Unreal Nature

June 4, 2016

Extra-terrestrial Space

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… Places and landscapes are no longer thought of by geographers simply as bounded containers, but as constellations of connections that form, reform and disperse in space and over time.

This is from Geography and Vision: Seeing, Imagining and Representing the World by Denis Cosgrove (2008):

… Both landscape and map are strongly pictorial terms, and this connects them intimately with the principal theoretical focus of this book: vision. Writers on landscape have consistently referred to the tension between the word’s Germanic roots as a quasi-legal definition of an area characterized by the shared customs of an agrarian community, and its more modern and popular sense of a view of physical scenery, whose unity is aesthetic: a product of such visual qualities as composition, form, and color.

… While contemporary landscape studies in geography are acutely sensitized to the complex and always fluid social, economic, cultural and political currents that work alongside ecological and environmental processes to shape the visible scene, it is precisely the form, stability and appearance of the land to the eye — of the nationalist, the tourist, the local activist — that act as the spur to both the academic interest and political action surrounding landscape. The connection between landscape and vision remains powerful.

… The distance between conventional usage and the metaphorical meanings of mapping as a cognitive spatial practice has shortened considerably in recent scholarship, so that all sorts of purely mental and imaginative constructs are now treated as maps, while supposedly objective and scrupulously accurate scale renderings of real world distributions are regarded as inescapably dyed with ideological, psychological and other subjective hues.

[line break added] Yet what remains consistent throughout the changing study of the map, within and outside geography, is its graphic reference. Mapping remains a way of representing the world; the map remains a visible image of the (or at least a) world.

… My aim is to reveal and interrogate some of the myriad ways in which the vast and varied earth known to humans, in whole or in part, and at times in extension to spaces beyond the earth’s surface, has been imagined and represented as a place of human habitation, care and desire, and to do so through the medium of graphic images.

[ … ]

… much of the focus within human geography here on earth no longer connects necessarily to the material, mappable spaces of the physical environment, but works with the virtual spaces of imagination or of social interaction and connectivity, and with networks that do not necessarily depend upon the presence of material human bodies. In this respect, we might note in passing how many of the geographic networks we study extend into extra-terrestrial space, encompassing the dense landscape of satellites that now marks the innermost celestial sphere.

[line break added] Places and landscapes are no longer thought of by geographers simply as bounded containers, but as constellations of connections that form, reform and disperse in space and over time. Dwelling or inhabiting space is as much imaginative and conceptual as it is visceral and sensual. Such a perspective suggests that extra-terrestrial space does not have to be physically occupied in order to fall within the domain of cultural geography.

… Cultural geography devotes much energy to exploring the meanings of place and human experience, of dwelling attachment and rootedness. The tensions between these themes and those of mobility and cosmopolitanism, and the consciousness of belonging to a more diverse, complex and global space, created and sustained by social connections, are central to the theoretical concerns of cultural geographers in a globalizing world. … Yet for all its critical sophistication, the attention of cultural geography has tended to remain fixed on the surface of the earthly sphere.

… But, as the works of contemporary artists remind us, and as their Renaissance predecessors knew well, to lose the sense of the heavens is to risk losing also that of earth. Both spheres are inseparably connected to human existence. … As von Humboldt himself pointed out:

a sense of longing binds still faster the links which, in accordance with the supreme laws of our being, connect the material with the ideal world, and animates the mysterious relation existing between that which the mind receives from without, and that which it reflects from its own depths to the external world.

To be continued.

-Julie

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