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31/05/2016

The art and meaning of land use

Words:

Can planners learn from the unique ways in which artists and writers mediate responses to place? Yes, says Lucy Furlong.

“Art is a fundamental part of the public realm. In their work, artists express ideas, attitudes and beliefs. Often, these are central to politics, society and economics and, through artistic expression, they gain different resonance and reach.”

So said Nicholas Serota, writing in 2013 under the heading ‘Global Citizenship: a reminder of art’s role in society’ about a series of events at the Tate coinciding with that year’s G8 meeting. The quote explains why it is important to take into consideration artistic responses to a place when considering what to do with land, but there’s more to it than that.

Creative practice is concerned with offering new perspectives and making meaning. There is a negotiation and a desire to understand by engaging – this is especially true for writers and artists concerned with making work that comes directly from place, the landscape, from nature.

Psychogeography, a term coined by Situationist Guy Debord in 1955, is “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals”.

Artists engaged in this pursuit will be making work in their chosen medium, whether that is writing, sculpture or sound, which engages with and reflects the ways in which the environment affects them.

These responses to place must be considered when determining what to do with land. Our land is where our culture and knowledge began.

“Artistic responses to place must be considered when determining what to do with land”

Artist Andy Goldsworthy’s work featured on a recent BBC4 programme about landscape art, Forest, Field & Sky: Art Out Of Nature. He lives in Cumbria, and he sees the landscape as “a place to be challenged and to learn”.

His Tilberthwaite Touchstone Fold, one of a series of outdoor sculptures which use the traditional sheepfolds that have fallen into disuse as farming has modernised, uses local slate and ancient dry stone wall building techniques. These combine with the elements to activate and illuminate each of four embedded sculptures at different times of the day.

Work made by artists as a form of collaboration with the landscape, using the elements and the materials found in the land, acknowledging the perpetual flux and change of the landscape – all of these must be used as pointers when considering what to do with land. Artists are mediators: the land speaks and we must listen to it.

See Lucy’s poetry map, Over The Fields, at www.lucyfurlong.com

Lucy Furlong is a poet, teacher and creator of the poetry maps Amniotic City and Over the Fields. You can see Lucy’s poetry map, Over The Fields, at www.lucyfurlong.com

Image credit | Shuttershock

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