R.G.S. is a geographic society first sketched out by Jussi Kivi rather as an imaginary than a real existing society. But the idea proved to be so appealing that in 1999 it became necessary to put the loose association of artists on a firm ground. Therefore the Romantic Geographic Society was founded on 1st of May 2000.
The ideological heritage of Romanticism has a very central role in modern culture, and the effect of Romantic sentiments can be felt in many areas of social life. The modern myth of art and the notion of an artist as a mythical truth seeker who embodies creative genius and individual liberty cannot be thought of without reference to the concept of Romanticism. The modern depiction of nature and the environment reflects ways of thinking derived from the Age of Romanticism. That is why we avow ourselves unashamedly as Romantics we are part of something greater than life itself.
But RGS does not reify or repeat Romantic interest and experience as a mean in itself, but uses them to clarify and criticize our own immediate interests and experiences. The »Romantic Revolution« can not be repeated... (but one of the essences of Romanticism is still the protest). The assumption is that the past and the present differ, and that the failure to recognize this difference alters the present and therefore the future. Describing the nature of this difference is thus an absolutely crucial task for RGS.
Romantic Geographic Society (RGS) is an international society whose philosophy is based on new Romantic principles. It draws inspiration from natural beauty, physical environments, curiosity and inexplicable longing. Traditional geography has for its object the integrated study of the earths landscapes, peoples, places and environments. Romantic geography is bound to the same definition but in addition strives to emphasize a Romantic perspective, and brings artistic means to the forefront of its research.
Excerpts from the philosophy of the Romantic Geographic Society
- The sensory world of direct experiences should not be abandoned.
- While the Society is not hostile towards the industrial-academic culture of science, it does endeavour to challenge the prevailing views by presenting many views that have been undervalued and completely ignored in many fields of science.
- We insist that environments and species not be studied merely objectively as themselves and in their relation to each other but rather in relation to the observers themselves.
- If necessary, we admit that any subject whatsoever is worth sanctifying.
- Understanding nature is not merely an intellectual but also an emotional experience.
- Like other societal institutions, we have a propagandistic strategy that is based on built myths. Our grand story and our description are nevertheless based on our experiences of a reality that is undeterminable but directly observable by the senses.
- Nothing is unnatural to us. (»Natural Supernaturalism«)
Activities of the Society
The Romantic Geographic Society strives to unite the activities of otherwise isolated workers in the field of Romantic geography, and to amplify their voices. Furthermore, the Society endeavours to strengthen the spirit of Romanticism in society. In practice, RGS encourages and supports excursions and field work, the production of works of art, the collection or creation of artifacts and the collection of research material. The duties of the Society also include the popularization of Romantic geography and the provision of information in order to make people more aware of the spirit of Romanticism in these hard times. The members of the Society share an interest in the wild life of nature and the history of Romantic-scientific philosophy, and they often draw artistic inspiration from landscapes. An ideal member is a passionate non-professional; he is conscious, curious and intellectually alert. His actions are not controlled only by his willpower but his intuition. He does his work under the influence of emotions akin to religious feelings or the state of mind when falling in love. He can sense the mystic flavours and nuances of reality and understand the mythical nature of our world views. Even though art, science and imagination are passionate by nature, he does not regard them as simply manic fanaticism, savant idiocy or frivolous escapism. He flies with the wings of his imagination but stands on his own two feet.
The basis for RGSs research activities is the perception of the environment. The members of the Society have made expeditions to faraway places all over the world, walked on roads and pathless trails. They have spent nights in the bushes of metropolitan outskirts and around campfires in distant wildernesses. Distance, however, is not always relevant. Important work has been done also in our neighbourhoods. Even longing for faraway places can express itself here and now and one must anyway return from each journey. The wild side of nature offers inspiration, no matter where one is; at the foot of a post-industrial mountain of waste, or deep in the woods, or on snowy hill tops.
Some members have endured the rigours of the forces of nature in harsh climates or survived in the darkest corners of restless urban wastelands. However, we are not in favour of mystifying extreme heroic journeys, nor do we seek to beat obstacles but we are not afraid to face them. The forces moving us forward are Romantic longing for faraway places, curiosity, the ideal of truth, and yearning for beauty.
A few of RGSs principles of action
- Exploring notions and values attached to certain geographical regions and the North, the South, the East and the West.
- Promoting active and healthy outdoor life.
- Spreading the understanding of natural beauty to society through pedagogical action.
- Establishing progressive nostalgia.
- Roaming and lazing around in the wilds.
- Developing the sense of time and place.
- Worshipping of beauty and reverie.
- Expressing inexplicable longing.
- Promoting a global emotional relation to nature on a local level.
- Acting directly (»Direct Action«).
- Subjugating art as a political tool of deepening the perception of nature and its poetic experience.
- Resisting nationalism and all kinds of imperialism.
- Resisting learned but »anti-intellectual« people.
- Understanding that scientific and economic activities are emotion-based because so called »emotionlessness« is also an emotion.
- Advocating unconventional imagination, also as a counter force to unimaginative conventionality.
- Being socially alert and awake, which means taking the above-mentioned principles into consideration.
- Recognizing the mysteriousness of the life of nature and confessing that this is the source of sublimity.
The membership of the Society
Since the aims of the Society are honourable, its core membership consists only of honorary members. The only requirements for those invited to the membership are that they shall not question the spirit of Romanticism without serious grounds nor engage in conduct which may prejudice the reputation of the Society. Members may mention their membership in their CVs. The Society also has external members. These members are selected on the basis of their Romantic attitudes, even though they themselves might deny being Romantic in essence. External membership does not obligate a person in any way, and the person cannot revoke the membership. There are also »hang-around members« who for some reason whatsoever do not even know they are members or even that RGS exists but who nonetheless contribute to its aims.
The official Website of R.G.S. is still under preparation. For inquiries concerning the activities of the Society send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Download the R.G.S. Manifest+Structure (pdf)
Download the R.G.S. catalogue 2001 (pdf)
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All images: R.G.S. Annual Exhibition 2003 / Galleria Huuto