Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
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Various representations of landscape (photographs, paintings, stories for example) seem almost to romanticize, or even embellish the depicted landscape, adding an individualized, specified artistic interpretation to the landscape itself. If landscapes are in fact images, if landscapes are a cultural, human construct (Ashmore and Knapp) then do the more imagined representations lend themselves more to a depiction of a landscape? If landscape is experienced by each individual differently then isn’t an artistic representation of that landscape an accurate account of the place? But if, as Casey states, landscape is more of an open, blank resource, then what form does that representation take?
I am intrigued by the connection between landscape and the production of maps. The typical map represents a place in the most basic, straightforward way, recording scale, distance, plan and form. But what about more interpretive or artistic maps? This genre of illustration seems to incorporate the various definitions of landscape. With a more imaginative map, the landscape becomes experienced, individualized--- the human is always present in the land. But with this form of map, the landscape can also be conceptualized as empty, open, detached from human presence and acting solely as a place, as a resource, as a site. Each viewer of a map can interpret the place as he/she may wish, experience it and associate distinct meanings to the land. For example, as I talked about in class last week, the map of the city of Ostia can be re-examined, re-analyzed and re-formulated to produce a very different interpretations of the specific landscape. This re-visioning assigns different meanings to one seeming static landscape, one seemingly static representation. Landscape, its representations, its maps, can constantly be re-imagined; landscapes are constantly being re-invented.
Posted at Mar 01/2009 11:02PM:
Omur: Claudia, the question of representation with respect to landscape is always a fascinating topic. We will have to struggle with this question all the time and you made some very very useful points. What does a photograph do for instance when it attempts to capture a place? is that even possible when we define places as inseperable from the events and experiences that take place in them? Last year when Chris Witmore gave a brilliant paper in Steve Houston and Sheila Bonde's Representations conference, he spoke about how maps transport and distribute places/landscapes, how they become indexes of the landscape while being a thing-in-themselves.
When speaking of a landscape representation, you mention each viewer's own interpretation and "experience" with associating "distinct meanings to the land". I would like to tackle that for a bit. Landscape representations are critical- as it was in the example of Tim Ingold's discussion of Harvesters. Fine. But there the painting revealed an indepth place-world as taskscape that unravels in front of us. Those who are immersed in the cultural and social context of the painting, especially those who happen to know the real place that the painting depicts, are struck by the richness of happenings and meanings and references in it. But we can't approach, in my view, this painting as a casual observer and impose our naive observations as if they were equally valid. Tim Ingold helps us to approach it. Otherwise is it really possible to "experience" a landscape through a painting? I would say no, particularly because I would personally like to reserve the precious verb experience to a practice that is more close to what a shepherd does in a landscape, walking through it every single day, digesting the inclinations of its hills into his bones, drinking its waters and listening to it for hours. We can't do him injustice. We don't have the luxury.
My worry is that in this image-centric world, everything tends to be reduced to two-dimensional representationality. At least as archaeologists who go out to the field we need to be cautious.