Project 3: Place in Art

Exercise 1: Place. London: Thames and Hudson by Dean, T and Millar, J. (2005)

Notes: I made an extended mind-map to organize the rough notes I took as I read this text.

Place-the first of all things.map

The above mind-map can be accessed here as a PDF or online for better viewing and zoom capabilities.

Summary & Reflection:

I read this piece several times; it is a challenging text but it doesn’t pretend to be something else. I don’t think it’s unnecessarily complicated, either. From the outset, the authors are clear: “place” as both term and concept has been boggling minds (some very wise minds, at that) for a very long time. The piece proposes some historical entry points (etymological, philosophical, religious, scientific, literary, artistic) for thinking about “place” in contemporary art, and suggests that, while none of this knowledge is essential for thinking about place and art today, an awareness of the history and ever-evolving intersectionality of these two (and other related) terms affords us richer interpretive possibilities.

I enjoyed the broad, historical analysis that makes up the first half of this piece and think the authors did a fine job of inviting the reader back into the present through examinations of different contemporary artists and their work. For me, the reading became a little opaque in its examination of Marine Hugonnier’s “failed” Afghanistan film project (I didn’t quite follow the analysis).

At the end of the essay, the authors tie in earlier references to writers and philosophers, and again, the idea that “the medium is the message” seems to ring true: a place “look[s] just like many other places if we cannot see ‘the invisible [places] of the days gone by’.” (pp. 25). In short, history informs the creation of art, and so too does the historical slipperiness of “place” inform the way that theme “opens up” (to borrow the authors’ phrase,pp. 21) in contemporary and onto previous works of art.

Unknown terms, as defined by the English Oxford Living Dictionary [accessed 12/03/17]:

abstruse: Difficult to understand; obscure. ‘an abstruse philosophical inquiry’

dialectics: (also dialectics) – Philosophy – 1. mass noun, usually treated as singular The art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions. 2. mass noun, usually treated as singular; Enquiry into metaphysical contradictions and their solutions. 2.1 The existence or action of opposing social forces, concepts, etc.

extant: Still in existence; surviving. ‘an extant letter’

perspicuous: adjective formal 1. Clearly expressed and easily understood; lucid. ‘it provides simpler and more perspicuous explanations than its rivals’ 1.1 Able to give an account or express an idea clearly.

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