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Place and Non-Place Lecture 3

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1 Place and Non-Place Lecture 3
In this programme we have looked at how and why place is an enduring theme in art and design and how and why it continues to have relevance. We have see that there are many concepts of place; that it can be geographic (actual place) as well as conceptual (places of the mind, non-places) We have seen that place is something we engage with in every aspect our everyday lives, and that it is something more often sensed than understood, something indistinct which we are aware of, rather than something clearly defined. This lecture, by way of conclusion will focus themes of Placelessness and Non-Place, as the antithesis of place, and arguably where we spend more and more of our time.

2 Last week looked at Land and Nature, and found that our understanding of these concepts is often mediated by culture. The way we view landscape is never neutral, and artists depictions of it is heavily subjective. Framed - in the way that this ‘place of outstanding beauty’ has been framed for our consumption. Using Barthes terminology of sign and signifier - we realise that place can be an actual ‘thing’ but also has a conceptual meaning far being that. Landscape is a natural scene mediated by culture. It is both a represented and presented space, both a signifier and a signified. WJT Mitchell

3 The unique spirit of place
GENIUS LOCI The unique spirit of place To be human is to live in a world that is filled with significant places: to be human is to have and know your place E Relph (Place and Placelessness) In this lecture we will look at the idea of placelessness, and of non-place- , but to understand this concept, it is important to return to our understanding of the idea of place, by way of opposite. As mentioned in previous lectures, Place is more than something geographic that can be pinpointed on a map. It is often something intangible that we all have been able to give examples of, even if we find it hard to articulate. We have talked about places having a ‘spirit’ or being sacred, something beyond the physical or sensory properties of the place. ie: emotional, and that we can feel a sense attachment to that. We also know that people experience places differently and that the ‘essence’ of place is not universal. E Relph (author of Place and Placelessness) uses the term: GENIUS LOCI to mean the unique spirit of place. When thinking of your concept of ‘place’ you may wish to describe what its specific Genius Loci is. This lecture will look at the opposite of this idea of Genius Loci - in other words, the idea of non-place or placelessness.

4 Oliver Bomberg, Courtyard, 1997
The interesting thing about place is that most of us, particularly in the industrial world, inhabit increasingly anonymous environments, which are bland and sterile, disguised by plastic and glass - strip malls, factories, office blocks, highways, anonymous apartment blocks, generic suburbs. ASDA-fication of Garthdee! Think about the places you inhabit. Are they were you want to be, do we have a choice? We perhaps dream of an ideal place where we will truly be at home, of sacred places and places of refuge - the attraction of Land and Nature, as seen last week, continue to draw us. Could argue that the sense of placelessness we suffer from reinforces and epitomises a culture of dissatisfaction / dislocation, but also our need to explore the idea of place. Oliver Bomberg - German photographer - photographs show what he calls ‘non-locations’, places so familiar they could be anywhere and nowhere. Archetypal urban situations which you will recognise but not be able to place. His images are not placeable because they do not exist. Builds them in real scale in studio and photographs - notion of hyper reality His images are always devoid of people, which is interesting as many of our perceptions of ‘place’ specifically involve people. Oliver Bomberg, Courtyard, 1997

5 Thomas Demand, Rolltreppe (escalator), 2000
Thomas Demand - German photographer. Like Bomberg, constructs scenes from everyday life and photographs them. Reduces the ‘real’ to its generic form. We immediately recognise and identify with these places even though we cannot place them. They are recognisable but also institutional in their blankness. Sterile images of our modernity. Demand blurs the boundary between the real and the imagined. Thomas Demand, Rolltreppe (escalator), 2000

6 We increasingly spend time in airports in order to be with family/friends
Thomas Demand, Gate, 2004

7 People do not simply locate themselves,
they define themselves through a sense of place. Michael Chang Cultural Geography Approaches to place have suggested the importance of a sense of belonging and community to human beings. Places provide an anchor of shared experiences between people and continuity over time. The lived connection binds people and places together. It enables people to define themselves and to share experiences with others and form communities. But there is a sense that these relationships are under threat, and if relationships to places are undermined then so are communities and people’s identities. Arguably - While modern technology creates material affluence it possibly endangers the specific aspects of place. The modern landscape denies feelings, ignores ethics and minimises the responsibility of individuals for the environments in which they live. It is true that specificities of place are being eroded, and possibly our lives are diminished. (however - there is a demand for places like the one above. Would suburbanites say their life is diminished? -have affluent lifestyles- satellite dishes etc) Nathan Coley Villa Savoye 1997

8 MACDONALDLAND In its brightness and its suggestion of fantasy that is not realised, in its superficial gloss to disguise a very ordinary product, in its intimations of adventure and freedom that barely obscure a precise and rigid organisation, and especially in its obvious and seductive appeal for commercial ends. E Relph Relph describes this homongenisation of places as Macdonaldland (important to realise that he was writing about this in the 1970s) Spread of markets bringing distance produce, increase of highways and mass transport, all undermine the idea of locality. MacDonalds - chain produces exactly the same product, using standardised ingredients. Mass trends - not developed in a locality by a community - but developed by designers and professional ‘taste’ engineers. (interesting to note that Macdonalds has rebranded itself -greenr image) Disneyfication and Tourism - a homogenising influence ,which results in the destruction of the local and regional landscape that very often initiated the tourism, replaced by conventional tourist architecture and synthetic landscapes and pseudo-places

9 Shopping malls - have come to symbolise inauthenticity, simulation, homogeneity, consumption and surveillance. Their interiors simulate shopfronts and squares of pedestrian towns Decline in ‘truly’ public spaces - urban environments are increasingly commodified, architectural authenticity is in decline Erosion of civic space, postwar suburbanisation, inner city crime, shopping malls (commodification of space) - paint bleak picture of civic life - but is this just a 20th century phenomenon? think of Parisian arcades of 19th century Brent Cross, London

10 Spending increasing amount of time in cars
Spending increasing amount of time in cars. Urban landscape characterised by signs compelling us to spend money. Oklahoma City

11 ‘Little Italy’, New York New York, Las Vegas
The ultimate manifestation of Relph’s Macdonaldland is in Las Vegas, where entire cities are recreated in one place. New York New York - shuts out daylight, heat and the weather and creates its won false nature of lake, trees and rocks. Purges the city of its danger, instability and multiplicity.. Places like Disney World and Las Vegas offer the best of imagined plastic history and adventure from the world over, and combines this either implicitly or explicitly with technological utopia These fantasy lands are places to escape to, from the drab, corrupt, inefficient reality, where everyone is nice and everyone smiles. In the brownstone streets of Little Italy, there is little chance of being mugged. Planned community of Celebration Florida - developed by Walt Disney Corporation The Truman Show ‘Little Italy’, New York New York, Las Vegas

12 What is ‘non-place’? Can ‘non-place’ be a place?
So we recognise examples of this ‘placelessness’ as defined by Relph. What about ‘non-place’?

13 Marc Augé, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of
Supermodernity, 1995 Like Relph, Auge (an anthropologist) was concerned with the fact that we spend an ever-increasing proportion of our lives in supermarkets, airports, hotels, motorways, in front of TVs, computers and cash machines. Auge called this an invasion of ‘non-space’ - something we perceive but only in a partial and incoherent way. Auge refers to this as supermodernity - a result of late capitalism, where we have excessive information and space. Talks about space - being linked to history community and social life, and non-place where individuals are uniformly connected but where no social life is possible (think about how disconnected you are in supermarkets etc.) Auge argues that unlike Baudelaire’s idea of Modernity, where old and new collide - supermodernity is self-contained (motorway, aircraft etc). Supermodernity is not all-encompassing, but we seem to spend more of our time in transit through non-places - a new form of solitude that is of interest to anthropologists. Willie Doherty 2000

14 Airports are particular examples of what Auge refers to as Non-places
Airports are particular examples of what Auge refers to as Non-places. Some are like cities. Hong Kong airport - with passenger terminal designed by Foster and Partners Built on artificially formed land and bearing no relationship to the surrounding landscape. Hong Kong Airport

15 Interesting that when we are in airports we have no concept of the geography or surrounding area. They can be confusing places. Heathrow Airport

16 Stuttgart Airport Germany Kansai Airport, Osaka Japan
I suspect that the airport will be the true city of the 21st century. The great airports of the planet are already suburbs of an invisible world capital … a centripetal city whose population forever circles its notional centre, and will never need to gain access to its dark heart JG Ballard

17 Peter Fischli / David Weiss, 1990/2003
Swiss artists Peter Fishli and David Weiss. Work in a variety of media producing work which is interesting in the beauty of the everyday. Their photographs of airports, taken on their travels to exhibitions at first appear banal (have been described as ‘mediocre, glossy, postcard style photos of exteriors of nondescript airports’ that were nonetheless, ‘absolutely worthy of a second look. A new kind of 1990s beauty - shockingly tedious, fair-to-middling, nothing to write home about new kind of masterpiece’ Untitled (Tokyo) Peter Fischli / David Weiss, 1990/2003

18 Placelessness Carol Rhodes Service Station, 1998
Carol Rhodes - Scottish painter, studied at Glasgow School of Art Paints aerial landscapes places manipulated by human activity (transportation, industry, commerce) but devoid of humans An imaginary distillation of industrialised / functional places Carol Rhodes Service Station, 1998

19 Oliver Bomberg, Concrete Bridge, 1997 Willie Doherty 2000
Non-place -produces an emotional, mental and physical nothingness that can accompany depression or the feeling of Unheimlichkeit (homesickness or not feeling at home, deep angst or emptiness) Oliver Bomberg, Concrete Bridge, 1997 Willie Doherty 2000

20 Placelessness Oliver Bomberg, City Tunnel, 1998
Placlesness - A condition of modernity - the human landscapes of places to which people are attached are sacrificed to placeless, soulless new spaces which are functionally more efficient, but reduce the quality of experience. North American suburbs, with relentless series of plots, carved out and divided up on a geometrical pattern, the production of thousands of identical houses sold as ‘dream homes of your own’ - arguably these places destroy a sense of place as much as tower blocks. Don’t blame the inhabitants but the planners! Oliver Bomberg, City Tunnel, 1998

21 Mass communication appears to result in a growing uniformity of landscape and a lessening diversity of places by encouraging and transmitting general and standardised tastes and fashions E Relph E Relph argues that mass media (mass communication, mass culture, globalisation) weaken the identity of places to the point where they not only look alike, but feel alike and offer same bland possibilities for experience. Landscape modification which does little or nothing to create and maintain significant and diverse places. Old roads and ‘the bypass’ - the New Road is a twentieth century creation and an extension of man’s vehicle. It does not truly ‘connect’ with places nor does it link with the surrounding landscape, but creates instead new, placeless geography Roads, railways, airports, cut across or are imposed on landscape rather than developing with it - they are features of placelessness in their own right, by by making possible the mass movement of people, have encouraged the spread of placelessness

22 In non-places the relationship to the environment is distanced
In non-places the relationship to the environment is distanced. On motorways travel is punctuated by signposts to places the motorway bypasses, when we look out the window we are apart from the landscape - in phenomenological terms we are existential outsiders. Much of the worry over mass culture or commodification of culture is the fear that local ‘authentic forms of culture are being displaced by mass produced commercial forms. Euro-Disney near Paris caused great concern. Seen as an act of cultural violence.

23 Elvira Hufschmid Highway Poem, 2004 Elvira Hufschmid - Mobile Distance
Video projection showing motorway from a motorway bridge. Cars race through the picture and in irregular intervals a figure is seen running about on the road Elvira Hufschmid Highway Poem, 2004

24 Jennie Pineus, Head Cocoons and Cocoonchair, 2000
How do designers respond to the ‘non-place’? Jennie Pineus - Swedish Cocoons intended to provide a simple and accessible solution to shelter us from a stressful, intense environment. May be used in public places where pressure is high and it is difficult to escape to take a break. Cocoonchair give you a space in which you can escape and communicates that you are not meant to be disturbed. Can be used in airport, office, library or any public place Jennie Pineus, Head Cocoons and Cocoonchair, 2000

25 Clothing intended as a response to problems and suffering experienced during first Gult War - series conceived in order to confront situations of discomfort and lack of protection by social structures Refugewear is clothing that transforms textiles, fibres and fabric membranes into portable architectures - intersection between dress and architecture Could be used for homeless Lucy Orta Refuge Wear, 2001

26 Perhaps all this movement blurs our surroundings, like a view from a train window, separating ‘us’ from ‘them’. …is place becoming increasingly dissolved by the developments of the modern world? Is the local vernacular being replaced by international conformity? Are we losing distinct places and places of distinction? Are our most powerful relationships with other places mediated by the screen? Tacita Dean / Jeremy Millar - Place

27 The real voyage of discovery consists in not seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes Marcel Proust Map Rock Snake River, Idaho Artist and date unknown Returning to the theme of the map. Enduring theme of place. Petroglyph - possibly a depiction of Shosone Indian territory - or a representation of the spiritual relationships between the human inhabitants and the animals they hunted and the land. Boulder located in a prominent place - easy for anyone travelling down the river to spot.

28 Can ‘nowhere’ also be somewhere?
For the Seminar: Choose an image which you feel represents the concept of ‘placelessness’ or ‘non-place’ How does this image challenge ideas of ‘place’ discussed earlier in the programme? Can ‘nowhere’ also be somewhere? Bring your Critical Notebook and come prepared to discuss your ideas for your essay! ‘Place’ is complex - different ‘senses of place’ are often in conflict with one another

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