Category Archives: Assignment 4

The book of Alfred Kantor: An Artist’s Journal of the Holocaust

I didn’t know about the work of Alfred Kantor until I came across an article about the  repair and conservation of Kantor’s 1945 Sketchbook and Portfolio which represent his experiences as a survivor of Terezin, Auschwitz and Schwartzheide.  The article shows a photograph of the original personal journal which represents both a visual testimony to the horrors of the Holocaust and a means to use the power of art to help him to survive his experiences.  I also accessed an article in the New York Times by Paul Lewis (2003)

Kantor was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia on the 7th November, 1923.  When we was eighteen years old, he was among the first Czech Jews to be deported to Terezin in late 1941, where he was forced to help build the ghetto there.  His mother and a friend, Eva Glauber, joined him there in 1942 and survived on extra food obtained by Kantor while working in the kitchens and also the sending of regular food packages from his sister, Mimi who was married to a non-Jew and so saved from deportation.  Whilst in Terezin Kantor began drawing scenes of daily life there for his notebook and also as souvenirs for other prisoners. His mother was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943 and a few weeks later, Kantor volunteered to go there with his friend Eva and entrusted his notebook to a friend who stayed behind (A. Kantor 1987:Introduction). It was difficult to find drawing materials, but he managed to get what he needed from the administration office and a physician also slipped him a watercolour set while he was working in the sick ward. He continued to draw, feeling obsessed by what was happening there although having to destroy the pictures.

Kantor’s mother was sent to the gas chambers in early 1944 and he was subsequently transported to Schwartzheide which needed to be rebuilt after Allied bombing. He learned later that Eva was gassed ten days after he left.  Whilst in Schwartzheide he continued to draw, again having to destroy the pictures, although a few pictures survived from there, being smuggled out by a friend.  As the Allies approached, the prisoners were sent on a death march towards the Czech border on 18th April 1944  (only 175 surviving from 1,000) then being put in railcars and sent back to Terezin where he was given shelter, new clothes and food by the Czech Red Cross.  He returned to Prague, to be reunited with his sister Mimi, but after a while joined a group of former prisoners heading to  the Displaced Persons camp in Deggendorf, Germany, where he acquired a blank sketchbook and began recreating the drawings he had been forced to destroy.

Kantor made his way to the United States after the war, was drafted into the US Army and, on discharge, completed his art degree. He married another survivor of Terezin with whom he had two children. In subsequent years he reworked the material in his sketchbook into a portfolio of full watercolour paintings.  His 127 paintings and sketches of life in the concentration camps was published in 1971 by McGraw-Hill as, “The Book of Alfred Kantor”, with an introduction by John Wykert who is credited as co-author of the paperback edition.  The book included an account of his experiences and there was a second edition in 1987. He spent the rest of his working life as a commercial artist in New York and died on 16th January 2003 in Yarmouth, Me. He was 79.

Alfred Kantor is not the only artist to present a living testimony from the Holocaust – a few others are mentioned here  and, indeed, the more I’ve searched the more I’ve found. However, I’m focussing on Kantor’s book particularly because he survived Terezin and also makes reference to the fictional documentary film made there which I have previously written about.

The Book

The Sketches are impressionistic with a sense of immediacy,  like a snapshot of a moment in time,  which I think is due to the stance portrayed which also has a straight-forward matter- of-factness about it which reminds me of Daniel Blaufuks’s book.  Alfred Kantor’s written captions speak for themselves, again with a straight-forward matter-of-factness about them yet with a chilling impact. He also points out in his Introduction the terrible irony that, when the Germans agreed to allow a visit from the International Red Cross to inspect Terezin, additional comforts appeared whilst, at the same time,  hundreds were dying within Terezin’s walls and thousands were being deported to outlying prisoner camps at regular intervals.

The question could be asked as to whether Holocaust art can represent the meanings of the Holocaust in any profound way.  I think it can.  It does provide eloquent testimony to what occurred, represents the creative impulse that can survive such horrors and also , as in Kantors’s case, “By taking on the role of an observer I could at least for a few moments detach myself from what was going on in Auschwitz and was therefore better able to hold together threads of sanity” (ibid).  He was intently observing, memorising the scenes and people; connecting his sight with his fingers, pencil and paint which I think is different from focussing with a camera; which stands between the person and the scene.

 

References

https://www.yadvashem.org

Kantor, A (1971)The book of Alfred Kantor: An Artist’s Journal of the Holocaust (1987) London: Judy Piatkus (Publishers) Ltd.

Lewis, P (2003) Alfred Kantor Dies at 79; Depicted Life in Nazi Camps [Online] Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/26/nyregion/alfred-kantor-dies-at-79-depicted-life-in-nazi-camps.html  [Accessed 1February 2020].

Maccioni, O, Manias, C & Walsh, T (2019) A Testament To The Artist: Restoring Alfred Kantor’s Sketchbook and Portfolio [Online ]  Available at https://mjhnyc.org/restoring-alfred-kantors-sketchbook-and-portfolio/  [Accessed 1 February 2020].

Draft Assignment 4: Response to Tutor Formative Feedback

The comprehensive written feedback covered the draft Critical Review – Assignment 4; Proposal for Assignment 5 – Self-directed Project and a progress report on Assignment 6 : Transitions.  I will therefore quote relevant parts of feedback in separate blog posts. Tutor comments are in italics with my reflections in blue.

Relating to Assignment 4

Overall Comments

Thank you for a clear and well-presented submission of the critical review, personal project
proposal and learning log. It is evident that a lot of time and energy has gone into all aspects of the submission and it has been a pleasure to review. This assignment came at a difficult time but you have done immensely well to create this essay to this standard as well as keep up with the many aspects of your practical work. Well done.

That first paragraph was good to read as I had felt as if I was juggling several balls in the air at once whilst trying desperately not to drop any of them.

 Feedback on assignment
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration
of Creativity

Assignment 4:

I have attached an annotated PDF of your assignment to your report email, with notes on
formatting, typos and further comments related to points below.

 Intelligently chosen and pertinent subject that has been sensitively explored, showing a deep curiosity and engagement with contemporary photographic practice, a difficult current issue and also the wider literature surrounding the concepts you are exploring. Your reading is wide and relevant, covering scholarship and critical writing within photography, visual studies, philosophy and psychology. Presentation is clear and appropriate for the essay format, however you need a list of illustrations and the web links in your bibliography should be fully referenced. See the UCA Harvard guide.

 I realised too late that I had omitted the list of illustrations so will add this as well as re-check I have the correct web links. I thought I’d carefully copied the UCA Harvard Guide but obviously not.

 The selection of works and references allows you to consider a variety of conceptual and visual approaches and while this is ambitious and useful, I think it also presents certain challenges in terms of allowing space for enough visual analysis. If you want to retain all five photographic projects, I would go through again and be more critical and targeted in your descriptions, making sure the balance of every case study is weighted more to your analysis.

 I want to retain all five photographic projects because they relate to different aspects of the topic and will re-think the visual analysis to strengthen the balance between that and description.  

 Overall, it would be very beneficial to go through ‘with a fine tooth comb’ to rid the text of grammatical, artists name misspellings and punctuation errors, I have marked some but these continue throughout.

I appreciate the detailed notes and will pay close attention to them when I re-work the Assignment. I checked through several times but obviously missed some errors in my need to meet the deadline date.

 The overarching question could be more specific and assertive and mirrored in your introduction – is the core question whether or not it is possible to capture the ‘experience’ of home through photography? Or is it more about how photography might connect and expose viewers to more expansive and transgressive experiences of home – how they might challenge our perceptions of ‘home’ and what it might mean? Now that you have your draft (certainly the hardest part of the process!) I would spend a bit of time now rethinking the exact terminology in the question based on your findings. To me, your essay and selection seems to be revolving around a disruption and re-construction or re-building of the concepts of ‘home’ and the processes these artists are employing of regaining, undermining or exposing the power such concepts have on us individually but also within the context of wider political conflicts or struggles, communities and identities. This is complex and the challenge would be to find a succinct question that can suggest at the above.

 I knew that my overarching question needed refinement which is why I’m pleased that I was clear with myself that this was a ‘draft’ which would need further work. I needed to clarify how the psychological construct of home emerges, and becomes consolidated through Culture, socialization and memory before looking at the consequences of its fragmentation and enquiring whether photography can capture this. Following this process provided movement for me in terms of structure but this feedback from my tutor challenges me to become more precise with my question.

I enjoyed how your preliminary pages reviewed the literature around various ideas of home, introducing strands of thought and research and acclimatizing the reader with the issues and contexts before moving on to visual analysis. I do wonder though, if you could somehow link back to or join up these strands of thought with some of the projects you then go on to review. Word count is 2000 excluding quotes, you are just over the 10% margin, so if you can, I would consider cutting out a sentence worth of words somewhere.

I wondered at the time whether to directly integrate my visual analysis within the different strands but decided at that point to structure the essay into discrete sections.  The linkages are important though and would provide more cohesion so I will bear this in mind with the re-work.

Research
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

As discussed above, your research continues to be diligent, thorough and wide-ranging and the depth of planning and documentation is great to see.

This was another relief for me, as I had worked hard to keep focussed on what seemed to me to be the most pertinent aspects of the topic and not be drawn into other personally interesting aspect that could lead me way off my target.  One example of this being reading more of, and understanding, Martin Heidegger’s work. I have long been interested in Existentialism and Phenomenology so felt a strong pull to dive in deeper but managed to resist this.

During the course of this Assignment I also evolved an approach to research and consequent recording of it that suits me – Making notes on reading; annotating PDFs; then summarising these further for different blog posts. 

 Learning Log
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Your learning log is presented with clarity and meticulous care, with every post considered in its presentation and appropriate to the materials in question.

Suggested reading/viewing

This related to my Proposal for Assignment 5

Summary

 

I felt reassured to read the Strengths and know what I have to concentrate on for the amendments to the essay, so it’s good to have a clear path laid out before me now. I think the third area for development relates more closely to Assignment 5 and 6 but this is still a warning  for me.

 

Reflection on Draft Assignment 4: Critical Review

What does ‘Home’ mean and can its meaning be captured by photography?

I wrote about my initial planning here  having refined down several ideas I had into one topic – notions of ‘home’ as place and the attachment people feel to it.  My continuing interest in this over several years had been increased by the ongoing Brexit debate since 2016 and my viewing of Hrair Sarkissian’s Exhibition “Homesick”    at the Brighton Biennial last year had heightened this for me.  Interestingly, having researched Michael Iwanowski’s work “Go Home Polish”    recently, has confirmed my earlier thinking that it would be a very relevant topic to have as the subject of my Critical Review.

It was difficult, to begin with, to find the words to express notions of ‘home’.  Use of the word ‘hiraeth’ has such emotive connotations – even the sound of it is like a sigh. I think it’s a word to be used with care otherwise it will become too generalized. I’m also aware that I stepped carefully around the way in which identity is linked with home, society and culture.  That would have been a very large topic to tackle – likely a book –  and maybe why, as Edward Relph commented, not much has been written specifically about home and place. In fact, thinking about it now, that would probably be a chapter in the book .

I wanted to know more about attachment; attachment to place so, first I went right back to the beginning  and the connections that early human beings felt towards Earth and their place on it.  Reading about the “Overview Effect” was very interesting giving me some insight into some possible aspects of the Sublime . I also read Martin Heidegger’s work Being and Time (1927) and his thoughts on different modes of Being and what does ‘to exist’ mean.  This was in an effort to put myself into an awareness (rather than a considered analysis) of what is happening when I feel ‘at home’ – how am I feeling, what do my senses tell me? I realise now, having written it down, that I carried this awareness into researching the photographers’ work so that I was sensitized to the experience of home life being destroyed. I began to feel depressed at the thought that human beings haven’t changed much, despite all the knowledge and technology available at their fingertips.

I’m not religious in the accepted sense of the world so was unsure about referring to the work of Mircae Eliade on Religion. It made me wonder whether the religious beliefs about sanctity of home were stepping into a natural inclination for people to want to settle together; to nurture and protect themselves and their families.  All the examples Eliade provides prove his point, he doesn’t look for contradictions.  I was also struck by a reminder that religious beliefs and practices have so very often been the cause of violence and destruction.

If I was doing it again? Literary references of course with their facility to evoke emotional responses and invite empathy – a few of these are mentioned in my research notes.  I had quite a few other photographers in my ‘research box’ including Krasimira Butseva and Shimon Attie.  For her project Balkan Ours  ( 2018)    Butseva used red conversions on idyllic present-day landscapes  to indicate the violence committed in the past by the historical communist regime in her country, Bulgaria (still an unspoken theme).  In his work The Writing on the Wall (1991-2) Attie visually simulated long destroyed Jewish community life by projecting portions of photographs onto the same or nearby addresses where the photographs were originally taken in Berlin sixty years before.  There has also recently been comment regarding the forgotten mass destruction of homes during “Kristallnacht”  – the events between November 9 and 10, 1938 when violence attacks were made on  Jewish communities across Germany.

During the course of my research I contacted Sarah-Jane Field, Dragana Jurisic, Hrair Sarkissian and  Michael Iwanowski to explain my project and ask for permission to use their images in my essay.  All of them responded very quickly to agree.  Daniel Blaufuks does not have images on his website; however I do have the book and copied images from that.

Summary

There was a fairly large proportion of research I did that doesn’t appear in the Assignment itself but directed my understanding and thinking. I wished the wordcount was larger so that I could write about more photographic responses.  Being without a home has so many aspects and people become homeless in so many different ways and there is no way that I would want to discount all those experiences.  However, with the wordcount in mind I focussed on the polarities of what home is and what happens when home life is destroyed – the chaos and fragmentation.

I think I have established what ‘home’ means by exploring generally accepted notions.  So far as my second query is concerned – can its meaning be captured by photography? I could have provided more concrete examples such as documentary series on different types of communities and how these meet their inhabitants’ beliefs about the meaning of home.  However, I was more interested in exploring conceptual responses to the topic.

The Assignment brief asks for it to be critical rather than narrative. I have certainly discussed and compared theories.  The biographical and historical information has been important in terms of the connections between the photographers and their subjects.

 

References

http://shimonattie.net/portfolio/the-writing-on-the-wall/

https://www.krasimirabutseva.co.uk/balkan-ours

https://theconversation.com/the-forgotten-mass-destruction-of-jewish-homes-during-kristallnacht-123301

 

Research Notes 3 : Home and Religion

Berger, J (1984) and our faces, my heart, brief as photos

Meditating on place, mortality, art, love and absence.

p.51 “The Genesis story acknowledges the mystery of the visible’s coming into being. This mystery is sustained and repeated in the universal experience of what has come to be called natural beauty. Whatever normative categories are employed, such beauty is always experienced as a form of revelation. It is felt so to speak.”

p.55 “Never before our time have so many people been uprooted. Emigration, forced or chosen, across national frontiers or from village to metropolis, is the quintessential experience of our time” “That industrialisation and capitalism would require such a transport of men on an unprecedented scale and with a new kind of violence was already prophesied by the opening of the slave trade in the sixteenth century. The Western Front in the First World War with its conscripted massed armies was a later confirmation of the same practice of tearing up, assembling, transporting and concentrating in a “no-man’s-land. Later, concentration camps, across the world, followed the logic of the same continuous practice”

“The term home (Old Norse Heimr, High German heim, Greek komi, meaning “village”) has, since a long time, been taken over by two kinds of moralists, both dear to those who wield power. The notion of home became the keystone for a code of domestic morality, safeguarding the property (which included the women) of the family. Simultaneously the notion ofhomeland supplied a first article of faith for patriotism, persuading men to die in wards which often served no other interest except that of a minority of their ruling class. Both usages have hidden the original meaning.

“Originally home meant the center of the world -not in a geographical, but in an ontological sense. Mircea Eliade has demonstrated how home was the place from which the world could be founded.  A home was established, as he says, “at the heart of the real.” In traditional societies, everything that made sense of the world was Real; the surrounding chaos existed and was threatening but it was threatening because it was Unreal.  Without a home at the center of the real, one was not only shelterless but also lost in non-being, in unreality. Without a home everything was fragmentation”

p.56. “Home was the center of the world because it was the place where a vertical line crossed with a horizontal one.” vertical – a path leading upwards to the sky and downwards to the underworld. The horizontal line represented the traffic of he world, all the possible roads leading across the earth to other places. Thus, at home, one was nearest to the gods in the sky and to the dead in the underworld. This nearness promised access to both. And at the same time, one was at the starting point and, hopefully, the returning point of all terrestrial journeys. The crossing of two lines probably already there, in embryo, in the thinking and beliefs of nomadic people, but they carried the vertical line with them, as they might carry a tent pole.

p.56 “Emigration does not only involved leaving behind, crossing water, living amongst strangers but, also, undoing the very meaning of the world and – at its most extreme – abandoning oneself to the unreal which is the absurd”

Emigration may be prompted by hope as well as desperation – the traditional authority of father may seem more oppressively absurd than any chaos. Poverty of the village may appear more absurd than the crimes of the metropolis. To live and die amongst foreigners may seem less absurd than to live persecuted or tortured by one’s fellow countrymen. /all this can be true. But to emigrate is always to dismantle the center of the world, and so to move into a lost, disoriented one of fragments.

p. 63. Re a substitute home (e.g. for emigrant/refugee as shelter). The roof and four walls “have become, as it were, secular; independent from whatever is kept in the heart and is sacred.

p. 64 “Without a history of choice, no dwelling can be a home”. With the traditional dwelling every improvement to it repeated the first choice – that of insight in choosing a place where the two lifelines crossed”. What has been lost today is the choice of saying, “This is the center of the world”.

The shelter – built of habits turned into a shelter.  “The mortar which holds the improvised “home” together – even for a child – is memory.  Within it visible, tangible mementoes are arranged – photos, trophies, souvenirs – but the roof and four walls which safeguard the lives within, these are invisible, intangible, and biographical.

To the underprivileged, home is represented not by a house, but by a practice or set of practices.  Everyone has his own.  These practices, chosen and not imposed, offer in their repetition, transient as they may be in themselves, more permanence, more shelter than any lodging. Home is no longer a dwelling but the untold story of a life being lived.  At its most brutal, home is no more than one’s name – whilst to most people one is nameless”.

“After the migrant leaves home, he never finds another place where the two life lines cross. The vertical line exists no more; there is no longer any local continuity between him and the dead, the dead now simply disappear, and the gods have become inaccessible. Th vertical line has been twisted into the individual biographic circle which leads nowhere but only encloses. As for the horizontal lines, because there are no longer any fixed points as bearings, they are elided into a plain of pure distance, across which everything is swept.”

p.66 What can grow on this site of loss. Two new expectations offering hope – passionate romantic love – uniting two displaced persons. Historical – every migrant knows in his heart of hearts he will not return as even if he can physically return he does not truly return because he himself has been so deeply changed by his emigration.

Mircea Eliade (1957) The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion

The book begins by reference to a book by Rudolf Otto Das Heilige  (The Sacred) 1917. A new and original point of view by which Otto ‘undertook to analyse the modalities of the religious experience instead of studying the ideas of God and religion – concentrating on its irrational aspect.  i.e. the meaning of the “living God”  to a believer being not an abstract idea but “a terrible power , manifested in the divine wrath.  (Frightening and illogical – I don’t think so )

(Beginning to look phenomenological approach – looking at the structures of experience and consciousness.)

However, this book will look at the sacred in all its complexity and not only in so far as it is irrational. The first possible definition being that the sacred is the opposite of the profane and that’s how it came to Man’s awareness.To designate the act of the manifestation of the sacred we propose the term hierophany i.e. that something sacred shows itself to us

p.11 “It could be said that the history of religions – from the most primitive to the most highly developed – is constituted by a great number of hierophanies, by manifestations of sacred realities.” the most elementary being, for example, manifestation of the sacred in some ordinary object, a stone or a tree – the supreme, for a Christian, being the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. The sacred tree or stone are worshipped because they are hierophanies, because they show something that is no longer stone or tree – become something else – yet remain themselves. A sacred stone remains a stone.

p.12 “the man of the archaic society tends to live as much as possible in the sacred or in close proximity to consecrated objects. “ The sacred is equivalent to a power, and, in the last analysis, to reality. The sacred is saturated with being. “the polarity sacred-profane is often expressed as an opposition between real and unreal or pseudoreal. Two modes of being.

Modern man has desacralized his world and assumed a profane existence.. Pervades the entire experience of the non-religious man and he finds it increasingly difficult to rediscover the existential dimensions of religious man in the archaic societies.

p.50  Re human habitation.  Ideal house of modern world – must be functional – allow work and rest in order to work. You can change your ‘machine’ as often as you change  your household items. Can change cities or provinces, without encountering any difficulties.

p. 52 Archaic – Community and individual must imitate the work of the gods, the cosmogony, when he builds his own world, his city or his house. Hence necessity for bloody or symbolic sacrifices on the occasion of construction. Traditional society the habitation always undergoes a process of sanctification because it constitutes an imago mundi and the world is a divine creation.

Assimilating to the cosmos by the projection of the four horizons from a central point, in the case of a village (cross-roads) or by the symbolic installation of the axis mundi (in the case of a house) b) repeating through a ritual of construction, the paradigmatic acts of the gods by virtue of which the world came to birth from the body of a marine dragon or of a primordial giant.

***  “….. in all traditional cultures, the habitation possesses a sacred aspect by the simple fact that it reflects the world”

Central post assimilated to the axis mundi, i.e. to the cosmic pillar or the world tree, which, as we saw, connect earth twith heaven.  Cosmic symbolism. The house is an imago mundi.  E.g. the yurt in Gentral Asia – function of the pillar transferred to the upper opening for the escape of smoke – conceived as a ladder leading to heaven; the shamans climb it on their celestial journeys.

p. 104. The New Year coincides with the day of creation.

p.173. The house since it is at once an imago mundi and a replica of the human body plays a considerable role in rituals and mythologies – some cultures, funerary urns made in the shape of a house

 

References

Berger, J (1984) and our faces, my heart, brief as photos, Bloomsbury, London (2005)

Eliade, M (1957) The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, Harcourt Brace

 

Research Notes 2: Home, Place and Being

What is ‘home’?  A simple question but complex to answer. Is it where I was born – the room, house or the area – where I live now; a place in my mind I can return to whenever I wish; a past memory; ideal place in my mind? Is there an innate psychological connection with environment? This article here  states,  “Having a sense of home, as we understand it today, is a product of symbolic thinking, a capacity that makes us unique among animals, including our own ancestors”. That article refers back to round houses built at the end of the Ice Age at a time when humans were in transition from a hunter-gatherer subsistence mode to an agricultural way of life viewing the consequence of this as necessitating a transfer of loyalty from a ‘mobile social group’ to a particular place – thus tying together the notion of place/home with a more abstract feeling of belonging to a social group.

Moving on to ‘sense of place’ takes me to the biophilia hypothesis, which I referred to in my previous blog post. My linkage of biophilia with sense of place and the notion of home could be a step too far.  I accept that but, to me, this also explains the strong sense of attachment we feel to ‘place’, even, perhaps, a sense of the sublime.

Edward Relph

A Canadian geographer whose book Place and Placelessness (1976), based on his 1973 doctoral dissertation in Geography, used the phenomenology of place as his research method. Has written many book chapters and academic articles and, following a Conference at the University of New South Wales, where his book was re-assessed, a new book was published Place and Placelessness Re-visited (2016) Edited by Rob Freestone and Edgar Liu.

I Accessed PDF of chapter in Key Texts in Human Geography (2008) by D. Seamon & J. Sowers: London Sae, 2008, pp. 43-51. Reviewing Relph’s work. Relph focussed in people’s identity of and with place – the physical setting; it’s activities, situations, and events; and the individual and group meanings created through people’s experiences and intentions in regard to that place. However, ‘not sufficiently pivotal or deep existentially because, most essentially, places are “significant centres of our immediate experiences of the world” (quoting Relph, 1976, p. 141).  There needs to be a language which enables us to identify such place experiences. The crux is identity with place. Relph defined this through the concept of insideness – “degree of attachment, involvement, and concern that a person or group has for a particular place”.  A person can be separate or alienated from place and Relph called this outsideness. Relph’s book identified seven modes of insideness and outsideness grounded in various levels of experiential involvement and meaning which “provide a conceptual structure in which to understand those experiences in broader, moe explicit terms”.

Places can be experienced authentically or inauthentically – direct and genuine experience versus mediated and distorted through ‘fashions’ about how that experience should be , or following stereotyped conventions. (Relph 1976, p. 64).  Placelessness is the ‘casual eradication of distinctive places and the making of standardized landscapes that results from an insensitivity to the significance of place”.  (that rings many bells to me thinking of how many Town centres so much like others anad how beautiful tourists spots are so commercialised.  Also recall the furore over selfies at Holocaust Memorial sites.

Martin Heidegger

From https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heidegger/

”What is it that unites all possible modes of Being (or ‘is-ness’)?

Heidegger studied theology then moved to philosophy. His philosophical development was influenced by Brentano, Aristotle, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dilthey, Husserl.  In the early years he argued that Husserl’s view that philosophy should renounce theory and concentrate on the things given directly in consciousness is flawed because such givenness is itself a theoretical construct.  Therefore, phenomenological analysis starts with an interpretation of the pre-theoretical conditions for there to be such intentionality. The latter idea became central to and elaborated within his Magnus Opus was Being and Time (1927). Provided impetus for Sartre’s existentialism, Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics and Derrida’s notion of ‘deconstruction’.

1933 joined the Nazi Party, was elected Rector of Freiburg University  (resigned 1934 after which became distanced from the Party) – two versions – he either enthusiastically implemented the Nazi policy of bringing university education into line with Hitler’s political programme or he allowed that policy to be officially implemented while conducting a partially underground campaign of resistance to some of its details, especially its anti-Semitism. He was investigated after the war and banned from teaching – a right which he did not get back until 1949

Being and Time :  comments re the “tortured intensity” of his prose. In original German possible to hear a vast number of neologisms as attempts to reanimate the German language – reveal the hidden meanings and resonances of ordinary talk.

“Heidegger is struggling to say things for which our conventional terms and linguistic constructions are ultimately inadequate” (cf Marshall McLuhan’s language).  For some thinkers his language became the language of philosophy.

Heidegger interpreted /re-thought Aristotle’s and the unity of the different modes of Being (realizing some form of presence (present-ness) to human beings – expressed in the ‘as’ of ‘taking-as’).

The being of human “being” (Dasein).  We first exist in in worlds or contexts in which we uncover ‘things’ meaning and characteristics in terms of their use. E.g. of a hammer? A hammer exists but it doesn’t have agency??  What is useful – something that is a possibility for humans.  The meaning of authenticity.

Truth : bringing entities out of hiddenness so that we can deal with or make correct statements about them.

We always understand our being in terms of time. We project our possibilities by expecting or anticipating them

A central concern ** What does ‘to exist’ mean?  One way of asking what Heidegger calls the question of the meaning of Being, and Being and Time is an investigation into that question.

John Donne

“This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise. This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea,..This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.”

Havelock the Dane

Herkne now what me haveth met.
Me thouthe I was in Denemark set,
But on on the moste hil
That evere yete cam I til.
It was so hey that I wel mouthe
Al the werd se, als me thouthe.
Als I sat upon that lowe
I bigan Denemark for to awe,
The borwes and the castles stronge;
And mine armes weren so longe
That I fadmede* al at ones,
Denemark with mine longe bones;
And thanne I wolde mine armes drawe
Til me and hom for to have,
Al that evere in Denemark liveden
On mine armes faste clyveden;
And the stronge castles alle
On knes bigunnen for to falle –
The keyes fellen at mine fet.
Another drem dremede me ek:
That ich fley over the salte se
Til Engeland, and al with me
That evere was in Denemark lyves

  • Meaning of fadmede (a) To encircle (something) with extended arms; to embrace; (b) to grope; (c) to measure by the ell (?or fathom).

Eleanor Parker, Havelok’s Tale: Stories of Settlers (2019) Elementum Journal

Old Norse place names and stories of medieval migrants and Scandinavian voyagers. Writing about Lincolnshire :  Skegness – a man named Skeggi, Ormskirk from Orme, Scarborough from Scarthi and, probably, Grimsby from Grim, a Danish fisherman who appears in  a Middle English poem called Havelok “ ….. it celebrates the ties of family and home, and a connection to place. In this poem the relationship between the Danish characters and the land they settle in becomes almost a sacred union, a powerful bond of reciprocal love” (p.36:2019) “When Grim gives his name to the town of Grimbsy in the poem, it symbolises something more profound than a simple act of settlement. This is a story with its roots in Viking legend ….. Grim is the pseudonym of the god Odin – a wandering God.

At a crucial moment in the poem Havelok has a dream that awakens him to this potent yearning love for home.  (p.39)   Using the older sense of the word fathom – the length of a person’s outstretched arms –  measurement of depth, perhaps with plumbing the depths of the sea, “ …. And therefore, in a metaphorical sense, with understanding and the process of getting to know someone. In Havelok refers to something more than that  – the space within the arms, against the breast, near to the heart, To ‘fathom’ someone was to embrace them and hold them close, like a parent with a child, a lover with their beloved`’  (p. 40)

No many of us will give our names to our homes so that they bear the signs of our present ‘until Doomsday”. But we all have places that we love, and one of the most powerful ways to bond ourselves with the is to tell stories about them, imagining what made them what they are, and what makes us part of them. …….  Perhaps telling a story about your home, as the people of medieval Grimsby did, is a way of fathoming it in every sense, coming to understand it and drawing it closer to your heart. (p. 41)

Wajd – Songs of Separation

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/320938271″>Wajd – Songs of Separation</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/notfiction”>Not Fiction</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

A documentary film about three musicians, refugees from the Syrian conflict,  who turned to their love of Sufi music to help them to find meaning in rebuilding their lives in exile in the aftermath of destruction and atrocity

Rumi

Life is a tragedy. Exile

 

 

References

Berger, J (1984) and our faces, my heart, brief as photos, Bloomsbury, London (2005)

http://nautil.us/issue/8/home/in-search-of-the-first-human-home

https://www.azquotes.com/quote/845653

Eliade, M (1957) The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, Orlando

Lineweaver, C. H. and A. Chopra. (2019) The Biological Overview Effect: Our Place in Nature. Journal of Big History, III(3); 109 – 122.

Parker, E & Eldridge, L, (2019) “Havelok’s Tale: Stories of Settlers”, Elementum: A journal of nature & story, Edition Five (pp32-41)

Wheeler, Michael, “Martin Heidegger”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/heidegger/&gt;

 

 

Research Notes 1: The Beginnings

Research Notes 1: The Beginnings

To get me started:

A reworking of the Genesis story from one of my favourite poets Ted Hughes his voice reciting the words in an animated film  – my reasons being poetic, visual and musical imagining and that his voice reminds me of own beginnings.  I recognised his voice the first time I heard it as being ‘from home” (meaning Yorkshire) and I felt the pull in my diaphragm.

There is much scientific evidence of course  regarding how life began on earth – see a summary here .  Cells are the basis of life for all living things and we are all made of ‘pretty similar kinds of cells’ which have mutated in many different forms. Could knowledge of this have led to the “biophilia hypothesis”, an idea first used by the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in 1973, but later popularized by the biologist Edward O Wilson in 1984 when he defined biophilia as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life” which he viewed as being rooted in our biology. Wilson’s hope   was that a new conservation ethic could be generated if people understood and accepted this inherent love of nature.

 

I’ve recently been reading about the ‘Overview Effect’ a description coined by the American author Frank White in 1987,  following reports by returning astronauts that they had undergone a cognitive shift in awareness during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from outer space”.   The experience transformed their perspective of Earth and mankind’s place upon it – common features were feelings of awe and a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. White’s description was taken up by a number of important groups and White, who considers himself to be a Space Philosopher, founded The Overview Institute, in Washington, DC, in 2008 to consolidate support and popularize the idea.

White’s view of  the Overview Effect as  an ontologically pre-existent  ‘natural’ feature of the universe, (indicating to him that humans should colonize outer space as quickly as possible) has been challenged of course, for example by Jordan Bimm (2014) who thinks that models of Earth are deeply political objects, asserting American control and technological mastery at a global scale; there have long been questions about the reliability of astronaut self-reporting and there is also an alternative described as “the break-off phenomenon” – feelings of separation, anxiety, and depression reported by military pilots in the 1950s after viewing Earth from very high altitudes. Bimm believes that there is a systemic incentive for astronauts to not report or minimise such negative feelings when they return to Earth and that they are encouraged to report only positive experiences.

However,  Lineweaver and Chopra state (2019) that such effects aren’t limited to what they term a ‘spatial re-conceptualization of where we are’; others are temporal and biological, and the three link to the ‘big history’ of attempts to understand ‘the integrated history of the cosmos’.  They link the temporal overview effect to ‘when we are’ ; and the biological overview effect to where we are on the tree of life – the twigs that are still alive.

To me, the astronaut’s comments fit with a sense of the sublime.   I can understand Bimms’s comments about the reliability of self-reporting and “the break-off phenomenon” but I also thought about it in a different way too. I can understand how, for early mankind,  beliefs arose that gods created the sun, moon, sea, rivers, weather. It must have seemed quite logical then in the absence of scientific knowledge to explain the unexplainable, the sublime and the uncanny as  magical thinking can provide some order in what might seem an enormous and chaotic world where one is at the mercy of forces that are uncontrollable.

Knowledge and scientific understanding increased exponentially over the Centuries, alongside a continuing belief in God and a growing general tendency towards a belief in the individual rather than society and the supremacy of Man overall.  We could achieve anything given time including travel to other planets and far-off galaxies even. Imagine then what it must have been like to get a different viewpoint – a sudden jolt to the senses that would shift perspectives. To experience Earth as a “tiny ball of life, ‘hanging in the void’ shielded by a paper-thin atmosphere against the enormous size of the universe. Earth became no longer a map divided into different coloured nations, warring ideologies and economic doctrines could not be seen” (Lineweaver & Chopra 2019). Some astronaut comments can be found here    and there is also a 19 minute short film  Overview on  from Planetary Collective which can be seen on Vimeo, YouTube or here  

 

References

http://frankwhiteauthor.com

http://weareplanetary.com/overview-short-film/

https://overviewinstitute.org/astronaut-quotes/

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20161026-the-secret-of-how-life-on-earth-began

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/conversation-eo-wilson/

Bimm, J (2014) “Rethinking the Overview Effect” .Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly 2:1 (2014)  (Accessed at https://www.academia.edu/5995107/Rethinking_the_Overview_Effect on 14.11.2019)

Lineweaver, C.H & A. Chopra (2019) The Biological Overview Effect: Our Place in Nature. Journal of Big History III(3); 109-122

White, F (1987) The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution. American Institute of Aeoronautics