Category Archives: Beginning

Thoughts on some readings of Space to Place

 I think a space becomes a place when we acknowledge its existence and give it a name.   The name denotes the space and can also carry connotations – such as Silent Pool. If the name is changed then that can also change how we think about the space – just as changing a person’s name can do this about the person.

A place needn’t be physical; it can be a place we have constructed in our imagination

Some writings which could be applied to Silent Pool. I have not included books regarding landscape, memory, cultural memory and sites of war and trauma:

Gaston Bachelard

The Poetics of Space (1994)

Gaston Bachelard writes movingly on how we experience intimate places and the meanings of domestic space. He writes about literature and how, when reading about a room or a house, the reader leaves off reading and begins to think of some place in his own past and that the house we were born in is physically inscribed in us. “It is a group of organic habits”. (p. 14)

Yi-Fu Tuan

Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience(1997)

Yi-Fu Tuan suggests that place is security and space is freedom: we are attached to the one and long for the other. He considers how sense of time can affect sense of place; how this varies between children and adults – “Compared to space, place is a calm center of established values” (p. 54) and “When space feels thoroughly familiar to us it has become place” (p.73).

He concludes (p. 198):-

  1. If time is conceived as flow or movement then place is pause.
  2. While it takes time to form an attachment to place, the quality and intensity of experience matters more than simple duration
  3. Being rooted in a place is a different kind of experience from having and cultivating a “sense of place”

In his 2004 book Place, Art and Self Yi-Fu Tuan explores these topics beginning with the human attachment to place. whether natural, artifactual or virtual and how these places can nurture us, although we don’t necessarily have to be ‘rooted’ within them to retain a firm sense of self. “A major motivation for travel – hardships notwithstanding – is the vague expectation of entering a stage of being, identified with a particular place or landscape, that, however transient, reveals an aspect of our character that we have not previously known” (ibid p. 16, 17). Or in my case, in respect of Silent Pool, reconnecting with an aspect of my character!

Tom Ingold

Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description (2011)

Both of us imagine a world of incessant movement and becoming, one that is never complete but continually under construction, woven from the countless lifelines of its manifold human and non-human constituents as they thread their ways through the tangle of relationships in which they are comprehensively enmeshed. In such a world, persons and things do not so much exist as occur, and are identified not by any fixed, essential attributes laid down in advance or transmitted ready-made from the past, but by the very pathways (or trajectories, or stories) along which they have previously come and are presently going.
(p. 141)

I think this can apply to Silent Pool which has become a different space/place for those who have travelled there through the years and used for different purposes, including my own given that I am also writing about it.  I would like there to have been a different story about it which would change it into a different place.

Ingold contends that lives are led through, around, to and from places rather than inside them.  He uses the term wayfaringto describe the embodied experience of such perambulatory movement.  There is an implication that ‘place’ involves a boundary – something which demarcates it from its surrounding space – “Whether on paper or on the ground, the pathways or trails alongwhich movement proceeds are perceived as limits withinwhich it is contained” (ibid p. 148).  Reading this reminded me that Silent Pool is a location close by the Pilgrims Way.  I wondered if pilgrims might have sometimes met there to drink the clear water or bathe in it.

Liz Wells

 Land Matters (2011)

This is a meaty book and I have quoted extracts from it which fit my experience and understanding of actions in respect of and representations of Silent Pool:-

“Plans are predicated on imagining types of land use, landscape and social environment that might be constructed …… space is (trans-) formed into place through such interventions” ((loc 339)

She also refers to the act of naming equalling the act of taming. *(…. In order to describe and categorize we position ourselves conceptually as somehow outside of our environment” (loc 349

As has been acknowledged in recent developments in cultural geography, space is rendered into place through representation, the domain of the cartographers and artists, as well as writers and storytellers; through their maps and charts draughtsmen and women contributed to developing pictorial semiotics (loc 358)

“the pictorial articulates subjective memory and cultural currencies not only in relation to literal readings of images but also in terms of emotive affects”. (loc 367)

“The spectator, even if highly tutored in the effects of aesthetic and photographic coding and of the judgements that must have been exercised by the photographer, still at one level looks ‘through’ the representation at that depicted. Photography is thus powerful in contributing to specifying spaces as particular sorts of places (loc 436).

“History turns space into place” – our perception of nature is filtered through cultural understandings” (loc. 635).

Referring to D. Massey – “space becomes meaningful through histories told” this is a fluid definitional process with new stories – those yet to come – further adding to or shifting our sense of the character of particular places.  (loc. 648 )

“Our sense of our location in relation to space and place is not uniform; it plays out differently, informed by a combination of philosophic principles and understandings (religious, or otherwise) and the physical particularities of environments” (loc 656)

Photographs slice space into place; land is framed as landscape. Representation envelops reality; it becomes an act of colonisation. Photography contributes to characterizing sites as particular types of places within the order of things. The photographic image, in its precision and detail, operates topographically and metaphorically. The image itself evokes mood, a sense of what it might be to actually experience this place. The viewer of the image responds in terms of a nexus of aesthetic judgement, emotional recognition, identification, empirical appreciation. Unlike the relatively unbounded experience of looking, the photograph defines and frames, suggesting particular ways of seeing. Representation is, of course , ideological, but so is looking, since our engagement with what we perceive is subject to cultural currencies and preconceptions.  (loc 1348)

“If landscape is understood as cultural representation of space as place, ways in which particular lands are pictures can be conceptualised as an arena of rhetorical struggle.  This often implicates tensions over national identity (loc 3811)

 

References

Bachelard, G (1958) The Poetics of Space. 1994 Boston: Beacon Press

Dean, T & Millar, J. (2005) PlaceLondon: Thames & Hudson Ltd

Ingold, T (2011) Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description London: Routledge

Mitchell, W.J.T.ed (2002)  Landscape and Power. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press

Wells, L. (2011) Land Matters. [Kindle]. London: I.B. Tauris

Yi-Fu Tuan, (1977) Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

 

Assignment 3 : Beginning -Introduction

I had the idea for this assignment last year but it’s taking me quite some time think of the right approach. This will be a story about a pool – well, stories.

The pool lies along the Pilgrim’s Way in Surrey, on the North Downs. Its beginnings lie in pre-history and I can only find contemporaneous references to it from the 17thCentury onwards. The pool is spring-fed so it must have seemed a wondrous stretch of water to its earliest users.  Some sites now refer to it as having been sacred but, so far, I haven’t been able to find any early references to it as such.  It would fit, though, as pagan shrines were often erected around such springs. and, of course, early Christian churches often took over those sites as their own.  It’s near to, and closely connected with the village of Albury one of whose three churches (unusual in itself for such a small place) dates back to Saxon times. Also, Roman remains were found in Albury. The village of Friday Street isn’t too far away.  The name “Friday’ comes from the Old English and could have been named after Frīġedæġ, meaning the “day of Frige”, a result of an old convention associating the Old English goddess Frigg (wife of the Norse God Odin) with the Roman goddess Venus.  Still, I’m conjecturing here, using my imagination.

Artists have visited the pool, it has been said to have been a favourite of the poet Lord Tennyson and was also the subject of early photographic postcards. It’s likely that the latter could have been due to a man called Martin Farquhar Tupper who lived in Albury  in the 19thCentury and created a story about the pool – a story that has stuck, created versions of itself and become true in people’s minds even when they know it’s a story.

(Extract  [21:39/22:24] from the film “Pilgrims Way” (1956) BFI National Archive which is part of the Orphan Works Collection.)

The pool has certainly changed over the centuries, been re-shaped and now has a fence around it.  I felt a bit disappointed to begin with, in fact when I first mentioned it to my tutor, I told her the story and said, “It’s just a pond!” I couldn’t understand why such a fuss has been made about it, yet, after further visits, it’s taken hold of my imagination.  There’s something about it despite its changes – an essence of something which I’m finding difficult to grasp.  This is what’s been holding me back, but I’ve reached a stage where I have to put thoughts and reading to paper to see if I can find a way to evoke its effect through photography.