Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Of a Dwelling Perspective

Dwelling, of course, belongs to the philosophical toolbox of Heidegger and expresses the most essential dimension of Dasein, that of Being-in-the-world. Indeed, writes Heidegger, “ the basic character of Being, in keeping with which mortals exist.”30  “To perceive the landscape,” wrote social anthropologist Tim Ingold in an influential essay published in 1993, “ carry out an act of remembrance, and remembering is not so much a matter of calling up an internal image stored in the mind as of engaging perceptually with an environment that is itself pregnant with the past.”31 Calling for the adoption of a “dwelling perspective” on landscape, Ingold develops metaphors of visuality and aurality that…bring together the qualitative aspects of lived space and time.i
Once again I find myself circling around the same set of ideas that have preoccupied me for a good while now – but with each new space I work in, the direction shifts a bit.  This notion of dwelling, of being, is a critical component.  When people ask me about my projects (although I hesitate to use that term much), and what exactly it is I’m doing, I generally tell them I’m responding.  Acknowledging and embracing this has led to the particular approach I seem to have developed beginning with Goldfield Studies that naturally carried into the Airfield Studies.  The working title for the Icelandic segment (chapter?) of these field studies is currently, Mountainfield Studies.
To be open to response can be tricky as, to a certain extent, it discourages advance preparation, at least of the sort one might engage with to prepare for the undertaking of a particular project, story or idea.  I absolutely admire my fellow artists (many of my closest friends work in this manner) that undertake ambitious bodies of work that are anchored in factual research and rely on extensive analysis of archival materials (I’m thinking right now specifically of Jessica Auer – currently trekking through the Yukon territory, making work related to the 19th century gold rushes in relation to the role photography played at this pivotal point in history – and also of Ann Shelton, whose project, in a forest, had her travel around the world making photographs of a heavily researched group of trees, given out by Hitler during the 1936 Olympic Games).
I think I just have a different way of dwelling, and of coming to know the content of a space.  Sometimes I worry I’m just coming at things in a half-assed manner, but it’s the only authentic route I’ve yet to find, for myself.  Any rate, all of this blather is really just to say that I’m excited to continue my post-response research through a new stack of readings, including the Tim Ingold book referenced in the Lefebvre essay above, The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, as well as the various books dealing with mountains mentioned in an earlier post, and most likely a revisit to some old favorites (Schama, Bergson, Merleau-P…).
It’s been a bit difficult to get a sense of how the images I’m gathering here in Iceland will come together as I really need to print them and pin them on the wall, move them around, but there are a few things happening that I’m paying attention to already – the junctures between spaces, heavy visual fields of undulating matter – and the perceptual unease (for lack of a better term) evoked. 
Imagine a film of the landscape shot over years, centuries, even millennia. Slightly speeded up, plants appear to engage in very animal-like movements, trees flex their limbs without any prompting from the winds. Speeding up rather more, glaciers flow like rivers and even the earth begins to move. At greater speeds solid rock bends, buckles and flows like molten metal. The world itself begins to breathe. Thus the rhythmic pattern of human activities nests within a wider pattern of activity for all animal life, which in turn nests within the pattern of activity for all so-called living things, which nests within the life-process of the world.ii
i From Martin Lefebvre’s “On Landscape in Narrative Cinema”, see Lefebvre’s essay for his noted references, available HERE. 

ii Tim Ingold, as quoted in the Lefebvre essay.

A few more studies are below.  
Click on image for larger view.

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