Toxic Discourse

Large Parks on disturbed sites should be recognized as landscapes of consumption as well as production. It is tempting for designers of large parks built on abandoned industrial sites to heroicize the buildings and machines that remain. Such strategies, however, privilege the histories of production over the histories of consumption that are also embedded in such sites. This allows visitors to distance themselves from the histories of human, material, and chemical flows on and off the site, and to limit their own culpability in and responsability for such histories.(…)

Toxic discourse is an expression of a collectivity of consumer-citizens who perceive their environment through the lens of uncertainty and risk. Disturbed sites are byproducts of economic policies that viewed nature as a resource and that accepted environmental degradation as the inevitable consequence of technological progress. The experience of designed landscapes on and in disturbed sites can render visible the consequences of the economic, political, and social decisions that led to those risks.

Elizabeth K. Meyer, Uncertain Parks: Disturbed Sites, Citizens and Risk Society. (2007)

10369986_619454298189906_8759324547411185758_nÉdouard Manet, Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863)

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Collectif 6, Déjeuner sur l’herbe version

Dystopic​ Sunday

The negative foil to Manet’s Déjeneur sur I’herbe, or rather its mood of gaiety gone sour, is embodied in Seurat’s promenade piece: Un Dimanche à la Grande-Jatte. This picture is one single mosaic of boredom, a masterful rendering of the disappointed longing and the incongruities of a dolce far niente. The painting depicts a middle-class Sunday morning [sic] on an island in the Seine near Paris, and that is just the point: it depicts this merely with scorn. Empty-faced people rest in the foreground; most of the others have been grouped into Wooden verticals like dolls from the toy box, intensely involved in a stiff little walk. Behind them is the pale river with sailboats, a sculling match, sightseeing boats-a background that, despite the recreation going on there, seems to belong more to Hades than to a Sunday. A great load of joyless leisure is in the image, in the bright matt glare of its atmosphere and in the expressionless Water of the Sunday Seine, the object of an equally expressionless contemplation… As the workaday World recedes, so does every other world, everything, recede into watery torpidness. The result is endless boredom, the little man’s hellish utopia of skirting the Sabbath and holding onto it too; his Sunday succeeds only as a bothersome must, not as a brief taste of the Promised Land. Middle-class Sunday afternoons like these are landscapes of painted suicide which do not come off [even at that] because it lacks resolve. In short, this dolce far niente, if it is conscious at all, has the consciousness of an absolute non-Sunday in what remains of a Sunday utopia?

Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope (1954)

Georges Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (1884)

FIND IT ON THE MAP

Paul Signac, In the Time of Harmony: The Golden Age Is Not in the Past, It Is in the Future. (1895)

Paul Signac was a Seurat’s friend and follower. Notice how where Seurat paints isolated characters in the urban context, his friend draws compositive relationships that links his characters with his common activity in the countryside. This isolation of urban life is a line of reflection of those that work in urban landscapes.