Unreal Nature

August 13, 2016

A Loss of Nearness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… things and places can be properly understood only through nearness and intimacy …

This is from the essay ‘Three Tyrannies of Contemporary Theory’ found in The Landscape Imagination: Collected Essays of James Corner 1990– 2010 (2014):

For, if without prophecy there is no hope, then without memory there can be no communication. — Colin Rowe, Collage City (1978)

… Faith has been superseded by reason in a world now governed primarily by the logic of modern technology and global economics. Heidegger refers to the resulting human condition as a “loss of nearness” or a loss of intimacy between humans and their environment as well as between people and their communities. Clearly much of built environment today reflects this estrangement and is perpetuated by most contemporary attitudes toward theory and practice in landscape architecture and the related arts.

… “contemporary thought is now endangered by the picture drawn by science,” wrote theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg. “This danger lies in the fact that the picture is now regarded as an exhaustive account of nature itself, so that science forgets that in its study of nature it is merely studying its own picture.”

… On what grounds may we discover an alternative, especially one pertaining to landscape architecture? The answer can be found in the articulation of a critical (that is, nondogmatic) and interpretive attitude toward history, culture, tradition, nature, and art, the basis of which lies in three working assumptions.

First, the world is not omniscient, as modern technology might have us believe. Luminous and opaque, the lifeworld does not fit neatly into any one viewpoint. In an indeterminate, poetic world resistant to full capture, the disclosure of one aspect necessarily conceals another. In any understanding there is simultaneously light and shadow, giving and withdrawing. This means that all previous understanding is not in itself wrong, untrue, or without value, even though it may have long been discarded.

… interpretation is always in response to a particular situation, replete with specific sets of circumstances. While much of today’s theory is derived from a scientific approach — which tends to produce an ideal from a hypothetical or artificial arrangement — interpretation is always situated within particular contexts and must respond flexibly to the specific circumstances within which the interpreter operates.

… because interpretation is situated and circumstantial, it never presumes to be anything more than interpretative and partial.Interpretation recognizes its own incompleteness, working with smaller units of inquiry as opposed to grand utopian models or holistic schemata.

… things and places can be properly understood only through nearness and intimacy, through bodily participation. A theory and practice that simultaneously emerges from and engages in this realm of perception is therefore qualitatively different from the application of a priori conceptual orders, which are analogous to mathematical logic or rational planning and always precede action.

[line break added] It is only through the actual undertaking of perception based work — imaginary drawings, models, artifacts, and the actual building of landscapes — that the landscape architect can best find access to the cinematic richness of landscape space and time. Only through the temporal and phenomenal processes of doing and making can revelation occur.

… Landscape is not only a physical phenomenon, but is also a cultural schema, a conceptual filter through which our relationships to wilderness and nature can be understood.

It is the well-formed world of occupied places as opposed to the world outside of that — the unplaced place. In other words, prior to language, “landscape” is a phenomenon beyond immediate comprehension; it is not until we choose a prospect and map what we see, marking some aspects, ignoring others, that the landscape acquires meaning. Such interventions include paintings, poems, myths, and literature, in addition to buildings and other interventions upon the land. These works are the encodings that set and frame human situations. They are the posts that map out a “landscape.”

… The landscape architect as plotter is simultaneously critic, geographer, communicator, and maker, digging to uncover mute and latent possibilities in the lived landscape.

My previous post from Corner’s book is here.

-Julie

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