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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

25/02/23 - Terminology

Terminology


25th February:

Terminology: Defining Land, Landscape, Wilderness, Nature, & Environment


You can tell with the current frequency of posts, that I am A) trying to play catch up, and B) post conversations whilst I am clearly in this academic drive. I think this is normal and I am actually ok with these two factors. It is good to be catching up with my blog and starting to discuss where my current thoughts are and within and also to share with external audiences.


This blog entry is another part of my recent PM1 referral. If you have no clue about the PM1 referral, I will say, stop reading and go check out the blog entries, ‘Working to a Referral’, and ‘Defining Practice’. I have already evidenced my feedback from the panellists but to quickly state what was needed, I was asked to create a glossary of terms that would help me define what each term meant within my research.


· Land

· Landscape

· Wilderness

· Environment

· Nature


I was a little muddled with my field as I would often state within the VIVA, ‘landscape’, ‘nature’, ‘but it is wild, but it is a landscape, and the landscape is nature’… you can see the chaos. From the panellist comments, I completely agree with what they said, I needed to tighten up what I believed each term meant for my research practice to evolve and move beyond a muddled state. Luckily the panel did not require me to write another 8000-word report, I only had to write a glossary of terms, but these terms should include critical analysis and in relation to key authors who work within and around those terms. The panel also provided a helpful reading list. I of course had my own reading list and a good literature review made up, but further texts are always welcomed, and I know they would strengthen my research.



· Maris, E. 2011. Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World

· Katz, C. 1998. “Whose Nature, Whose Culture? Private Productions of Space and the ‘Preservation’ of Nature.” In Remaking Reality: Nature of the Millennium

· Braun, B. and Castree, N. (ed) 1998. Remaking Reality: Nature of the Millennium

· Williams, R. 1980. ‘Ideas in Nature’

· Cosgrove, D. 1998. Social Formation and Symbolic Landscapes

· Mitchell. W.J.T. Landscape and Power

· Martinsson, T. 2015. Arctic Views: Passages in Time

· Wright, P. 1984. Living in an Old Country

· Scott Wilson – Melancology

· Kathryn Yusoff - A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None


A healthy list and not all were suggested to be read but some were provided as optional texts, which I will be reading over the next couple of months. I am not the fastest of readers and there were quite a few texts to get through and with the added time constraints, I had to narrow down the list to the first six texts. I purchased a couple, and I found a few online that were downloadable. I do prefer to have the physical text in my hand, even if that means printing off the text. There is something more beneficial for my style of working to be able to flick through a text and scribble notes and highlight phrases etc that works for me. I must state that I will be making a future blog entry about these texts in the form of a literature review. I think it is best that they get their own entry, rather than amalgamate into this entry about terminology. You will see throughout the glossary how these texts have played a significant part in forming my definition of each term, along with my own reading list.


Below you will find the glossary of terms I have worked on over the past three months. It has been back and forth and at times very difficult to be concise and clear with each term, but I believe that I have now created a strong definition that works within and through my research.


Land


Land is the ground and foundation to the glossary of the terms. I perceive land in some form or another as the ground level within nature and to represent this visually I reference Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: a five-level progression of needs pyramid where the human cannot move up the levels until the prior level is satisfied. Each level demonstrates a representation of growth and development, but progression cannot occur unless the lower level is satisfied. Land can be the key component that presents itself as the beginning of a series of interconnecting platforms of nature. I could argue that without a solid platform to work from, landscapes, wilderness, and environment, cannot operate as I perceive it.


To expand on this idea, of land being foundational to the four other terms, we must consider the physical act/properties of a foundation. A foundation is the natural ground where a structure, object and or concept can position itself. Although not all foundations are safe and secure, they do provide an opportunity for development and growth. Layers of material can be placed on top and worked. I look at land as an area for concepts to grow. If I perceive it through the lens of the unauthored poem ‘The Subharmonic Murmur of Black Tentacular Voids’, and Eugene Thacker’s ‘Commentary on Ground’, the description about both terrestrial and non-terrestrial environments provide ‘a rational basis or support for the development of a concept’ (2011, p139). Land is a specified place on the Earth’s surface, one that contains varying forms that are able to be experienced and fashioned into any subjective thought.



Landscape


Landscape is found within a specific area of land. I consider a landscape to contain landforms that are visible to humanity as either natural and, or man-made, or both. Landforms can exist away from humanity to remain in their natural state or humanity can intervene and adapt the landforms to suit their needs. Whichever way the landscape presents itself, humanity will surely consider the aesthetic appeal a landscape has on their being.


My original thoughts about landscape were contextualised by 18th Century, romanticised, oil paintings. I considered the forms of beauty and the sublime as an artistic expression in which the observer was confronted by spectacles of awe and grandeur. Through experiencing these painted landscapes, I was motivated to seek these spectacles in person. Interestingly, my own experiences of exploring landscape(s) in a post covid context alongside closely reading texts, has adjusted my understanding of landscape. It is no longer a pristine and idyllic area of land, as once thought.

Alongside paintings and painters, Sara Maitland describes how another form of 18th century artist (gardeners) made nature into pictures’ (2008, p.269). However, this she contrasts with her own passionate interests in landscape. Maitland strips back painterly ideals and situates her ideal area of landscape as one that is subjective to her embodied experience,


‘It is high moorland: a long view across rough grass and an unbroken line where the hill meets the sky. It is not being tucked in under a steep mountain, or in a wood, but open to the wind. Equally, it is not about dramatic and challenging peaks. It is a huge and silent nothing of peat bog, rough grass, bracken, broken walls, enclosing no fields and the harsh cry of curlew on the wing.’ (2008, p.269).


It exists not as sublime landscape but something quite distinct and specific to her sensibilities (her own lived experience and perceived aesthetic qualities). I believe a pragmatist approach supports the idea that through experience some amount of interpretation can be formulated from an embodied response to landscape. Sandra Shapshay delivers a supporting conversation on how landscape has traditionally and predominately been seen and represented through the art lens. Shapshay identifies how humanity ‘fails to appreciate nature as nature rather than as or analogous to art.’ (2013 p.186) Landscape is and was portrayed within a superficial state, whereas artists and restoration ecologists ‘appeal to nature for the answers’ (1998, p.57). Julie Brook’s site-specific ‘residency’ on the island of Jura (1991 and 1994) gave her a first-hand account of what a landscape can communicate with a being when we absorb and spend time with it. ‘Landscape speaks back to you and tells you more what it is about’ (2020).


In summation I perceive landscape as an area comprising of natural and/or man-made forms that exist within a specific piece of land. It is an area where the individual being interprets it according to their own aesthetic ideals or needs. I will immerse myself within specific remote landscapes to know ‘what it is about’.



Wilderness


Wilderness is a set area of landscape that can be perceived as uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable. I would suggest wilderness to be an area of a landscape in which very little human activity is present - in any shape or form. Through my time spent in what I deemed as wilderness, I came to experience it as a place that was peaceful, remote, and isolated. I would just be present for a short period of time, absorbing the environment that surrounded me. Perhaps my early thoughts and experiences were blinkered by a devotion to discover a wilderness set aside from humanity.


At the start of my research, I deemed wilderness as some form of holy grail, a landscape of higher-being, a place of worship. Author, agriculturist and founder of the Land Institute, Wes Jackson echoed my sentiments reflecting upon the North American continent stating within Cindi Katz text ‘Whose Nature, Whose Culture’, ‘wilderness has become a kind of saint in the USA… people pay homage to the saint, enshrined in preserves, to commemorate what has been lost.’ (1998, p54). It makes me think that wilderness was the true natural landscape that existed before human intervention and with the growth of humanity we have somehow removed or pushed wilderness to the edges of the Earth and or into extinction. Perhaps if nature could, it would remove humanity, as Edward Abbey wrote in Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, ‘I am almost prepared to believe that this sweet virginal primitive land will be grateful for my departure and the absence of the tourists… its creations can return to their ancient procedures unobserved and undisturbed by the busy, anxious, brooding consciousness of man (1968, p.267). Maybe with the detrimental effects of climate change, we may just remove ourselves and wilderness can roam free once more.


Within this contemporary climate I have come to understand that the search for the divine wild landscape (“the pristine wilderness”) is now a feat that cannot fully be achieved due to the intervention of humanity in some form or another. Emma Marris states within a Rambunctious Garden that ‘If we define wild as “unmanaged”, then the ecosystems that look the most pristine are perhaps the least likely to be truly wild’ (2013, p12).


I therefore go forward with my understanding of wilderness as a landscape that contains some human elements but one that remains disconnected from city and urbanisation, thus retaining a form of natural environment. I am not, in the case of my research, extending the idea of wilderness to cities or urbanised habitats, hypothesised by Brian Williams in The City as Wilderness (2022), and in a different context by Vicenzotti and Trepl in their consideration of today's urban and landscape planners in the paper City as Wilderness: The Wilderness Metaphor (2009).



Environment


I perceive environment as the conditions that I operate within and one that I encounter through my surroundings. I acknowledge an environment exists within a certain landscape, one that can be explored via the self as an act of embodiment.


Environment is a container for nature. It acts as a borderless carrier, one where nature is free to grow, develop, adapt, reshape, decline, and change. ‘The only constant in nature is change itself’, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus would suggest (Marris 2013, p.31). However, the constant is nominal and what needs to be considered is the experience that stems from a changing environment. Raymond Williams states that, ‘Nature has a nominal continuity, over many centuries, but can be seen, in analysis, to be both complicated and changing, as other ideas and experiences change’ (1980, p.67). With change being the key factor within an environment, humanities ideas adapt and develop to a contemporary climate but what remains to be answered is whether this is a positive development for the environment. Tyrone Martinsson questions humanities thoughtlessness and inability to change, ‘why has our species never learnt to adapt organically to its environment’ (2015, p.12). It is within this question of adaptation that I wish to operate, to organise and establish my research journey. I wish to engage first-hand and to use the environment as a tool to adapt, encounter, and live within. I am able to apply the conditions of the environment to, within and through the phenomena of nature and to act as a cursor for reflective experience.



Nature


Nature is a live totality of the physical world, separated from human products and can exist in its own state with or without human intervention, creating an impact on the world. In What is Object Oriented Ontology, Ian Bogost states ‘OOO uses speculation to characterize how objects exist and interact’ (2009, para.6). If humanity intervenes with nature, humanity consumes it and projects its own concepts about it through experience. A common presumption is that nature is a pristine landscape ‘a refuge, a refuge from man; a place of healing, a solace, a retreat.’ (Williams, R. 1980, p.80). This was portrayed within the romantic paintings of Turner, Constable, Whistler et al. These paintings were composed at an age when a European fetish existed, driving humanity to experience a nature that enlightened the self and brought them closer to God’s creations.


An aspect of the research that I will develop is that in the 21st century with its 24/7 highly charged digital/consumer lifestyle humanity seeks retreat. Writing in 1989 McKibben states within The End of Nature, ‘The thing that has, at least in modern times defined nature for us is its separation from human society’ (McKibben 1989, as cited in Marris 2013, p.54). The landscape can still be the retreat, nature can still be an individual’s own experience which is apprehended. Aesthetic experience is about an individual’s perception of things and Morton writes within Being Ecological, ‘the aesthetic experience is about solidarity with what is given’ (2018, p.88). It is about recognising and being receptive to “what is given” from nature, and within a world where most lands are explored, cultivated, and inhabited. Early in a Rambunctious Garden, Marris assets ‘We can find beauty in nature, even if signs of humanity are present’ (2013, p.3). If we acknowledge humanities role within nature, we can move forward with a modern perception and experience. Neil Smith puts forth within Re-Enchanting Nature, ‘A new politics of nature will not succeed if it does not rewrite the rich memory banks of experience that are displaced by the critique of ideology’ (1998, p.280). We have to adapt our perceptions of nature to a contemporary train of thought, one that does not linger on humanities past experiences of what nature should do for us.







References



Andersen, R. (2015). Nature Has Lost Its Meaning. [Online]. The Atlantic. Last Updated: 30th November 2015. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/11/nature-has-lost-its-meaning/417918/ [Accessed 16th June 2021].

Bogost, I. (2009). What is Object-Oriented Ontology. [Online]. Bogost. Last Updated: 8th December 2009. Available at: http://bogost.com/writing/blog/what_is_objectoriented_ontolog/ [Accessed 9 February 2023].

Brook J. (2020). Talk with Robert Macfarlane. Firestacks: Tide, Time, and Gravity. [Online]. Julia Brook. Last Updated: January 2020. Available at: https://www.juliebrook.com/convers_rob_macfarlane.html [Accessed 2 October 2022].

Edward, A. (1968). Desert solitaire. New York: McGraw-Hill

Katz, C. (1998). Whose Nature, Whose Culture. In: Braun, B & Castree, N. (Eds). Remaking Reality: Nature at the Millenium. London: Routledge.

Maitland S. (2008). A Book of Silence. London: Granta Books

Marris, E. (2013). Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World. London: Bloomsbury.

Martinsson, T. (2015). Arctic Views: Passages in Time. Stockholm: Art and Theory Publishing

Mcleod, S. (2007). Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. [Online]. Simple Psychology. Available at: https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html#:~:text=From%20the%20bottom%20of%20the,attend%20to%20ne [Accessed 8 February 2023].

Morgan D (2014). Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Methods: A Pragmatic Approach. 1st ed. California: Sage.

Morton, T. (2018). Being Ecological. London: Penguin Books Ltd. p.88.

Petty, G. (2009). Evidence Based- Teaching: A Practical Approach. 2nd ed. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.

Smith, N. (1998). Nature at the Millennium: Production and Re-Enchantment. In: Braun, B & Castree, N. (Eds). Remaking Reality: Nature at the Millenium. London: Routledge.

Thacker, E. (2011). In The Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy Vol.1. Hampshire: John Hunt Publishing.

Vicenzotti, V & Trepl, L. (2009). City as Wilderness: The Wilderness Metaphor from Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl to Contemporary Urban Designers. Landscape Research. 34(4), pp.379 - 396. [Online]. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/epdf/10.1080/01426390903019841?needAccess=true&role=button [Accessed 12 February 2023].

Williams, B. (2022). The City as Wilderness. [Online]. Brian Williams. Last Updated: 11th March 2022. Available at: https://www.briangwilliams.us/environmental-history/the-city-as-wilderness.html [Accessed 12 February 2023].

Williams, R. (2005). Culture and Materialism. 2nd ed. London: Verso.


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