Animating contested landscapes: violent identity-formation and the materiality of the image in duration

With apologies for the short notice, I’m pleased to share that on Wednesday 27th April (4.30-6.00pm UK time) I will be presenting for the Literary and Visual landscapes Seminar Series at the University of Bristol. This will be my first appearance after an extended period of medical leave, and I am excited and slightly daunted to kick off with such a substantial presentation.

The event will be online. To be sent the Zoom link details, please register through the LVL Eventbrite booking link.

Presentation title and abstract below image.

Close up photograph of a hand and fine paintbrush drawing with peat soil. The fingers have chipped nail polish and the artwork is protected by a paper towel.

‘Animating contested landscapes: violent identity-formation and the materiality of the image in duration’

What would it mean to approach landscape not as a layered place but as a living ecosystem of ideas in which both human and non-human animals are actively implicated? This paper reflects on practice-based research in the Huleh wetlands in Israel-Palestine, where recent encounters between humans and Eurasian cranes activate enduring political tensions around the themes of identity, displacement and belonging. The project of which this paper is a part examined concepts of gender, species and nation as they pertain to a politics of land use, identity, and representation in the Huleh valley. In examining these concepts, it developed an argument that ideas have a life of their own, operating as fragments of story-image that move across apparent boundaries such as those between species or nations. This paper develops that concept of the story-image in conversation with Bergson’s (1911) theory of duration. In duration, the image is animate; it persists, circulates and evolves through a process of ongoing, iterative transformation. The works discussed in this paper mobilise Bergson’s concepts of ‘duration’ and ‘interval’ through a series of experiments with animated drawing which involve a sustained material encounter with collected bodies and ideas. The animation incorporates a range of ‘found materials’ – including both a collection of archival images and the medium of peat soil, collected at the research site and used as a drawing pigment. Rather than reproducing representational conceptions of landscape as a layered palimpsest (Massey, 2011), the medium of the peat evokes a sense of temporality in which pasts are always immanent. Through examining the spaces of possibility opened up in the breakdown of fixed states and frames, the concept of duration draws out a sense of the violence implicit in processes of identity-formation, such as those attendant upon structurations of gender, species, and nation.

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