Unreal Nature

August 27, 2016

Unpicturable Images

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am

… How one generates and effectuates ideas is bound into a cunning fluency with imaging.

This is from the essay ‘Eidetic Operations and New Landscapes’ found in The Landscape Imagination: Collected Essays of James Corner 1990– 2010 (2014):

Landscape and image are inseparable. Without image there is no such thing as landscape, only unmediated environment. This distinction can be traced back to the Old English term landskip, which at first referred not to land but to a picture of it, as in the later, selectively framed representations of seventeenth-century Dutch landschap paintings.

[line break added] Soon after the appearance of this genre of painting, the scenic concept was applied to the land itself in the form of rural vistas, designed estates, and ornamental garden art. Indeed, the development of landscape architecture as a modern profession derives, in large measure, from an impulse to reshape areas of land according to prior imaging.

[line break added] Not only is a collective recognition of land as landscape made possible through exposure to prior images (a phenomenon central to both spectacle and tourist landscapes) but also the ability to intentionally construe and construct designed landscapes is enabled through various forms and activities of imaging.

Whereas imaging is central to forging landscape, the tendency of many contemporary landscape architects to assume that this prioritizes visual and formal qualities alone significantly limits the full eidetic scope of landscape creativity. I use the term eidetic — meaning “of a mental image” — to refer to a mental conception that may be picturable but may equally be acoustic, tactile, cognitive, or intuitive.

… That representation exercises such agency and effect is precisely why images in design cannot properly be considered as mute or neutral depictions of existing and projected conditions of secondary significance to their object; on the contrary, eidetic images are much more active than this, prompting or participating in the shaping of new realities.

[line break added] Far from the assumed inertia of passive and objective representations, the paper surfaces and computer screens of design imaging are highly efficacious operational fields on which the theories and practices of landscape are produced. Any recovery of landscape in contemporary culture is ultimately dependent on the development of new images and techniques of conceptualization.

… To the degree that everyday inhabitants experience landscape, they do so in a general state of distraction, and more through habit and use than through vision alone. Any eidetic image of place is bound into a greater phenomenal range of significance than vision or contemplation affords.

… Much of the so-called postmodern critique is targeted at exposing the authoritarian and alienating characteristics of synoptic objectification, including master planning (aerial regimes) and scenography (oblique and perspectival regimes). Extended to landscape, this critique suggests that a too-narrow concern for landscape as object (whether as formal composition or as quantifiable resource) overlooks the ideological, estranging, and aestheticizing effects of detaching the subject from the complex realities of participating in the world. Here, I want to echo Heidegger’s “loss of nearness” as well as modern culture’s withdrawal into privacy …

… I am more interested in drawing a distinction between landskip (landscape as contrivance, primarily visual and sometimes also iconic or significant) and landschaft (landscape as an occupied milieu, the effects and significance of which accrue through tactility, use, and engagement over time). Both terms connote images, but the latter comprises a fuller, more synesthetic, and less overtly picturable range than the former.

… composite techniques focus on the instrumental function of drawing with regard to production; they are efficacious rather than representational. In other words, through utilizing a variety of analytic and analogous imaging techniques, otherwise disparate parts can be brought into productive relationship, less as part of a visual composition and more as means or agents.

Other composite imaging operations include ideograms, imagetexts, scorings, pictographs, indexes, samples, gameboards, cognitive tracings, and scalings. Imagetexts, in particular, are conspicuously absent and underdeveloped in the design arts. These are synthetic and dialectical composites of words and pictures that together contain and produce an array of striking and otherwise unpicturable images.

… The landscape imagination is a power of consciousness that transcends visualization. To continue to project landscapes as formal and pictorial objects is to reduce significantly the full scope of the landscape idea. If ideas are images projected into the political and cultural imagination in ways that guide societies as they try to manage change, then their absence can only precipitate social regression into memory (nostalgia), on the one hand, or complete deference to technology (rational expediency), on the other. How one generates and effectuates ideas is bound into a cunning fluency with imaging.

My most recent previous post from Corner’s book is here.

-Julie

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