Landscape: Mediated Views

Publication TypeCatalog
AuthorsSherry Miller Hocking
SourceVisual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY (1998)

Jeffrey Lerer; Kristin Lusca; Peer Bode; Mary Lucier; John Orentlicher; Branda Miller; Mike Camoin; Dave Ryan; Steina; Barbara Buckner; Bill Viola; Philip Mallory Jones; Woody Vasulka;

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Landscapes are culture before they are nature, constructs of the imagination projected onto wood and water and rock.
--Simon Schama Landscape and Memory

Landscape is a mental construct, although we tend to view it as faithfully representing a separate world outside us. We compose landscape in many ways: by naming, by identifying place, and also by re-presenting these views and composing frames through intervention with a variety of media.

Traditional landscape painting was often viewed as a visually literal, now photographic-like, documentation of the spectacular and the sensational subject, the land "out there". As a window to the outside world, landscape is an opening through which we as viewers can confront an exterior reality. In its representation, landscape is a way of confirming the reality of the outside and of confining the vast to a more human scale, of taming.

As, instead, a window to the inside world, landscape presents a view of the mind of the maker.

Landscape transcends the concept of exterior space, and intertwines itself with human culture - our thoughts, ideas, memory. As metaphor, landscape dramatizes myth and reveals the spiritual in nature. As metaphor, landscape alters the ways people think and act.

A small portable mirror backed with foil and sometimes tinted, the Claude glass was carried in the 18th century by artists and tourists and used as a framing device to define the ideal view. The picturesque could then be drawn or painted, but frequently was composed solely to be appreciated. The framing was a deliberate human process of perception and ideation, a matter of choice, and imbedded in conceptions of metaphor, culture, memory and desire.

Once a technology is introduced into a culture, it can't be withdrawn, and it changes irrevocably the landscape of the culture itself.

In the late 60s when electronic video technology was first introduced to the mass market, artists were concerned with the phenomenology of the medium, with the processes as well as the product, with the invention of the form. As a formal medium, video confirms our belief in the reality of nature Aout [email protected], inviting us to frame and document it. The portability of the first video tools freed many artists to explore and portray the outside world with a tool heretofore largely restricted to interior spaces.
At the same time and paradoxically video challenged conceptions of illusionistic representation and traditional figure-based imagery. The tool set allows us to mix mutually exclusive views of the exterior world. We are creating the illusion of a document using electronic particles, sweeping in a line across a screen, never containing at any single moment even a single whole image.

As a technological medium, video is both camera-based and non-camera based. While it can seemingly capture outside reality through the optics of the camera lens, it also creates its own electronic landscape, free from traditional natural images.

Electronic media stand in the logical evolutionary progression of imaging devices, which help to nurture the illusion of a seamless shared reality Aout [email protected], and of our perceptions as passive receptors of this external reality. But because as a medium it is also able to create images sui generis, it frees landscape from representation. These portable new media do not insist on a fixed unvarying perspective; camera-based images can be combined with, modified by or supplanted altogether by the invented, the video/digital image.

As processors of the image, video tools call into question illusionistic photographic representation and in this way redefine space and landscape.

Electronic media can map exterior as well as interior spaces and people=s places within the landscape. By the act of representing the landscape, we change it.

What do the works which define Landscape: Mediated Views themselves portray ?

The landscape of geography, of external space. How landscape effects cultures, contributes to wealth, disrupts communication, creates hardships or isolation.

The landscape of geology and the absence of human history, the immensity of scale and revelations of age.

The landscape of world culture and human activity and the evolution of these throughout history.

The landscape of narrative and text; the ways people tell stories to create a human culture and mythology and to exert control over their surroundings.

The landscape of image and picture.

The landscape of interior human spaces, of memory and dream, of spirit and family. How the metaphors of landscape in cultures influence how we perceive and understand the land and our place in it.

The landscape of intimate spaces.

The landscape of metaphor.

The landscape of human history, and its convergence with natural history; how history is mediated by the processes of representation and reproduction in our attempts to capture history through technology

The landscape of media itself and of information systems in a wired world. The landscape of the urban environment and the information superhighways bisecting it.

The landscape of media and representation, how landscape is remapped by machine. How we come to question what is real within the limits of human perception and image representation.

The landscape of public policy and environmental land use. When public and private landscapes collide, the sublime and the ideal can become a threat and an enemy. How land is destroyed by the marketplace and ironically sometimes by efforts to protect it.

Landscape was one of the earliest forms explored by those artists who first worked with electronic media; as subject it was just outside the door or down the street, and it was all accessible with the new portable systems. It was also internal to the apparatus and created within the electronic workings of the tools. Landscape remains a subject of media artists today, and the history of work done by those who have gone before is contained within the work now being created.

The artists in this exhibition illustrate some of the many ways electronic media makers have looked at issues of landscape throughout the nearly 30 year history of the medium. Using first the black and white portable video systems and now the new digital technologies, media works addressing landscape and land use document the ways in which media alter landscape and also represent the complexities which are fundamental to our relationship with nature.

The tapes in this exhibition stand not just in acknowledgment of what we have lost in our relationship with the landscape and what we have destroyed, but also of what we can discover, can dream and can create.