December 18th, 2008 admin

I’m currently reading a book called Landscape and Power, edited by By W. J. Thomas Mitchell. The book, originally published in 1994, reshapes the direction of landscape studies by considering landscape not simply as an object to be seen or a text to be read, but as an instrument of cultural force, a central tool in the creation of national and social identity.


As Mitchell writes in his introduction- “Landscapes need to be decoded, they don’t merely signify or symbolise power relations; it is an instrument of cultural power. Landscape is a dynamic medium, in which we live and move and have our being, but also a medium that is itself in motion from one place of time to another…Landscape circulates as a medium of exchange, a site of visual appropriation, a focus for the formation of identity.”

In reference to my last post on Dutch painting, there’s a fascinating essay by Ann Jensen Adams called ‘Competing Communities in the Great Bog of Europe: Identity and Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape Painting’. You can read it on google books here.

As Adams identifies, historically the Dutch have maintained a unique and tangible relationship with their land. According to a popular Dutch saying- God created the world, but the Dutch created Holland, referring to the largest land reclamation project attempted in the history of the world, which took place in the 16th Century.

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