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Title: Esperantis : theorising the post-landscape
Author: Shanahan, Patrick
ISNI:       0000 0000 8166 3711
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2001
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The written component of this thesis is an integral part of the whole project. In supporting the creative practice, it offers a route map through the various ideas, theories, reflections and sensibilities that inform and nourish my photographic work. I begin by tracing the association between observation, knowledge and power. The panoptic principle is considered an exemplary surveillance mechanism, manifest in both Modern urbanism and photography. Central to photography's power is its perceived accuracy at recording the world based on the conventions of perspectivism. I suggest, therefore, that the panoramic vista in photography is also subject to panopticon beliefs, being essentially a hegemonic mode of seeing. Continuing, I develop the notion of the post-landscape in which peripherality seems to dominate spatial relations, form and function have synthesised, and time-space compression has brought about the contemporary phenomenon of 'placelessness'. The loss of history and memory, emerging from technology and the overabundance of temporal and spatial knowledge means we live in an age of commodified spectacle, pastiche and nostalgia. Here we continually experience an uncanny succession of discontinuous events. Evident in urban design, it tends to obscure rather than confront the increase of anxiety and uncertainty found in the contemporary world. The eclipse of the public realm has led to escapism, characterised by privatism and an increase of surveillance. Thus, hyperreal environments create 'disciplinary spaces' that obscure power, making it more elusive and hence insidious. Such anxieties are understood as 'spatial estrangement' and theorised through the Freudian uncanny, for example, the notion of the 'double', the collapse of the distinction between imagination and reality and of the post-landscape as strange, repressed and 'other'. I continue with an analysis of 'place construction' and 'spatial discourses', suggesting a need to reclaim space and 'the art of dwelling'. Cartesian dualism has separated 'spatial practices', the conceived, the perceived and the directly lived. The object is to uncover the mediations between them, and Lefebvre's 'conceptual triad' offers us a theoretical framework. As a 'strategy', perspectivism is a conceptualised space tied to positivistic knowledge and de Certeau sees such a 'panoptic practice' as a 'triumph of place over time'. Photography is both indexical (relying on perspectivism) and privileges time, and it is this ability for temporal/spatial displacement which may be considered a tactical manoeuvre in the undermining of the strategic 'establishment of place'. Hence, the panoptic ism and estrangement of the post-landscape is 'made strange' through detournement. In its aesthetic dimension, the 'spatial uncanny' can be a powerful trope for projecting the felt response and trauma of 'placelessness' through the re-coding of spatial conventions. Surrealist photography offers many examples of symbolic displacement through informe which transgress dominant orders of spatialisation. Similarly, the Situationists used 'psychogeography' to cultivate awareness of ways in which everyday life is conditioned and controlled. Today, postmodern fldnerie disrupts 'landscapes of consumption', so transforming and contradicting learned discourses of space. For the photographer, the terrain vague can offer opportunities to speak both of and as the estranged. The 'photographic uncanny' makes use of photography's ability for temporal and spatial displacement, fragmentation and doubling. Such a tactical manoeuvre may deform or 'liberate' dominant space, seeking to transform it into imago, thus becoming the opposite of an alienated condition. I conclude by locating such 'dematerialisation' or 'anti-structure' within the 'luminous uncanny' and the anthropological theory of liminality. I have called this project Esperantis to suggest both an imaginary and mythical place (Atlantis), that has global connotations (Esperanto). Esperantis therefore sets out to explore imaginatively the material and psychological impact of the processes involved in the post-landscape; accentuate and focus attention upon peripheral territories which are frequently ignored; and propose a form of tactical engagement understood both as 'process' (to transcend), and as 'place construction' (to transform).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available