The view from here

Unknown Artist, A Country House in a River Landscape, Previously Identified as Oatlands, Yale Center for British Art

In D.W. Meinig’s essay, “The Beholding Eye, Ten Versions of the Same Scene” landscape is broken down not quite as obviously as I anticipated. I imagine this as reference tool to understand a need for reinterpretation of the human relationship to land. Every aspect seems to unintentionally obtain a duality of demeaning and elevating all the while maintaining a relatively undecided manner of speaking. Just for the sake of my own understanding I’ll list the 10 versions and follow up with one sentence paraphrasing and its varying degrees of neutrality, reality or delusion the way I see it.

landscape as Nature. landscape as Habitat. landscape as Artifact
landscape as System. landscape as Problem. landscape as Wealth
landscape as Ideology. landscape as History. landscape as Place
landscape as Aesthetic

landscape as Nature
Such a viewer is ever tempted in his mind’s eye to remove man from the scene, to restore nature to her pristine condition.” Although I often get behind anti humanist sentiment, and not so secretly relish in these notions, this is a delusion at least for the present time. Using this as a baseline isn’t a bad quality but to wholeheartedly undertake this head space is to reject solution.

(Erased Scenes) From an Untouched Landscape. James Taylor

landscape as Habitat.
“…the ideology of the harmony of man and nature, of the earth as the garden of mankind, of man as the steward, the caretaker, the cultivator. Man must adjust to nature, but nature is basically benign and good and when properly understood will provide a comfortable and enduring home.” Yes, Earth is our habitat that is inseparable to our identity but there are places that humans ought not to exist or to rephrase, the opposite of humanity has land rights and the right to exist and ‘profit’ as our american morality decrees it for ourselves.

agricultural settlements east of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia in an area of tropical dry forest.

landscape as Artifact.
A rigid linear geometry has been set discordantly but relentlessly upon the varied curves of nature… Ideologically this is a view of man as creator, not only emancipated from, but the conqueror of, nature… In science it is marked by recognition of man as ecologically dominant.” This is a reality but as a point of view I can’t imagine it is digestible to hear. On the other hand our human desire to move earth and to pattern our surroundings is obsessive in a way that must be also deeply ingrained not in our identity but the structure of our brains.

landscape as System.
Such a mind sees a river not as a river, but as a link in the hydrologic circuit, a medium of transport carrying certain volumes of material at a certain rate within a segment of a cycle, a force altering the shape of land in a consistent calculable way. …that man through the rigorous disciplined power of his mind will eventually understand all that lies before him in the landscape; that ultimately through science we shall know the truth… Understanding systems is absolutely vital but to believe in the science ‘man’ who shall know all truth is boarding on both narcissism and the omnipotent tamer of nature that must be kept in check.

Road Ecology: Wildlife Habitat and Highway Design

landscape as Problem
this view of landscape through the eyes of the social actionist may incorporate something from all these other views: it evokes a reverence for nature, a deeply felt concern for the earth as habitat, and a conviction that we have the scientific ability to right these wrongs. What is needed is a far greater awareness of what is happening and why. It is thus a view which tends toward a humanism harnessed to politics in the hope of generating a genuine populist movement against what is regarded as a callous, selfish, or simply inert establishment.” I want to guess Meinig felt partial to this perspective, it is the most righteous sounding and I won’t say it is remotely ill conceived of anyone to feel this way Social Justice is one of the most under developed landscapes (IMO).

landscape as Wealth.
“Such persons are wont to look upon every scene with the eyes of an appraiser, assigning a monetary value to everything in view… It is a comprehensive view, for everything has or affects value within a market economy.” It feels impossible to rid our selves of this value system. It is overwhelmingly repulsive but at the same time is the driver behind our entire existence. What would it look like to live in a landscape as equitable even if that is impossible?

The high rise construction boom of Long Island City

landscape as Ideology.
Where those who see landscape as problem see disorder, clutter, incongruity, congestion, pollution, sprawl, and dereliction amid the glitter, those who see it as ideology may see distinct manifestations of American interpretations of freedom, individualism, competition, utility, power, modernity, expansion, progress.” I can’t help but feel ideology as an over all destructive force. Symbolic ideology placed on a landscape is to systematically erase any alternative or existing identity of a place or a people and to defy existence.

Chicago Stockyards

landscape as History
To such a viewer all that lies before his eyes is a complex cumulative record of the work of nature and man in this particular place. In its most inclusive form it sends the mind back through the written record and deep into natural history and geology. More commonly it reaches only back to early man, and usually in America to the first European settlers.” I find landscape in the view of history to be also vitality important because understanding a places past is to uncover the layers of it’s current existence and identity. Without this we would make blind assumptions which would allow us replace a landscape with ideology. It becomes sticky when we possess a romantic tunnel vision with which we worship the past with obsequious fervor as opposed to neutral understating of what is and was… at least at first. But unfortunately it is common practice to use history as a means of irreverent aesthetic.

landscape as Place.
In this view every landscape is a locality, an individual piece in the infinitely varied mosaic of the earth. Such a viewer begins by being at once comprehensive and naive: by encompassing all and accepting everything he sees as being of some interest. It is landscape as environment, embracing all that we live amidst, and thus it cultivates a sensitivity to detail, to texture, color, all the nuances of visual relationships, and more, for environment engages all of our senses, the sounds and smells and ineffable feel of a place as well. Such a viewer attempts to penetrate common generalizations to appreciate the unique flavor of whatever he encounters.” I found this to be a fairly clear and meaningful desire to understand humans as they differ and to thrive and celebrate human diversity. I believe there is a way to maintain identity and truly understand here regardless of how this can be stolen and misrepresented the same way that history can. Silicon Valley, please stay away from my bodega

When stolen identity strikes a universal chord.

landscape as Aesthetic.
This, too, is a penetrating view. It seeks a meaning which is not explicit in the ordinary forms. It rests upon the belief that there is something close to the essence, to beauty and truth, in the landscape. Landscape becomes a mystery holding meanings we strive to grasp but cannot reach, and the artist is a kind of gnostic delving into these mysteries in his own private ways but trying to take us with him and to show what he has found. In this view landscape lies utterly beyond science, holding meanings which link us as individual souls and psyches to an ineffable and infinite world.” I’m not sure I have anything to say about this, it’s too metaphysical and personal to touch.

The parking lot behind Ansel Adams. Ron Partridge, one time apprentice for Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange.