Kulturlandschaft: Thoughts and readings on landscape
Coined at the beginning of the 20th century by German geographer, Otto Schlüter, a term to described landscape created by human culture, I feel as if this term is even more relevant now, in the post-colonial, late-capitalist Anthropocene, where almost everywhere on earth bears the marks of human habitation, through climate change and environmental residues of human activities.
From an art- historical perspective, Simon Scharma puts his stake in the ground-
Landscapes are culture before they are nature; constructs of the imagination projected onto wood and water and rock…once a certain idea of landscape, a myth, a vision, establishes itself in an actual place, it has a peculiar way of muddling categories, of making metaphors more real than their referents; of becoming, in fact, part of the scenery [p. 61].
Simon Scharma, Landscape and Memory
It follows from this that if Landscape and Memory is a book about places, it is also about people and their socially constructed ideas of places, and turning ‘Nature’ (such a contested term when talking about land) into Landscape, conccuring with Leverbre’s created spatial theory.
And yet, somewhat less poetically, and more anthropogenically from Rebecca Solnit;
…We forget that battlefields are one kind of landscape and that most landscapes are also territories…on the small scale they involve real estate and sense of place, on the large scale they involve nationalisms, war, and the grounds for ethnic identity…(the landscape is) not just where we picnic but also where we live and die. It is where our food, water, fuel, and minerals come from, where our nuclear waste and s— and garbage go to, it is the territory of dreams, somebody’s homeland and somebody’s gold mine.
Rebecca Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art, 2001
In The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing takes as a pivot point the Matsutake mushroom, the most valuable mushroom in the world, yet also a weed that grows in human-disturbed forests across the northern hemisphere, a process she calls auto-rewilding (in reference to the movement of re-wilding- reintroducing top predators into reserves and parks to re-balance the ecosystem). Through its ability to nurture trees, matsutake helps forests to grow in daunting places. It is also an edible delicacy in Japan, where it sometimes commands astronomical prices. Tsing follows these contradictions to ask what manages to live in the ruins we have made- the Anthropogenic Kulturlandschaft.
Above: In progress video, documenting bio-mapping of lead residue in the landscape around Broken Hill. This video was an outcome of a residency at the Broken Hill Artist Exchange, 2018.