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2010 Lecture : Landscape as Knowledge Panel

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2010 Lecture : Landscape as Knowledge Panel 27 October @ 7.00pm : in English LH001

School of Art faculty Rick Dingus, Dr. Carolyn Tate, and Dr. Jorgelina Orfila and College of Architecture faculty member and Land Arts of the American West director Chris Taylor will present four points of view on Landscape as Knowledge and then open up the floor to discussion on the topic. Dr. Kevin Chua, assistant professor of art history will moderate.

Themes brought to Landscape as Knowledge by Texas Tech core particpants:

Rick Dingus

Professor in Photography

You might say that the term “Landscape” has always referred to a constructed relation to place: a garden planted, a scene selected/depicted for specific reasons, a place defined by the stories told about it. It has always been a loaded concept, and has served as the locus for continually evolving debate and practice: a staging ground to affirm links with the past, present and future; or, an arena in which one might question or challenge traditional forms of experience, understanding, and interaction. “Landscape” artworks inevitably express something about the relations between culture and nature, as well as time and place; and our approach to the subject continues to change, as we do. Wild, untamed, or peacefully untouched scenes of Nature are now being replaced more and more by works that explore the human impact and role within Nature. Interior and exterior settings, both urban and rural, are increasingly being considered “Landscapes,” too. Mental states and social relations play important roles in the “Psychological” and “Social Landscapes” we are now familiar with. All in all, I think of “Landscape” not so much as referring to the land alone, but as an artifact of our connection to the world. It is a mirror that reflects our changing hopes, fears, and “Knowledge” of who we are and how we think we fit within the grand scheme of things.

Jorgelina Orfila, Ph.D

Assistant Professor in 20th and 21st Art History and Critical Theory

Landscape both as an artistic genre and as a heuristic category has shaped the Western perception of the world and of historical and non-Western approaches to the representation of the augmented environment. Landscape was the genre of choice of modern artists seeking to undermine academic art in the nineteenth century. At the beginning of the next century, art historians stressed landscape's critical role in overcoming perspective, which Edwin Panofsky characterized as a "symbolic form" that had modeled the Western perception, comprehension, and representation of space since the Renaissance. Critical theory has questioned the epistemological stance and goals of the Western disciplinary division of knowledge on which modern art and art history were founded. This is why the debate about landscape, environment, place, and space is crucial to a contemporary art history in search of a better comprehension of the taxonomies and methodologies it uses for the examination of historical and present-day approaches to the representation of the world.

Carolyn Tate, Ph.D.

Professor in Pre-Columbian Art History

In the ancient Americas, many groups modified the environment by creating land forms for ritual or agricultural use, by carving and painting on rocks, and by building cities with earth or stone. To engage the earth in this way, people negotiated with the ancestral or spiritual “owners” of each place and substance. Such sustained practices of engagement transformed a place into a potent center of connection, where a relatively orderly annual cycle of natural and cultural events transpired. Outside the areas of intensive human intervention lived unpredictable spiritual entities and one motivation for travel was to gain knowledge of them. In these ways, human interaction with the land’s materials, places, and powers resulted in a perceptual panorama that linked space and place with a myriad of temporal cycles. Because of the intense connections between humans, land, and time, the concept of a “landscape”—a particular vista imagined by a disengaged viewer—was not a major part of ancient American art traditions. Instead, for example, the Aztec created a microcosm of their empire in the capital city with gardens that reproduced their ancestral landscape, by building effigies of sacred mountains, and by bringing materials—from marine coral to polished stone masks-- from the far reaches of the empire into the construction layers of their sacred temple. Ancient Americans also created graphic presentations, such as Sioux “winter counts” and Aztec “cartographic histories” and “divinatory space-time diagrams” that exhibit this linking of landscape with the knowledge of place, time, history, and powerful entities. As the Landscape as Knowledge conversations occur, faculty, students, and visitors will be invited to consider the perspectives of our ancient Americans predecessors.

Chris Taylor

Assistant Professor in Architecture, Director, Land Arts of the American West program

Land Arts of the American West is a field program investigating the intersection of geomorphology and human construction. Land art or earthworks begin with the land and extend through the complex social and ecological processes that create landscape. Including everything from petroglyphs to roads, dwellings, monuments and traces of those actions, earthworks show us who we are. Examining gestures small and grand, Land Arts directs our attention from potsherd, cigarette butt, and track in the sand, to human settlements, monumental artworks, and military-industrial installations. Each year Land Arts travels more than 8,000 miles while camping and working for over fifty days in the landscape. Land Arts situates our work within a continuous tradition of land-based operations that is thousands of years old. The immersive nature of our experience triggers an amalgamated body of inquiry where students have the opportunity of time and space to develop agency in their work through direct action and reflection. They construct, detail, and document site-base interventions in complex contexts that place emphasis on processes of making, experiential forms of knowing, and interdisciplinary modes of practice. Land Arts hinges on the primacy of first person experience and the realization that human-land relationships are rarely singular.


This event is sponsored by the School of Art as part of the joint series Landscape as Knowledge. Organized by the faculty of the School of Art in collaboration with faculty from the College of Architecture at Texas Tech University, and receiving major support from the Ryla T. and John F. Lott Endowment for Excellence in the Visual Arts and the College of Architecture, Landscape as Knowledge will present a year-long series of public lectures, conversations and events to examine embodied intelligence within the augmented environment.

A multidisciplinary approach will investigate how we see, conceive, and depict the earth; and what we find or do on it. Artists, art historians, and scholars from various disciplines will question how both our landscape and we ourselves are continually shaped and reshaped by an array of natural and cultural processes. Rick Dingus, professor in photography, Dr. Jorgelina Orfila, assistant professor in art history, Dr. Carolyn Tate, professor in art history, and Chris Taylor, assistant professor in architecture are the core collaborating faculty who will organize the year of events.

Additional support for Landscape as Knowledge comes from Land Arts of the American West and Landmark Arts in the School of Art, which receives generous support from the Helen Jones Foundation, The CH Foundation, and Cultural Activities Fees administered through the College of Visual & Performing Arts.

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