Thinking beyond nature: what comes after landscape?

There’s something out there hiding in the landscape.

Or rather, there are things that landscape is hiding. As Dr Lisa Blackmore and her co-editors and co-authors demonstrate in Natura: Environmental Aesthetics After Landscape, landscape is a way of seeing and knowing that is heavy with the weight of history. Bound up with histories of colonialism, capital and modernity, the concept of landscape conceals and distorts how we see and know the environment. In fourteen essays, Natura explores how new bio- and eco-artistic perspectives are reshaping landscape and finding new ways of thinking beyond it.

We were really looking forward to hearing more about some of the ideas in Natura in Lisa’s paper on the aesthetics of hydropower at EHW: Intersections in September. However, as Lisa can no longer make it we’re very happy to share a post on the book instead, reblogged from Coleccíon Cisneros:

Natura: Environmental Aesthetics After Landscape

Natura book cover

Featuring a wide range of critical, literary, and visual forms of essayism, this new book asks whether there can be an environmental aesthetics after the demise of landscape. In this question, “environmental aesthetics” is but a placeholder term, a stand-in for the place left vacant by what, at least since Kant, has been known in Western aesthetics as the question of natural beauty and of its abyss and foundation: the sublime. The landscape-form emerged in the fifteenth century—simultaneously with the beginnings of European colonial expansion—as an imperial apparatus and as the very condition of knowing, from the detached vantage point of an unseen and disembodied beholder, an object-world to be surveyed, classified, and evaluated. Landscape sublimated, in visual pleasure, the loss of an embodied, use-oriented relation with the land, at the same time as it underwrote its transformation into landed capital, into real estate. Landscape, then, has been a key apparatus for both capitalism and colonialism, not least because its constitutive openness—signified in images by the horizon that invites the viewer to venture out beyond its confines—held a promise of infinite accumulation. [Read more…]

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