Landscape and Power

Mitchell W.J.T (ed) (1994) Landscape and Power Chicago: The University of Chicago Press

• “The aim of this book is to change ‘landscape’ from a noun into a verb. It asks that we think of landscape, not as an object to be seen or a text to be read, but as a process by which social and subjective identities are formed.” Introduction pg 1. Interesting idea of ‘landscape’ as something active.

Mitchell W.J.T (?) ‘Imperial Power’ in Mitchell W.J.T (ed) (1994) Landscape and Power Chicago: The University of Chicago Press pp 5-34

• “Is it possible that landscape, understood as the historical ‘invention’ of a new visual/pictorial medium, is integrally connected with Imperialism.” Pg 9
• “At a minimum we need to explore the possibility that the representation of landscape is not only a matter of internal politics and national or class ideology, but also an international, global phenomenon, intimately bound up with the discourses of imperialism.” Pg 9
• “…the posing of a relation between imperialism and landscape is not offered here as a reductive model that can settle the meaning of either term [landscape and imperialism], but as a provocation to an inquiry.” Pg 10
• “Is landscape painting the ‘sacred silent language’ of Western imperialism…?” pg 13
• landscape as a “vast network of cultural codes” pg13
• “…landscape is already artifice in the moment of its beholding, long before it becomes the subject of pictorial representation.” Pg 14
• “…embedded in a tradition of cultural signification and communication, body of symbolic forms capable of being invoked and reshaped to express meanings and values.” Pg 14. Different cultures assign meanings/importance/histories to different plants – how can they act as signifiers in a piece? How might different audiences interpret them? Do plants exist outside of language? New language? Break language boundaries?
• Landscape can be commoditised and sold – ‘package tours’ “…an object to be purchased, consumed, and even brought home in the form of souvenirs such as post cards and photo albums.” Pg 15 (unit 9??)
• “As a fetishized commodity, landscape is what Marx called a ‘social hieroglyph’ an emblem of the social relations it conceals.”
• “The standard picturesque landscape is especially pleasing to the eye because it typically places the observer in a protected, shaded spot (a ‘refuge’)…” pg16 The viewer is safe within the frame.
• “The Enclosure movement and the accompanying dispossession of the English peasantry are an internal colonisation of the home country, its transformation from what Black calls ‘ a green and pleasant land’ into a landscape, an emblem of national and imperial identity.” Pg17
• landscape is precious now and to be conserved in dedicated wilderness areas, parks, etc, to be protected from us and by us.
• “Like imperialism itself, landscape is an object of nostalgia in a postcolonial and postmodern era, reflecting a time when metropolitan cultures could imagine their destiny in an unbounded ‘prospect’ of endless appropriation and conquest.” Pg20
• On Israel/Palestine/The Holy Land: “…its landscape is a palimpsest of scar tissue…” pg20
• Naked women in landscape paintings: “…a titillating bit of soft-core colonial pornography, an emblem of native ‘nature’ opening herself for easy access to the imperial gaze…”
• “….I was assured (1) that the ancient terraces cut into the hillsides around Jerusalem were excavated by the ancient Israelites to catch the rain and ‘make the desert bloom’, and (2) that the presence of these terraces constitutes a prima facie basis for the legitimacy of Israel’s claim to the land, on the twin grounds of prior occupation and agricultural improvement.” Pg27
• “…the pastoral expresses nostalgia for a Self that is now the colonised Other…” pg28
• “We have known since Turner – perhaps since Milton- that the violence of this evil eye is inextricably connected with imperialism and nationalism. What we know now is landscape itself is the medium by which this evil is veiled and naturalized. Whether this knowledge gives us any power is another question altogether.” Pg30


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