Taylor-Made

These semiotic features on landscape, and the historical narratives they generate, are tailor-made for the discourse of imperialism, which conceives itself precisely (and simultaneusly) as an expression of landscape understood as an inevitable, progressive development in history, an expansion of “culture” and “civilization” into a “natural” space in a progress that is itself narrated as “natural”. Empires move outward in space as a way of moving forward in time; the “prospect” that opens up is not just a spatial scene but a projected future of “development” and explotation. And this movement is not confined to the external, foriegn fields towards the empire directs itself; it is typically accompained by a renewed interest in the re-presentation of the home landscape, the “nature” of imperial center. 


William J. Thomas Mitchell, Landscape and Power (1994)

Dan Killey + Eero Saarinen + Ian Tyndall, Jefferson National  Expansion Memorial (1965)

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Theses on Landscape

1. Landscape is not a genre of art but a medium.

2. Landscape is a medium of exchange between the human and the natural, the self and the other. As such, it is like money: good for nothing in itself, but expressive of a potentially limitless reserve of value. 

3. Like money, landscape is a social hieroglyph that conceals the actual basis of its value. It does so by naturalizing its conventions and conventionalizing its nature. 

4. Landscape is a natural scene mediated by culture. It is both a represented and presented space, both a signifier and a signified, both a frame and what a frame contains, both a real place and its simulacrum, both a package and the commodity inside de package. 

5. Landscape is a medium found in all cultures. 

6. Landscape is a particular historical formation associated with European imperialism.

7. Theses 5 and 6 do not contradict one other. 

8. Landscape is an exhausted medium, no longer viable as a mode of artistic expression. Like life, landscape is boring; we must not say so. 

9. The landscape referred to in Thesis 8 is the same as that of Thesis 6.

William J. Thomas Mitchell, Landscape and Power (1994)

Taylor, Cullity, Lethlean Landscape, North Wharf Promenade (2011)

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Artifice

Landscape may be represented by painting, drawing, or engraving; by photography, film, and theatrical scenery; by writing, speech, and presumably even music and other “sound images”. Before all those secondary representations, however, landscape is itself a physical and multisensory medium (earth, stone, vegetation, water, sky, sound and silence, light and darkness, etc.) in which cultural meanings and values are encoded, whether they are put there by the physical transformation of a place in landscape gardening and architecture, or found in a place formed, as we say, “by nature”. The simplest way to summarize this point is to note that it makes Kenneth Clark’s title, Landscape into Art, quite redundant: landscape is already artifice in the moment of its beholding, long before it becomes the subject of pictorial representation.

William J. Thomas Mitchell, Imperial Landscape (1994)

Henri Bava + Agence TER, Aqua Magica Park (2000)

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