Exercise 1 Place. London: Thames and Hudson by Dean, T. and Millar, J. (2005)
Questions, answers and main ideas
- What is place? Relationship to world around us, geographical, intangible feeling, rightness of a situation, spiritual, hebrew name for God, familiarity, memory, belonging
- Origin of term landscape: human concept of organisation/representation of land
- How might I define what place is to me?
- Place (sense of belonging) vs space (infinity)
- When is it right to call something ‘place’ or to call something ‘space’?
- Why has the definition of place changed so much? The role of philosophy and science in preference of space over place, mathematisation of nature, artists and writers rejected definition of cold nature and no sense of place
- How are some ways that place, time and art transcend psychical boundaries?
- Place and art go beyond physical boundaries and have spiritual, philosophical, emotional, intellectual value
- How does place relate to art? “…to make art…is to make place” (Dean, T. and Millar, J.)
- Why are concepts such as art, place and time so hard to define?
The main point underlying this chapter and the different definitions of place is basically that place is something that is intangible; it is more like a feeling that we connect to a location. Like site-specific art, which needs a specific location to exist and give it meaning, specific places give us specific meanings, memories and/or positive and negative responses. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, an easy way of thinking about what place means is to think of home. We often say that there is “no place like home” even though it might be difficult to define exactly what or where this place is. I think this is mainly because this location can change from one corner of the world to another and what is truly permanent is the feeling of familiarity, security and love.
The authors state that “a place or a work of art can retain a profound importance for us regardless of whether we own it or not or, indeed, whether we have seen it or not” and this made a lot of sense to me because I can (and do) have emotional attachments to places that don’t exist anymore, that I don’t inhabit anymore (like my childhood home), or that I have yet to visit. I think that at the core of it all, place, a lot like time, is a human concept that we use to give sense to our memories and organise them.
It also made a lot of sense to me when the authors explained how since our society is prone to valuing things mainly over their economic value, it is sometimes hard to think about place and consider it for its emotional, cultural, spiritual or even personal importance. I would also add that we have also come to define our motivations, definitions of success, choices of education, career and even life partner, our dreams and priorities based on this economic quality. While I understand the importance of this in our current society, I also think, like the authors, that we should try harder to see beyond that.
I didn’t find the exercise particularly difficult, but it was a little bit challenging to find the motivation to go through with it knowing from the start that it would need my full attention and understanding. Although most of the authors’ arguments and reflections made a lot of sense to me and helped me think more deeply, sometimes I did get lost; this was mainly because there were many contrasting ideas introduced at the same time using a range of different philosophers, thinkers, artists and writers as examples and it could sometimes become overwhelming, though not any less interesting.
Phrases of interest
“A landscape is the land transformed, whether through the physical act of inhabitation or enclosure, clearance or cultivation, or through human perception” (Dean, T. and Millar, J.)
“When place feels thoroughly familiar to us, it has become place” (Yi-Fu Tuan)
“A place or a work of art can retain a profound importance for us regardless of whether we own it or not or, indeed, whether we have seen it or not” (Dean, T. and Millar, J.)
“The real voyage of discovery consists in not seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes” (Proust)
“Everybody knows that the useful is useful, but nobody knows that the useless is useful too” (Chuang-Tse)
“…to make art…is to make place.” (Dean, T. and Millar, J.)
Words to look up
Raze: completely destroy
Subsume: include or absorb (something) in something else
(The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd edition)
Dean, T. and Millar, J. (2005) Art Works: Place. London: Thames & Hudson. pp.11-26.