Movism: Prologue to a New Visual Theory in Landscape Architecture
If we accept the precept that landscape architecture has always been bound to a strong pictorial and aesthetic tradition, then we are entitled to ask what referential image, if any, prevails in today’s landscape practice. Ever since the early Renaissance there has been a strong and determined picture frame in which our perception of landscape has expanded and matured, but with the advent of the moving image, particularly within new media, the notion of a precise reference image has become both relative and confused. New media simply brings us too many images, they are diffused via TV into countless superimpositions and impressions that, because of their sheer quantity and incessant flux, become a valueless juxtaposition of pictures. Walter Benjamin (1963) already understood this problem when he referred to the work of art in the age of reproduction, and although he essentially dealt with the question of the diluted meaning of art within mass culture, he touched upon something that has become quite overwhelming today: the overabundance of image in the age of mass media (see Benjamin 1963). Another major hurdle, which we have not yet integrated in our reflection on contemporary landscape aesthetics, is the ever growing presence and significance of the moving image in our daily lives and in our very own visual thinking. Outside the home window, today’s reference frame for landscapes is almost always in motion, be it the windshield of a car, the window of a train or an airplane, or simply the film screen showing a wonderful sample of springtime promenade in the meadows to sell us some piece of chocolate. Over the last century, the moving picture and its depiction of nature has broadly invaded and surpassed the traditional landscape iconic system that we had grown accustomed to. The truth of the matter is that we have lost the thread that once linked us to such a strong, simple and meditative acceptance of a single picture as landscape reference. This is the reason why we have sought, together with Marc Schwarz, Udo Weilacher, André Müller, and Fred Truniger of the Landscape Video Lab and the Landscape Post Graduate program at the ETH, and the help of students to pursue the question of framing and sampling new modes of representation and observation in landscape architecture.
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