Landscape perceptions and experiences

The aims of this blog is
1) to gather material which helps us to view 'Landscape' from many different perspectives (Science, Phenomenology, Aesthetics, Ethics etc)
2) and secondly to record 'Landscape experiences' from our workshops (Reports) and my own experiences (Diary).
For our workshops see our website

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Landscape, Expanding Consciousness and Inspiring

What can landscape have to do with widening our consciousness? And in which way can landscape inspire people?

A landscape you will meet as soon as you leave the house or look through the window. But then what do you see? Because we see our environment every day and are occupied in it, we think we know it, and often we recognise many things, but we do not stand back often and observe.
If I asked you, "What do you see?", Then probably come up with all sorts of things, you know pretty well. And yet you neighbours see other things. We often ask ourselves, "Why don't other people see what we see?" Maybe it would be better to ask ourselves, "What do other people see and we do not?"!
Also, there are phenomena that you experience in your environment that are not related to physical separate things, but relate to the overall landscape picture, including what one can hear or smell etc.. But we can become also aware of phenomena, which we do not have perceive with the usual senses, and which we can express in such words as cosy, friendly, quiet, serene, oppressive, anxious. etc..

So now what really determines what we see or experience? Obviously it depends on what is there. We happen to live on this earth with other creatures (plants, animals and humans) and atmosphere (sky with clouds, stars, sun and moon) and our landscape is a part of it and also the character of the landscape depends on what there has occurred (history) and what is now taking place.

The question "What determines what we actually see?" was perhaps a bit confusing or naughty, as I am also of the opinion that it also depends on us what we see.
So the question may also be expressed; Now who really determines what we see?
In divers ways it depends on us what we see. We only know or better said we only recognize things for which we have concepts. As long as we have no certain concepts concerning bricklaying, we do not see that there are certain patterns in walls. As long as we have no certain concepts of geology, we do not see that there are sandy soils in the east and clay soils in the west and along the rivers of Holland to be found with all its consequences; including other crops and natural plant growth.
Secondly, what we see depends on what we want to do, for example; What is our profession or our leisure and what is our aim? A farmer sees different things in the landscape then a painter, or an ecologist or a tourist. An architect or a contractor or a housewife all see different things in a village- or town landscape.
All in all it comes down to is that we all have the same landscape image; all sensory impressions are identical (if we watch from the same angle or position) but the meaning is different for everyone, because everyone adds various or different ideas and concepts gained through education, training, culture etc. to this picture. The result of this mainly unconscious joining process is seen and experienced as reality.
Now it is true that ideas and concepts are universal, that is they are accessible to everyone. Once I told you about the different ways one can lay bricks, suddenly you see the various patterns for yourself. And also about the sandy and clay soils in Holland.
So if we learn to perceive and experience a landscape together and then share these experiences we become aware of the different and various aspects of the local landscape, which we simply did not see before, and which are also very important. So this process expands your consciousness.
As long as we realize that we have only a part of reality in front of our nose and not the whole of reality, then there is not much wrong. Better yet is to ask questions, because then you become attentive and then all sorts of things no longer appear so obvious, but you start to see things as it were for the first time. And also how it appears, without automatically saying "that's that," For once you have given it a name, eg a house, a tree as you walk past it, then the details of the unique event you have missed.  And if we are more or less like a child unprejudiced (note the word's meaning; not judged before), as if we meet a landscape for the first time then we actually see a lot more, than our everyday day to day environment. And this can be very inspiring, especially if we can share and exchange these experiences with other people.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Action in Perception (by Alva Noe) and the World in a Glance (by Edward Casey)

Recently I came to know the works of Alva Noe  and his colleagues and the work of Edward Casey
So I ordered Action in Perception and The World in a Glance .
The first work is a refutation of the classical way of seeing things; image in retina, then signals to the brain and then hoopla we see things.
Alva Noe refutes this by saying  and this is also what we experience, we see the image or object (what is it? That's another question ) where it is and not in our head.
This work is the fruit of substantial work with other colleagues and empirical research. To read the book obviously needs hard work and is fairly demanding. Also it shows that the whole affair about how we see (and learn to see!) is complicated. Luckily he writes in a lively way, what makes it lighter.

In contrast The World at a Glance  Edward Casey writes in a more accessible way, less intellectual certainly, and how we experience it.
The subject is, to put it very simply, to give attention to the fact that when we e.g. drive through a country side and glance around, without giving special attention to anything, we instantly know and experience a landscape in all its facets; forms (mountains, hills, plains) , structures (field forms or houses etc.), season etc. without thinking about it. Or we see a certain social situation, when we enter a house, by just glancing around. So in a certain way we just skim with our eyes, the coloured surfaces of things. This is also a light activity and we nearly do it all the time, but totally ignored in serious studies or science. No reference of Casey's work have I found in Alva Noe's work so far.
The book is a real pleasure to read and it is about everyday experiences, but Edward Casey is such a good observer that he brings them to light and into consciousness.  Thank you


Last week I started drawing practices, and I thought to keep a diary with some notes of my experiences
Every day I placed an object, from simple to more complicated, but in the expectation that is not too difficult; this was not always successful!
The first was a bunch of daffodils in a glass square pot. I concentrated on the outline of the objects, fully aware that in fact you only see a boundary with on one side a shade of yellow, in case of the flowers, or green, in case of leaves, and the other side whatever the background was.
I became soon aware off is that your vision, in the form of image, does not coincide with your experience of a three dimensional object. It is fairly easy to draw a flower what is facing you, apart from the centre which comes towards you! But more difficult is the drawing of a flower facing to the right or left. How does one know what is further away or nearer? I come back to this question later.
Even more difficult is to draw a flower which is half facing you.

In the whole exercise I learned that to draw properly, or let me say it more clearly, to see how the object presents itself to sight only, it to ignore the 3 -dimensions and see it as an flat image.

What you can draw or better perhaps with colour (paint) is to depict the various shades of colour, which at the same time shows the shadows or reflections. This makes one realise that how an object shows itself depends very much on external circumstances (light, shadows). 
An interesting fact was that the inner petals are darker yellow, nearly orange, (So in the drawing I make them darker) but when the flower is facing you, it is light at the far end, as it is transparent. By the way the larger petals are bright yellow, also because they are partly transparent.

So how does one know or better said, experience from a 2-dimensional drawing a 3-dimensional ??? what shall we call it? Experience? Is it imagination? Or it is the way we see things in it strict and narrow sense of the word? That was the way people spoke when they saw for the first timBrunelleschi's painting wherein  he used his perspective technology.

Next day I thought I draw something more simple, but alas, that was not to be!
Again it is difficult to differentiate between what you experience (round forms)  and draw them as ellipses! Top right is nicely done, but the rest no good. The dark bit at the bottom is the shadow, but also that is not very successful. The coffee pot was ceramic and glazed. And so one could see a lot of reflections, and the whitish square is actually the mirror image of my drawing paper. All the shining edges and other reflections I left out. But it again show that any object shows how it is related to its environment and we can see it even in the narrow sense of the word.

First I did a copper dish with lid and again troubles with circles and ellipses. And again all kind of reflections (shining copper) but manage to depict shades.
Then the apple. The apple had so many fine graded colours on the skin, that one cannot do justice to it. However the general patterns were vertical, but they were accentuated by ridges, so one one side they were more light then other; that is more facing the light then the other side.

This was a fossil of a piece of wood and the side facing you, very smooth and polished.
The dark bits are dark brown and mainly the inside and light bits the outside of the fossil.
One could see reflections in the smooth surface, but did not attend to them.

Another bunch of flowers, this time wild hyacinths, also in a glass pot. Here again the main problem was to depict flowers facing side ways. This time aware of the different stages of the flower. Buds bursting to go open, simple single flowers and on the right a whole bunch totally open.
An interesting part of the exercise was that once one depicts the stems in the vase, the border of the water level becomes visible. Nearer stems are continuous, but further back they are discontinuous! or better said they continue, but more to the left.