Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Incomplete Image of the Environment

“The putative 3-D of the thin

clouds was an almost satisfying picture

of the unpredictable organizations of imagination.”

-Bob Perelman, Fake Dream B

I want to further examine the idea of “sculpting one’s environment,” brought up in an earlier post by Emily Fishman. In The Image of the Environment, Kevin Lynch states, “the observer himself should play an active role in perceiving the world and have a creative part in developing his image. He should have the power to change that image to fit changing needs. … [with city structures] what we seek is not a final but an open-ended order, capable of continuous further development” (pg. 6). With this description, he separates the way in which we experience an art form like music and the way in which we experience a city, as he believes the experience of music is not subject to constant change.

Ironically, Paglen illustrates how one example of evolving and intensifying visions of geography are, in fact, the “blank spots on the map”. Although Lynch was probably not referring to the distinction between black and white geography, his ideas evoke Paglen’s work. According to Lynch, “the image so developed […] now limits what is seen” (pg. 6), which echoes Paglen’s idea that “The CIA […] was now free to pursue its vision of a new world, to create new geographies, and to keep that world’s details far from public record” (pg. 250).

When considering new spatial perception and meaning, I am also reminded of Jameson’s theories of Postmodernism. How important a role does human sensory inadequacy play when considering more and more developed geo-spatial awareness?

In The Mirror Stage, Lacan highlights an “organic insufficiency in [… a] natural reality – insofar as any meaning can be given to the word nature” (pg. 4). Jameson uses similar words in The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, by describing aphysical incommensurability of the human organism with nature,” and “also the limits of figuration and the incapacity of the human mind to give representation to such forces” (pg. 34). According to Jameson, the “viewer is asked to follow the evolutionary mutation.” In the same way, Lynch argues that to “extend and deepen our perception of the environment would be to continue a long biological and cultural development” (pg. 13).

By deeming geographical knowledge “open” or “closed,” are we sidestepping the reality of our own incapacity for total spatial awareness?

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