Vaguely Northern: in between in England

LEE, Joanne (2018). Vaguely Northern: in between in England. In: GOLDIE, Chris and WHITE, Darcy, (eds.) Northern Light Landscape, Photography and Evocations of the North. Transcript Verlag, 133-142.

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Planners, architects, landscape designers, geographers and the like have assigned the term terrain vague to describe those muddled landscapes lying in between use, and between nature and civilization. In a much-cited essay on such spaces the late Spanish architect and critic Ignasi Solà-Morales Rubió noted how they assumed the status of fascination for photographers, and indicated it was thanks to the work of practitioners (he mentions John Davies, amongst others) that his own regard was drawn to what had hitherto lain largely un-remarked and un-theorized elsewhere. In the twenty years since Solà-Morales Rubió’s piece, with the further decline of industry and failing economies, such sites have proliferated across the North of England, and their indeterminate landscapes have come to preoccupy a new range of contemporary photographers. This chapter considers the way this recent photography (and associated painting) has investigated Northern terrains vague, and remarks there a shift in attention from the large scale images made in the mid/late twentieth century to more intimate viewpoints; it discerns tendencies to address the everyday surfaces of such places, their shattered remnants, rusty artefacts and eroded structures, or to enumerate the recurrences of particular forms identified through repeated walking and slow looking, some of which have been informed by perspectives from psychogeography. Between these instances of visual abstraction and conceptual pattern recognition, it seeks to discuss what might be thought Northern in these depictions – how do they differ from the exploration of similar sites elsewhere – and to reflect upon their consequences for how such places can be theorised. In doing so it refers to research through practice (photography/writing/visual communication) for ‘Vague terrain’, issue 4 of my Pam Flett Press independent serial publication, and ongoing work for ‘Returns’, a project on post industrial landscapes, through which I have been investigating sites in Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, Teesside and the North Pennines.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Departments - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Faculty of Science, Technology and Arts > Department of Art and Design
Page Range: 133-142
Depositing User: Joanne Lee
Date Deposited: 23 May 2018 10:49
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 07:02

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