for progress. It is always moving ahead, although the effect is the opposite, as if the landscape were moving past us, into the inconsequential shadows of history." (Wilson, 1992; p. 34)


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Freedom & Repose

The inspiration for the exhibit "nature as freedom and repose" comes from Alexander Wilson (1992) who notes that the ideals of camping, normadic roaming in a trailer-camper, and SUVv's have shaped the American physical landscape. I would add that the advertisements build on this American mythos by insinuating that the car itself is key to *feelings* of freedom, which makes nature the proof of the cars abililty to transform a mundane suburban, 9 to 5 middle class life into a rugged-adventure waiting to happen. Wilson notes that the "physical mobility [provided and represented by the cars] is standing in for the dream of social mobility that North American society has been unable ot deliver." (Wilson, 1992, p. 31-32) 

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These ads featured 'nature" however they did not align with any of the other exhibitions.

Nature as Servant, Victim or Well-Loved Pet

Nature as a Servent, Victim or well-loved pet is a trope suggested by Alexander Wilson in his discussion of car culture and the evolution of the environmental movement wherein Nature was understood to be something which required human protection from unnatural, destructive forces. 

This category is comprised of seemingly different nature roles, but they all have in common the lack of agency and the feeling of being maneuvered or manipulated by a powerful entity. Interestingly, these ads have a common tag "corporate responsibility" which hearkens directly to Wilson's assertion that nature needed caretakers to protect it. 

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Technonatures appear within the car advertisements as claims of technologies imbued with human-like senses. The ads will portray the machines and their attendant technologies as superior to the most notable abilities of charismatic animals or human-animals. The claims will casually liken technological function to biological-based ability.

While Escobar (1999) envisioned the potential for technonature to increase our sensitivity to and appreciation of the different iterations of our natural world, within car advertising, the notion serves to further essentialize that which is considered natural into a component part so as to magnify the import of the technology. In car ads, technonature is also used to evoke the viewer’s sympathy for nature as an entity in need of our care, with the hybrid automobile noted as the panacea to save the natural world.




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Tourist Nature

Scenes of Tourist Nature are based on the American cultural notion of visiting an unsullied, "pure nature" landscape (Wilson, 1992, p. 22). Such edenic idylls are located far from any built environments, and are reachable only by long highway trips. The excitement of adventure (and some nationalist pride) about travelling on U.S. highways to reach national parks and other "untrammeled refuges" (Wilson, 1992, p. 27) is ingrained in this ideal.

According to Alexander Wilson,  tourist nature is identifiable by:


  1. Pastorally designed verges that capture the driver's eye just after scanning the pavement
  2. Organized vistas or curves that direct the long look "down over deep valleys and countless ranges receeding into the blue distance". (Wilson, 1992, p.36)
  3. The occasional nostalgic glimpse of a farm or mill..." (Wilson, 1992, p.36-37). 
  4. Commercial society is hidden from view, no productive landscapes, rather 
  5. "Nature appears to produce itself with no apparent relation to the cultures that inhabit it, or used to" (Wilson, 1992, p. 37). 




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