Representation of Space in Space

Published

I’ve been reading Edward Soja’s Thirdspace (1996) and Postmodern Geographies (1989) and Perceptions of the Environment (2000) by Tim Ingold.

“Space hides consequence from us now.”  (Berger in Soja 1989 p.22)

Space does hide consequence from those who have power..  We throw out rubbish and it goes ‘somewhere.’  We use electricity that comes from ‘somewhere.’  Our food in the super-markets comes from ‘somewhere.’  The western life-style and model of consumption is propped up on patterns that have real world spatial consequences that we do not typically see.  Many people live with these consequences and learn to find opportunity, however slim.

“…social relations become real and concrete, a part of our lived social existence, only when they are spatially “inscribed” –that is, concretely represented–in the social production of social space.”    ( Soja 1996  p46)

My experience in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia was largely influenced by a post-industrial condition. It could be argued that the factories first stood a consequence of a particular mode of production. But then the ruins of the old factories seem to become more complicated. Ambivalence about the future of the space prevails,  an absence of belief in industry for the community takes hold as the factories somehow seem to become symbols of extraction instead of production. The structures atrophy as space hides the consequences of a globalized industrial world elsewhere.

“By the same token, it is also man developing into nature.  Or in other words, human actions in the environment are better seen as incorporative than inscriptive, in the sense they are built or enfolded into the forms of the landscape and its living inhabitants by way of their own processes of growth.” (Ingold p. 87)

[singlepic id=70 w=400 h=300 float=center]In Totnes, I find that this process of incorporating social relations into the landscape is on a larger time scale. Eventually ruins become the new norm. Before last fall, I was incredibly short sighted. The history of the US in the landscape is a few hundred years at best. Here in South Devon, the area is deemed an Area_of_Outstanding_Natural_Beauty, which has been confusing to say the least. Culturally, it is considered natural, but many forests can be plantations, many fields are enclosed and grazed. Even Dartmoor, the neighboring national park has a longstanding history of military use.

By Noel Hefele

Noel Hefele is an artist living in the Bronx