Presenter: Henrietta Simson

Title: Landscape after Landscape: Before the Genre and Beyond the View

Abstract:  This paper proposes three artistic interventions that set out to invigorate definitions of landscape; reformulating it in ways that are pertinent to the emerging Anthropocene era and to the crises this presents. It addresses the current discourse of materiality that seeks to move away from traditional subject/object dichotomies and the limiting definitions of landscape and space that these produce. Situated within contemporary fine art research, its context is a larger interdisciplinary project that draws broadly from art historical, geographical and philosophical discourses concerned with landscape, space and the visual. The landscape genre in painting, bound up as it is with ideas of perspective and tied to the ideology that shaped imperial European capitalism may have passed, but the structures of spatial configuration and subjectivity that defined it, persist. The challenge is to transform the relation between human subject and landscape environment so that the latter is not always constructed as the setting for human drama. I want to propose that a re-imagining of the earliest painterly formulations of what is now defined as landscape within Western visual culture, images from 14th-century Italy that show an initial probing towards the naturalism that subsequently came to be shaped by the dominant technique of perspective in Western painting, is a pertinent means for addressing definitions of landscape, space and of human subjectivity at this historical juncture. This re-imagining is a strategy whereby the other of landscape’s history is allowed to emerge, bringing previous forms into the context of the present. It establishes an unsettling of prevailing definitions that allows new formulations to appear.

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