Monday, May 21, 2012

The Sublime, Progress, and the Reimagined Landscape: Thomas Cole and William Kentridge

In his 1996 book Thirdspace, Edward Soja urges us to reexamine our relation to spatiality-- how we see and use space. The 19th century industrialization of America created an uneasy relationship between the landscape and appropriation of the land for economic progress, a spatial tension that continues to this day. Soja suggests, however, that we can reimagine historical and social life and their impact on the landscape to include the spatial. He calls this Thirdspace thinking, a palimpsest with historical, social, and spatial components, in which space is not just a backdrop to human activity but plays a dynamic role. 1

The oil painting View from Mount Holyoke, Northhampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm – The Oxbow by Hudson River painter Thomas Cole, and the animated charcoal drawings of apartheid South Africa by William Kentridge both display Thirdspace thinking. Cole and Kentridge employ spatial schemata that embrace the social, historical, and lived spaces of their worlds. Their reimagined landscapes reveal unique solutions to spatial dichotomies, and suggest a new definition of the Sublime.

(To read more of the essay, please go to PAGES and click on the link for a full PDF version of the essay.)

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