Khalil Adrianos

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

“War is the father of all and the king of all and it has shown some as gods and others as human beings, made some slaves and others free.”   Heraclitus, (quoted in Introduction to Metaphysics 64-65)

      At the dawn of a culminating modernity Martin Heidegger turned his investigative gaze to the philosophical texts of Parmenides, Heraclitus and Plato in order to unconceal an ontological potentiality of Being gradually effaced by the appropriation of Greek knowledge by the Roman Empire in order to facilitate its imperialistic aspirations. His project focused on disentangling specific concepts of Western culture from the anthropocentric and ontologically reductive frame they were assigned to by western philosophers and illuminating the necessity for an unceasing interrogation and criticism of disciplines, political strategies and systems of thought that attempted to establish a metaphysical comportment toward Being. Heidegger, in his work Introduction to Metaphysics, does not read Heraclitus’ statement merely as an argument concerning the dehumanizing effects of human war. The German philosopher retrieves the pre-Socratic notion of “polemos” (translated as war in the Greek language) in order to signify an ontological “confrontation” which propels and conditions every being and natural process (Introduction to Metaphysics 65). In other words, Heidegger suggests that “confrontation,” “strife” and “polemos” designate an unceasing exchange and struggle between sovereignties. That is why, in the same work, Heidegger investigates the theme of “physis” and juxtaposes it to “nature.” “Physis” constitutes in Heidegger’s and Jacques Derrida’s readings an originary force that impels a “confrontation” between alternative sovereignties in the human, animal and vegetal kingdom.

      My intention, on the first part of this paper, is to read Daniel Defoe’s work Robinson Crusoe as a novel that, apart from revealing the imperialist agenda of British Empire, it also discloses the “confrontations” and tensions between Crusoe and the animal and vegetal world. My objective is not to read Defoe’s novel as a work that portrays animals and nature in a victimized position, as background and passive entities that merely environ Crusoe’s ordeal, but as sovereign forces that contest and haunt human domination. Following Derrida’s seminars on the Beast and the Sovereign and his investigation of “physis” I will analyze the narrative moments where Crusoe engages animals and other natural elements and explore how these scenes open up the discussion for a deconstructive understanding of “sovereignty,” “physis” and the “human.” In the second part of my analysis I will examine J.M.W. Turner’s late work and style in order to investigate the ways the de(con)structive power of “physis” becomes artistically depicted in terms of content, colour and light. Read along the lines of “physis,” Turner’s work attests to the urgency of reconceiving the “world” as an unceasing “becoming,” thus interrogating and countering fundamental concepts of Western metaphysics. 


Marie-Claude Beaulieu Orna

Université de Poitiers

The maiden trip of the Grand Tour has paradoxically brought Britons a new perception of their own environment and culture through the discovery of a foreign land and civilisation, of its art and natural scenery treasures. In the last third of the XVIIIth century, an increasing number of British landscape painters, often accompanying aristocratic patrons, sojourned in various regions of the Italian peninsula. Alongside some of their counterparts remained in Great Britain, interacting with their shifting environment, they pioneered new theoretical and practical approaches to landscape painting.

This paper presentation aims at analysing, through the particular example of a few of these British landscapists, how artists, in a common search for a closer link to nature, came to look at and perceive their environment through predominant aesthetic “lenses”, such as the picturesque or the sublime; the natural landscape they depicted in an artificial one hence became the main concern and main subject of their art. To do so, this presentation shall first investigate how these visual filters indeed contributed to a greater interest, knowledge and sensibility towards landscape at large, towards yet unexplored natural sceneries - especially those of the Alps and the Southern parts of the peninsula -, the viewer not fearing the unknown anymore. Moreover, this paper shall also underline how British landscapists, relying on these landscape aesthetics, also renewed the figuration of city views and antique monuments. British artists’ immediate interaction with their new environment also led to major artistic innovations regarding the art of landscape painting. In this sense, this paper shall address the changes in iconography - with the predilection for rough motifs, for volcanic, mountainous, coastal or grotto sceneries as a way of questioning man’s relation to the external world -, the redefinition of some pictorial conventional criteria in order to reflect one’s own sensibility, the developments in pictorial techniques - especially concerning watercolour drawing/painting – and the improvements in supports as keys to better render direct observation of nature as well as personal feelings towards it. Shall also be treated the increased interest of landscapists for out-of-doors sketching, revealing the tight bounds and concerns of the artist to his natural environment. Through an overall view of these British artists’ approach to landscape painting, this paper shall thus distinguish the “British” environmental perception in a fully multicultural one.

Anne Béchard-Léauté

Université Jean Monnet, Saint Etienne

The work of Scottish sculptor Georgia Russell presents the viewer with unidentified objects, unknown hybrids created out of a process of laceration with a scalpel. The books or photographs that she dissects unfurl outwards into sculptural objects that operate in space in an organic manner, be they totemic figures or paper landscapes. The common denominator of this body of works is the automatic technique of cutting out, making incisions with the scalpel being the equivalent of making marks with a pencil for the artist. The timing of her artistic gestures is similar to that of the painter and shares the regularity and rhythm of brushstrokes. This act, which marries gesture and rhythm, space and time, has become the foundation of Georgia Russell's oeuvre, which oscillates between the flat surface of the printed page and the volume of the sculptural object. It thereby employs a dual language: it is rooted in the symbolic archaism of familiar landscapes and the modernity of the sculptural object that divides and draws space, simultaneously embracing the aerial dimension, suspension and mobility.

I have addressed elsewhere the meaning of Georgia Russell's book sculptures which very much depends on her choice of book titles. For the Conference, I propose to question the seemingly straightforward significance of her cut-out landscapes which are flatter and wordless. I will compare and contrast both types of works. I will also distinguish between the different types of photographs and papers she chooses to work with, some found and others especially made. I will then wonder how far the pictures she uses are emptied of their original content once they have been sliced and transformed into lacework. I will show that her cut-out landscapes are not just a support for retrieval but that they have a deeper, nostalgic meaning. In order to do so, I will interrogate the link between Virginia Woolf's novels and Russell's work and study the visual allusions she makes to the Scottish landscape while working from her French workshop.


Aurore Caignet

Université Rennes 2

If England is often associated with its lush countryside, castles, country houses, abbeys and aristocratic estates, many of its industrial vestiges still pepper the country. As physical testimonies to the industrial revolution – be they textile mills, stand-alone chimneys, warehouses, or canals – they are part and parcel of the enduring image of the North of England. Former industrial places located within Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire – a geographical area which was once the epicentre of the textile industry – have provided inspiration for artists whose romantic, nostalgic or celebratory mood produced diverse representations of the industrial landscape. Their works reflect changing attitudes and contemporary fears, whether those were stimulated by the advent of industry or by its disappearance.

A diachronic approach will be used to study depictions of industrial and post-industrial landscapes in and around Manchester and Bradford, produced over the course of the last two centuries. This paper will challenge the traditional dichotomy between ‘positive’ nature and ‘negative’ industry, going beyond the stereotypical imagery related to industrial heritage and providing a more multifaceted picture of England’s industrial North. It will examine how successive mutations and the increasing need to safeguard the memory of place are perceptible in artworks created in response to these changes. Rather than studying awe-inspiring representations of industrial scenes, my focus is on depictions of the transformative effects of industrialisation and urbanisation on the landscape which were produced by artists in response to unprecedented physical transformations at the end of the 18th and throughout the 19th centuries. These early images will be contrasted with the archetypal industrial landscapes and cityscapes of L.S. Lowry, as well as with paintings by Adolphe Valette, both of whom were inspired by daily scenes observed in Manchester and which are not necessarily all doom and gloom. The photographic documentation of the demise of industry from the 1970s onwards, and attempts at recording – and preserving – a fragile industrial heritage, will then be analysed. I will focus particularly on photographs by Bradfordian photographer Ian Beesley, and the work of Randolph Langenbach. Last but not least, the post-industrial era, which has been oscillating between the neglect and abandonment of material testimonies to an industrial past and the reassessment and re-use of a select few, will provide the background for the exploration of a recent tendency to photograph industrial ruins, as well as the adoption of a more cheerful approach to the representation of industrial landscape. This approach is exemplified by David Hockney’s images of his hometown, Bradford, and contributes to the positive re-imaging of a place defined by its industrial legacy.

Edwin Coomasaru

The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London

What, if anything, is the relationship between ecology and war? Is it simply casual (droughts leading to conflict, invasions launched for oil) – or could the links be more complex? Could nature ever be thought of as a combatant? What's at stake in asking such a question in the context of a civil war – where land (real or imagined) seems to be at the very heart of the violence. This paper will respond to recent theories put forward by Reza Negarestani's Cyclonopedia (2008) and Jane Bennett's Vibrant Matter (2010) about violence and nonhuman agency, to consider contemporary representations of nature in art produced in the wake of the Northern Irish ‘Troubles' (1968-98).

In Willie Doherty's videos Buried (2009) and Secretion (2012), forests and rivers are infused with a haunting violence. For Steve McQueen's film Hunger, too, something seems amiss: Republican fantasies of pastoral scenes deliberately jar with the reality of the prison's rotting food, maggots and rats. Something sinister seems to have been festering in the relationship between humans and the land for decades: Paul Seawright's photographic series Sectarian Murder (1972-73) and Seamus Heaney's poem Bog Queen (1975) explore the dumping of bodies in rural beauty spots. In fact, in Northern Ireland, gendered understandings of nature have been instrumental to both British imperialist and Irish nationalist militarism. In early twentieth-century literary and visual culture supporters of the British Empire often depicted colonial troops ‘penetrating' a virginal, female Irish landscape. In response, Republicans perpetuated the notion of their country as a woman – Mother Ireland – who must be defended by her sons. Each side portrayed the (feminised) land as a passive (penetrated) backdrop to the conflict.

This rhetoric was largely perpetuated at the start of the ‘Troubles', as a call to arms to men to defend their women and their (feminised) country. However, it seems the notion of nature as passive and benign became untenable over the course of the conflict. No longer simply a blank canvas for (male) militants to project fantasies of mastery over, the land seems to be increasingly seen as its own force to be reckoned with. In Doherty and McQueen's work, the landscape appears an active participant in the conflict: inflicting its own violence on humans. In fact, Ursula Burke's statue The Protagonist (2015) depicts a cow (a female symbol of Ireland) wearing a paramilitary balaclava. Coinciding with opportunities for emancipation for women brought about by the ‘Troubles', nature appears increasingly the site of its own agency in the Northern Irish cultural imagination.

Paul Cureton

University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

An increasing urbanisation[i] of our global environment makes the representation of this process critical. In particular cities are becoming a key driver of environmental futures.[ii] This urbanisation has a direct lineage to eighteenth century industrial developments as well as cultural developments (Brewer 2013). In addition to this the Enclosure Acts have also contributed to the current environmental pattern in the United Kingdom. Landscape representation from a variety of disciplines has various agencies both in its transformative power to realise spaces, to highlight and critique and to renovate spaces and places. It also acts as a specific point at which to understand our imaginative capacity for future landscapes and environments. Landscape representation is uniquely complex, though the unknown of environmental characters can be revealed in the investigation of ‘agency’. This plenary talk will marshal British and European cases, chart the variety of environmental practices and agency of these representations to map futures. These representations vary in scale, are sometimes counter-cultural, competing or temporal composites.

An increasing variety of technological tools and practices have tangentially developed, offering new insights into urban landscapes through virtual spaces (VR & AR).[iii] These have been applied to sustainability principles, time based ecological representation and larger scale investment in city ICT infrastructure systems for Smart and connected Cities (particularly 4D GIS assets and Urban Metabolic studies) (Batty 2013, Chrysoulakis et al. 2014, Townsend 2015).  Of all the technological tools environmental evaluation is the most valuable when its representation is time based and this particular agency has further grounds for exploration rooted in ecological methodologies. The process by which a representation communicates and its variety through choice of methodology (which includes contemporary technologies) is both the generative point and also its own node at which to evaluate its effects. Landscape agency requires an anthropological investigation into its very cyclic nature as well as the variety of visual material. It helps us decode future environmental directions understandings and challenges. This agency is all we have to levy changes in the present for differing environmental futures.

[i] Whether sprawl, peri-urbanisation or sub-urbanisation (see Eisner 1993 et al).

[ii] Chapter 2 – Urbanization as a Transformative Force, World Cities Report 2016, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, p.29. See Statistical Annex in addition. (Accessed 22/12/16) http://wcr.unhabitat.org/main-report/. See also ‘Systems of Cities’ for a UK context in (Clark & Clark 2014).

[iii] See (Carta 2017).


Thomas Hugues

The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London

John Ruskin drew and wrote about rocks, leaves, flowers, trees, animals, mountains and the sky, and instructed Modern Painters to paint what they see in nature, in anxious response to rapid industrialisation. However as Keith Hanley has said Ruskin is ‘distinctly not an ecologist, if that is taken to mean someone for whom human culture is secondary to the dictates of purely physical laws. The mediating frame is the aestheticisation of the environment: nature as landscape'. For Ruskin, human presence in nature activates meaning and beauty. On the other hand, humans are responsible for the defilement of nature. In this paper I will evaluate Ruskin's theory of drawing as Hanley's mediating frame and argue that it tries to theorise the ‘proper' relationship between humans and nature. Ruskin's theory of drawing is a political doctrine partly designed to educate individuals of the nineteenth-century working population in how to see, interpret and represent their own relationship to nature. It repudiates what David Brett has called the ‘ideology of industrialisation' by spurning the outline and emphasising shading, gradation and colour. Ruskin's drawing has been called optically ‘subjective' by Jonathan Crary, but it insists on the intellectual representation of the ‘facts' of nature. By drawing accurately the forest leaves we might discern nature's most mysterious creation, ‘the human heart'.

Ruskin emphasises colour or colore, which means understanding the correct limitations of human knowledge – where drawing or disegno stop. But in art and life those limitations were often transgressed. I will evaluate how this problem is performed in Ruskin's nature drawings, such as in the watercolour In The Pass of Killiecrankie (1857), in which bulbous rock formations resemble a monstrous and engorged human brain that is polluting the clear-blue water and Edenic innocence of the River Garry; and in other artists' paintings and drawings. Ruskin's theory of drawing ultimately collapses into reactionary solitude when it encounters industrial modernity and cannot conceive of human and natural community. Ruskin's drawing practice turns in vain to people-less architecture or conceives of nature as impossibly exquisite yet frighteningly alien, as in the intense and upsetting study of a ‘Fleur de Lys (“Iris Florentina”)'. When optimistic, Ruskin defines art to be human presence in nature: the human landscape. Therefore he might find himself unwelcome in the ‘post-human' turn in the humanities. However I will argue Ruskin's theory of drawing is a dialectical and valuable one in which humans' subordinate dependence on nature is emphasised, but in which self-aware humans do not abandon their constant responsibility for aiding nature's health and survival, or indeed for preventing its impending destruction.


Jeehee Kim

Yonsei University

This essay deals with the way that physical violence and verbal oppression are narrated in the stories of London from the late 18th to the early 20th century. In this essay, I try to argue that the figure of (in)articulate tongue is employed by the writers of London who saw the problem in unequal language abilities among people with their metropolitan experience. In its attempt to understand the matter of (in)articulation in Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent, it discusses how other writers of London dealt with the mechanism of oppression operating in the city and also how London's city sound was actually controlled and managed. This essay argues that the writers grew conscious of the inequality in language ability with their experiences of entering London as outsiders. However, this essay tries not to confuse language with its individual usage. These London writers' stories of inarticulate tongues remain to challenge our notions of language and culture. This essay proposes to try reading their accounts from focusing on the figure of tongue and the image of sound as a way to see how language has become a target of oppression and violence as well as social change.


Camille Manfredi

Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest

The discussion whether or not Scotland's natural beauty should prevail over land use practicalities has been ongoing for the best part of the past century. In the early 1940s already, a series of parliamentary bills that planned the provision of hydro-electricity in the Highlands launched the bitter “Hydro” debates that opposed the advocates of the productivity of land to those reluctant to any form of governmental intrusion into nature, with the latter group choosing to remain loyal, in the unequivocal words of Frances Robertson, “to that rugged style of artificial northern wilderness” and “camouflage of nature” (Robertson, 2013). Historians, artists and intellectuals have since endeavoured to break from pastoral landscape representations to restore the idea that the vast expanses of Scottish land are most of all, as argued by Fiona Mackenzie, “places of possibility” (Mackenzie, 2013).

This paper will first survey the environmentalisation of the artistic and academic approach to land, space and place in today's Scotland, as demonstrated by the proliferation of environmentally-aware artistic events such as the biennial Environmental Art Festival Scotland (EAFS), the foundation of the Department of Environmental Art at Glasgow School of Art or the recent launch of the curatorial platform Ecoartscotland. The paper will then investigate the interaction of environmental aesthetics and strategies of self-representation in Scotland's 21st-century photography and film. I will pay particular interest to the representations of the oil industry and renewable energy in the photo-textual “primer” Ebban an' Flowan by Alec Finlay, Laura Watts and Alistair Pebbles (2015) and in Roseanne Watt's filmpoem Sullom (2014). These two works will allow me to examine the ways contemporary poets and visual artists engage with the environmental issue so as to “re/view, re/form, re/search, re/use, re/create, re/act” (Brown, 2014) the allegedly “wild” lands (or seas, for that matter) of Scotland. I will consider the interlaced social, political, economic and environmental issues that affect and inform the way the Scottish arts contribute to the global and pressing concern for environmental sustainability. The selected body of works and practices shall then be viewed within the broader frame of reference of today's increasing preoccupation with environmental issues and sustainable energy, as well as within the powerful political and cognitive processes of globalisation and internationalisation, all of which urge us to a nuanced approach to a more than tempting postcolonial stance.

Valérie Morisson

Université de Bourgogne

Simon Roberts (b.1974) is a British photographer whose work explores our relationship to iconic British landscapes as well as their bearing on identity and belonging. Straddling documentary photography and pictorialism, his large compositions revisit the picturesque landscape in the light of the leisure society. The figures in the landscape –either solitary visitors immerged in the sites or cluster of tourists—are redolent of 18th century sight-seers but romantic contemplation has been replaced by more mundane usages which may either make the historic particularities of the place vanish or acquire heritage status. The landscapes are composed so as to bring to mind classical paintings by Gainsborough, Gilpin, or Constable. However, the picturesque subtly blends with signs of our contemporary consumer society and leisure habits. Modern facilities or amenities testify to different relations with the natural environment and evidence man’s attempt to turn sceneries into parks or visitable sites. The high vantage point chosen by the photographer often allows a critical perspective on our relation with the landscape, with the natural environment and its preservation or its use by the tourism industry. Roberts’ series echo both John Hinde’s photographic postcards of the Butlin Holiday Camps and Martin Parr’s critical documentation of British resorts: the homogeneous light and careful compositions as well as the emphasis on socially-determined leisure habits bring to mind Hinde’s and Parr’s take on mass tourism even though Roberts’ work never veers towards a fierce critique of his contemporaries. Simon Roberts casts a distanced yet affectionate look on the British landscape and the manner in which people re-appropriate iconic places. In The Social: Landscapes of Leisure (2013), We English (2007-2008), and National Property: the Picturesque Imperfect (2013-2015) the heritage landscapes harbouring unromantic activities are still imbued with a tranquil picturesqueness keyed to national identity. The hilly landscapes in the series, at times dotted with ruins, car parks, or fun-parks, are rooted in the English psyche. Nationhood, social cohesion, or belonging are issues which emerge in the three series as connected to the landscape. Roberts’ works give us an insight into the cultural frames which preside over our perception, use, and control of places of interest, sites, natural sceneries, heritage landscapes. These semantic variations on our environment will be at the core of our analysis.


Pat Naldi

Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London

In recent years in my practice I have focused on the notion of the ‘view' as a visual, spatial, and conceptual position in which what is posited as a view, and its signification, as a view, determines how we experience, understand and relate to others and the world around us. The ‘view' and the act of viewing are ideologically constructed politically positioned value systems. Landscape is understood as a way of seeing, a position which privileges the status of the viewer. During the eighteenth century a transition occurred in England whereby the landed aristocracy transformed the hunting woodland into the landscape park, at which point the invention of scenery took place. Influenced by travelling on the European Grand Tour, landed estates were re-fashioned to resemble the picturesque arcadian aesthetics as exemplified by the paintings of Claude Lorrain, and Nicolas Poussin. This extreme landscaping involved moving and planting trees, creating artificial lakes, and reshaping of hills and valleys. When viewed though the windows of the country houses, these re-designed landscapes reflected the arcadian imagery of the paintings hanging in their interior. The effect of the pursuit of this idealised gaze was to compose and organise a class-based ‘framing' of an ideal landscape ‘view' that was un-peopled, and at the same time eradicated any traces of an untamed land of working labour, thus instilling a notion of separation and observation. The framing of the ideal view visually eradicated the gaps within which existed the working countryside, the sweat and toil of the land, the labourers, and the lower classes. The Bretton Estate, the grounds within which the acclaimed Yorkshire Sculpture Park is based, is a perfect historical example of this 18th century transformation. Operating as an open-air gallery since 1977, Yorkshire Sculpture Park combines temporary and permanent sculptures with, and within, the 500-acre landed estate, designed vistas, and heritage.

This paper will centre on my 2016 research and production residency at Yorkshire Sculpture Park for which I took the 500-acre estate as an entire spatial sculptural form. The gardens, follies, country-park, woods, and grazing land constitute what would have historically been the Bretton Estate when in private hands. Whilst over the centuries the grounds of the estate have developed, it does not deter from the fact that they were landscaped for a very particular purpose, and continue to be managed for a very particular purpose. Living on-site at Yorkshire Sculpture Park over a number of weeks what becomes very apparent is a sense of its historical exclusivity as the private grounds of a landed estate, one mirrored today through restricted public use and access to the grounds. It is a coming together of the historical and contemporary fabrication and management of private/public landscape.


Kasia Ozga

Ecole Européenne Supérieure d'Art de Bretagne, Brest

Artists in Britain have long represented their environment through static drawings, paintings, and photographs. Over the past 50 years, this fascination was likewise present in the works of film and video artists. The latter media, which unfold over time, seem well suited to represent the ever-changing nature of the physical spaces we encounter. Indeed sculptors as diverse as Richard Serra in the US and Barry Flanagan in Britain, turned to video to highlight the physical processes that informed the fixed objects they produced with works such as Hand Scraping (Serra, 1968) and a hole in the sea (Flanagan, 1969).

More recently, as the very definition of sculpture has morphed to include what Rosalind Krauss identifies as the “expanded field,” contemporary object makers have embraced environmental processes within their work. Rather than striving towards timelessness or temporary spectacle, these works integrate and highlight material change over time. Nevertheless, whereas studies of time-based media frequently analyze relationships between specific photographs or videos and larger temporal frameworks, the temporal dimension is often absent from studies that concentrate on sculpture. As three-dimensional artworks, sculptures as once emulate and encourage physical, sensual experiences that take place over time. My talk will explore how contemporary artists use this quality to guide viewers to consider their relationships to the environment by at once representing and staging physical transformations.

My investigation will examine strategies embraced by sculptors living in Britain to depict the relationship between the modern body and the environment, including phase changes such as freezing, hardening, and melting. In Self (Marc Quinn, 1991-present), the Sweet Sculptures (Zuzanna Janin, 1997-2012), and Midsummer Snowballs (Andy Goldsworthy, 2000), time is both an explicit subject matter and an element of each work's form. By analyzing aspects of temporality such as duration, frequency, simultaneity, and continuity, we can see how these works interact with viewers' expectation about art and its' contexts. By highlighting the threat, effects, and consequences of material changes within our environments either as negative object lessons or through literal examples, these works exemplify what Keith Thomas refers to as the “dethronement of man” while alternately promoting an expansive and self-effacing view of what it means to be human, today. These time-specific works made in the context of climate change, political ecology, and transhumanism, foreground physical processes to stimulate reflection and action. Considering how they do so enables us to reflect on how sculpture in Britain addresses that which is immaterial, through material means.


Laura Valette

Université Panthéon Sorbonne

« And now that it has taken to snowing I begin rather to wish myself back in my own lovely London fogs ! They are lovely those fogs – and I am their painter !1 »

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) has always claimed his inspiration from nature, and indeed, his dependence from painting sur le motif, that made himself a painter deeply aware of his environment. When he moved to London in 1859, he was struck by the river Thames, just nearby his studio located in Lindsey Row. Whistler's Thames subjects of the 1860s and 1870s are an attempt to reshape a long tradition of topographical images. He followed J. M. W Turner's steps and drew from the way he depicted the smoke rising from London chimneys, illustrated in works like The Thames above Waterloo Bridge around 1835. The depiction of the river Thames, as a late 19th century geographic, climatic and social phenomenon was central to the development of a Whistlerian aesthetic. After years studying the river, Whistler's techniques and compositions evolved with the environment. As he worked his way along the Thames, from Cremorne gardens to Battersea bridge, he started improvising with the shifting lights resulting from the changing seasons and the different times of the day. Whistler evoked the life and atmosphere of the Thames riverscape over a twenty-year period, from 1859 to 1879. His Thames subjects could only have emerged from a detailed knowledge of the place itself.

The artist was particularly interested in depicting fog and was then one of the first to pay attention to this phenomenon. As Oscar Wilde said : « There may have been fogs for centuries in London. I dare say there were. But no one saw them, and so we do not know anything about them. They did not exist till art had invented them.2 ». Fog is a mysterious climatic effect that implies a perception game, only visible near the river. It was one of Whistler's favourite subject because of its poetic dimension.

This communication aims to question the following path : the study of the different places chosen by the artist, and the climate patterns around the river Thames in Whistler's whole body of works. This approach will allow us to fully understand the role of the environment in the artist's creative process.

1 Letter n°06686, Letter from Whistler to Helen Euphrosyne Whistler, October/ November 1879.
2 Oscar Wilde, « The Decay of Lying »in De Profundis and Other Writings, London : Penguin Books, 1973, p. 79.


Amy C. Wallace

University of Toronto

In 1856 British artist and critic Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834–94) travelled to a moor on the border of Lancashire and Yorkshire to test a new artistic device that he believed "might be of real service to our modern school of naturalistic landscape-painters."[1] The device was a portable studio, which he designed to "assist artists in their endeavours after truth."[2] Consisting of detachable panels and plate-glass windows, the studio could be transported, assembled, and disassembled in nearly any location, for it was Hamerton's aim to "see a good natural composition through my plate-glass window without stirring from my seat."[3] Hamerton documented his invention and its use in his book A Painter's Camp in the Highlands, and Thoughts about Art (1862), which circulated his idea throughout Britain. Fellow British artist Hubert von Herkomer (1849–1914) later designed his own portable studio that was "eleven feet by eight fee, with one side glass, and turned on a pivot, being made fast by four ropes" and used it to sketch the landscape of Wales.[4]

The portable studios of Hamerton and Herkomer were one outcome of the new criteria for truth to nature that Ruskin established in Modern Painters (1843–60). Their invention was an experimental solution to the challenges of outdoor painting, including the risk of unfavourable weather and the time required to travel between one's regular studio and sketching locations. More importantly, these studios facilitated the direct observation of the natural world. Ruskin argued that the truthful representation of facts was a discernible index of the more noble ideas of beauty and relation, thereby making truth a measure of general artistic value.[5] However, he also maintained that truth may be material or immaterial, relating either to outward appearance or to inner meaning.[6] This framework left artists with the challenge of visually discerning an abstract concept in the material world. This paper will argue that, for some nineteenth-century British artists, the answer was to adapt the very space through which they perceived and represented the world: their studios. In so doing, this paper considers the role of portable studios in shaping British artists' encounters with the natural environment and suggests that, like the Claude glass, these studios were a portable technology that mediated artistic vision.

[1] Philip Gilbert Hamerton, A Painter's Camp in the Highlands, and Thoughts about Art, vol. 1 The Camp (Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1862), 8.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., xi.
[4] Hubert von Herkomer, Autobiography of Hubert Herkomer (n.p.: Printed for Private Circulation, 1890), 53.
[5] John Ruskin, Modern Painters, vol. I, in The Works of John Ruskin, ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (London: George Allen, 1903), 138–39."Truth is a bar of comparison at which [all art] may be examined, and according to the rank they take in this examination will almost invariably be that which ... we should be just in assigning them; so strict is the connection, so constant the relation, between the sum of knowledge and the extent of thought, between accuracy of perception and vividness of idea." Ibid., 138.
[6]"And the aim of the great inventive landscape painter must be to give the far higher and deeper truth of mental vision, rather than that of the physical facts, and to reach a representation which, though it may be totally useless to engineers or geographers, and, when tried by rule and measure, totally unlike the place, shall yet be capable of producing on the far-away beholder's mind precisely the impression which the reality would have produced." John Ruskin, Modern Painters, vol. IV, in The Works of John Ruskin, ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (London: George Allen, 1903), 35.

Richard White

Bath Spa University

A walking arts perspective on landscape and identity. Informed by several years practice in outdoor celebratory arts, working with the enchantment of place and landscape, I am currently hosting a series of performative walks using dissonance as provocation. The presentation offers a review of this experiment in ambulatory and socially engaged approaches to obscured and intangible cultural heritage.

The walks are based on the City of Bath, once a crucible of the Enlightenment; a city that in its eighteenth century heyday once hosted the writers and artists who developed an iconography and shaped an English national myth of lasting significance. Gainsborough and Wordsworth amongst them. At the same time as proceeds from the Caribbean plantation estates flowed back across the ocean, the surrounding English country estates were sculpted to the designs of ‘Capability‘ Brown and others. The built environment of the city and Country houses stand as silent witness to the wealth generated by the Atlantic trade. Facing, sense-ing the legacies of the slave trade and slaveownership, the cycle of walks seeks to disenchant the official cultural heritage, generate empathy and network resonances. This walking practice seeks to evoke empathetic responses, raise questions about change and movement, terrain and space, belonging and exile. I am seeking to unpack the layers of the city and its landscape setting. The practice is performed live by the walking participants, our presence extended via social media through the sharing of thoughts, images and sounds live during the walk. Resonances continue as social networks pick up and reflect on the media posted. A network of social media trails are being created.

The presentation will offer an account of an experiment in progress and reflect on the series of walks to date with regard to the physical experience of the walker, the process and strategies of generating dissonance and the dialectic between enchantment and disenchantment. This may involve some consideration of hidden and concealed histories, memory, time and place, ecology and the body. Can a disenchanted approach enable us to step aside from the enchantment of ‘nature' or other such constructs whilst taking pleasure in them? Can curated moments of dissonance change our relationship with the past and the land and reveal new ways of knowing ourselves in the world?

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