Verzamelde teksten over de theorie en praktijk van de Kunstgeografie, 1988 - 2004.
De bruikbaarheid als praktische werkmethode en als theoretische denkdiscipline waren midden jaren '90 aanleiding om kunstgeografie als thema aan de orde te stellen binnen de Interfaculteit Onderzoek van de HKU, waarbij er middelen ter beschikking kwamen voor nader onderzoek, publicaties en eigen internetpagina's.
Auteur: Peter Koopmans
Artgeography in brief
The relationship between art and culture and their geographical setting has been the subject of research at the Utrecht School of the Arts’ Faculty of Visual Art and Design since 1988 through various field trips and projects.
After the introduction of the seminar system, a number of teachers began to feel the need for new forms of reflection and research, alongside the more traditional and passive formal lectures. In order to render this approach more to the point and alluring for an art course we have chosen to label it as ‘artgeography’.
The intention of artgeography is to link a wide range of historic, artistic and other cultural phenomena with places and events (battles, monuments, mythical (cult) sites).
The sources of artistic inspiration vary from the rocks at Etretat in Normandy (for artists such as Gustave Courbet and Claude Monet) to the outer edges of cities in film noir, the site of the former Reichskanzlerie in Berlin and the battles in European history.
Studying and visiting such sites makes the (art) historical foothold these places provide is still a regular subject of debate. For example, how is the history of the old and the new landscape presented and commemorated?
But there is also room for speculation and reflection: what is factual, and what is perception regarding the King Arthur and the Holy Grail legends, and where is the heart of Atlantis located?
Is Europe simply a huge palimpsest on which history is continually being rewritten? Perceiving places as phenomena and not simply as topographical data allows for a much more multifaceted approach and a criticisal perspective on what they stand for.
A historian looks at things differently than an artist does, a comic book artist may sometimes have the same outlook on things as a photographer, but the reverse might actually work better.
In this sense, artgeography should be perceived as a form of ‘liberal education’ as in the Humboldtian concept of ’Lernfreiheit’, rather than as an attempt to achieve concrete practice applicability.
In this essay, I would like to propound that the meshing of theory and practice in art geography will benefit the versatility of the course content. Through field trips and work, historical data are translated into concrete experiences in space/time, ceasing to be ‘dead letters’ on a parchment landscape. “Who can deny that the past no longer exists (…)? Nevertheless, a remembrance of things past still lingers in the mind. And sometimes these things still exist in the present, like traces of those who once lived. Richness is a readable landscape.”
Artgeography distinguishes itself from the more academically disciplined cultural geography, to which it is nonetheless closely related. Perhaps the most important difference is that art geography does not have the ambition to function as a policy or testing instrument, but is always searching for new approaches for designing and raising awareness of space and time. Travel organised around a specific theme appears to be a particularly interesting research method for artgeography.
The country map, which
links places, history and myths together, is a key instrument in this. Since 1988, around 40 field trips were organised
(most of them abroad), with a set range of repeating themes. A conservative estimate suggests that this way, approximately
1200 students have at least once, but to all likelihood on several occasions come into contact with artgeography.
“For me, Paris changed from being a holiday brochure into a mysterious story. You become aware of a city which, apart from the Pompidou Centre and the Latin Quarter, has so many other stories, connections, memories and myths. Things that only surface if you make use of some of the less-obvious sources. It’s not as if I realised this all at once; it did take me several art geography field trips to get to that point. Me and a regular group of fellow students always used to put our names up for every trip. Writing field trip reports became something of a competition. Cutting, pasting and exchanging information became a wonderful way to organise and refresh all these loose ends you have about the phenomenon of ‘place’ and, in particular, the ‘non-places’. It was never quite possible to specify or grasp this feeling exactly, but you always felt that you were dealing with something essential. I gradually learned to read places in a new way. The most important thing was to read between the lines. Since then, the ‘Genius Loci’, the soul of a place, has had me in its grip.” Ida van der Lee, 2004