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In Transition Four

“This phase of work explores the visual and intellectual territory beyond that which might be concealed by the dialectics that are customarily applied to contested landscapes (Allen, 2011) – such as the land within the semi-deserts of Almeria in Spain, where the images were taken. The approach behind these images supersedes a more conventional dualistic view – inside-outside, private-public, natural-synthetic – of space as static and bounded and, in relation to this particular environment, where nature and society meet dichotomously in space. This newer approach to representation and change within landscape rejects an a priori dialectic and the primacy of man as the singular agent of change in the landscape.

Actor Network Theory (ANT) began as a sociological theory developed by Bruno Latour, Michel Callon and John Law, but is now more widely considered within other disciplines, including the arts and landscape studies. Latour (2005) proposed within his alternative social theory that ‘I am going to define the social not as a special domain, a specific realm, or a particular sort of thing, but only as a very peculiar movement of re-association and reassembling’.

Allen (2011) argues that because ANT collapses the nature– society/space–time dialectics into one concept it is a viable method for studying anything in the landscape. Within relational culture, objects items or individuals are conceived as ‘the assembled outcome of networked relations’ (Wylie, 2007) and space and things within it are, therefore, in a constant state of alteration and transformation through flows and forces of material, human elements and non-human phenomena.”

Of value to this work is a conception of the human-nature world as a mélange of ever-changing, interacting phenomena at all levels of life and material. Equipped with such an analytical position one approaches the spaces and materials of a landscape environment with an attitude of not-knowing. One needs to allow the world and its many interventions and intersections to have a ‘voice’ within the internal creative deliberation of what and how to capture within images.

At an experiential level the plastics used in the southern Spanish greenhouses reconfigure how space is sensed and how one looks both from the outside into enclosed space and from the inside, out to external space. One is aware of the outside by both recollection and a vague suggestion through the external plastic cladding. After time the plastics take the place of and transform any normal or habitual visual encounter that might have been had with the desert and contiguous semi-rural landscape. Within a field of vision dominated exclusively by the thin synthetic membranes and supports that make up the structures, the subtle visual nuances and phenomena within that novel landscape fill the senses. Rather than the environment being purely the logical sum of its man-made parts, attention moves to the more complex visual manifestations within and around the spaces. The blend of applied contrasting tones and mesh fabrics constrains the two-way view of space, throwing seeing into overdrive in the struggle to discern form and detail.

  • Allen, C. D. (2011). Area Vol 43 No.3 pp 274-280. Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
  • Latour. B. (2005). Reassembling the Social, An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford University Press
  • Wylie, J. (2007). Landscape. London/New York: Routledge
  • Excerpted from ‘[In Transition]’, in Emerging Landscapes ed. (tbc) (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013), pp.(tbc). Copyright © 2013.