dinsdag 8 maart 2011

Eskimo Psychogeography

The first is a a map of the Cumberland Sound-Frobisher Bay region drawn from memory by an Eskimo named Sunapignanq, The second map is a modern cartographic map.

The above image and the quote below are excerpted from Barry Lopez fabulous 'Arctic Dreams, imagination and desire in a Northern landscape'. I opened it at random the other day and the following fragment about the definition of 'space', 'place' and how the transition from one to the other is brought about through narrative and long term contact seems to be in perfect alignment with forage psychogeography. It is a wonderfully compact quote, a large segment of the book is concerned with Eskimo (ethno)psychogeography but Lopez here manages to find universal facets. Italics are mine.
 The American geographer Yi-Fu Tuan distinguishes in his writing between concepts of space and a sense of place. Human beings, he says, set out from places, where they feel a sense of attachment,of shelter, of comprehension, and journey into amorphous spaces, characterized by a feeling of freedom or adventure, and the unknown. "In open space," writes Tuan, "one can become intensely aware of [a remembered] place; and in the solitude of a sheltered place, the vastness of space acquires a haunting presence." We turn these exhilarating and sometimes terrifying new places into geography by extending the boundaries of our old places in an effort to include them. We pursue a desire for equilibrium and harmony between our familiar places and unknown spaces. We do this to make the foreign comprehensible, or simply more acceptable.

Tuan's thoughts are valid whether one is thinking about entering an unknown room in a large house or of a sojourn in the Arctic.  What stands out in the latter instance, and seems always part of travel in a wild landscape, is the long struggle of the mind for concordance with the mystery entity, the earth.

One more thought from Tuan: a culture's most cherished places are not necessarily visible to the eye - spots on the land one can point to. They are made visible in drama - in narrative, song, and performance. It is precisely what is invisible in the land, however, that makes what is merely empty space to one person a place to another. The feeling that a particular place is suffused with memories, the specific focus of sacred and profane stories, and that the whole landscape is a congeries of such places, is what is meant by a local sense of the land. The observation that it is merely space which requires definition before it has meaning - political demarcation, an assignment of its ownership, or industrial development - betrays a colonial sensibility.   

Fabulous eye candy: Greenland Inuit shoreline maps.

1 opmerking:

  1. The Barry Lopez book is great. I have read it three times at least.