This week I’ve been on a small retreat. The artistic leader of Secret hotel, Christine Fentz, has opened the doors to her home in Mols Bjerge and let me stay here.
Two days ago Christine went to Copenhagen to work and left the farm in my care. Since then I have enjoyed the farm land all by myself, with space to think, to dwell, to open up and to start the process of preparing the big work ahead. The contract for the final thesis is signed and delivered to Aarhus University. So now the thesis project has officially started.
So. Here’s another way to enter the proces:
Go away from the library, the reading halls, the desks and the usual procedures. Go to somewhere with lots of space and air.
Go for a walk in the woods.
Go for a walk around the house and look for poetic inspiration.
Get distracted by that same poetic inspiration.
Investigate the place. Take pictures. Take the temperature. Take a deep breath.
In April, the first series of sensorial walks will be held here, around the farm. The participants will be blindfolded, so they will watch the farm land with their hands, through their feet, ears and nostrils.
From three days’ work and life here on the farm evolves Process Lecture Nr. 1 for the thesis student:
It is good to go on a walk each day.
While writing this, I realize how this very simple thing – a walk – connects to the starting point of the thesis. I propose that the physical act of walking/moving with a certain (aesthetic) attention through the landscape can become a way of connecting to something. That “something” could be anything around: the cold wind, the soft ground of the woods, a bird among the trees, my own breath or my whole body. Or it could be something less material: feelings of sadness, boredom, longing, a realization of confusion, satisfaction, tiredness, stress or the arrival of certain crucial reflections and thoughts. Here the moving, perceiving body in relation to the surroundings is what creates these connections.
So. Let’s have a look in the theoretical section.
There are several ways of describing this body-landscape connection theoretically. Rebecca Solnit writes about walking:
Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body and the world aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be on our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being made wholly lost in our thoughts. (Solnit, 2001: 5)
Solnit’s ideal kind of walking seems to be peaceful and harmonic. What do you think about that?
In the foreword to an antology about landscape conversations, Katrin Anna Lund and Karl Benediktsson writes that the landscape is:
…not comprehended as a predetermined, culturally contrived “text”, but as a conversational partner that is certainly more than human […] (Benediktsson and Lund 2010:8)
Now, if landscape connections can be seen as a (peaceful and harmonic?) conversation, how does the landscape communicate? DOES the landscape communicate? This is one of the questions I ask in my research.
At the moment the thesis process is facing a mountain of words yet unread. Not my words, but others’. Yesterday I wrote a very long literature list of things I want to read. Interesting books are lying in stacks, waiting to be read or re-read. Here are some of the works I expect to be key-works in the thesis so far:
And there are many more. An interesting, but surely not very easy mountain to climb. I love and hate reading. It can be so tiring. Boring. And sometimes eye-opening! Words, words, dead and alive. New horizons. New land.
BUT. As this project seeks to move away from a system dominated by words and images by introducing an aesthetic perception mode with multiple sensorial sensations, my imaginative mountain of words wants to be combined with other inspiring landscapes. Like this farm land itself. Or in fields of artistic works by others.
Here’s the book I found most inspiring among them all yesterday.
A short artistic work called “Slices of Wood”, with poems about trees and pictures of trees.
Words about trees on material made of trees. Underlining the belief that it is nonsense to construct a split between nature and culture.
Tonight I go back to the city. With slices of the farm on my camera and my mind. Next thing will be to open some of those books!
Another way to enter the process:
Close the computer.
Take the weekend off.
Go for another walk. Ideal or not ideal.
Solnit, Rebecca, 2001: Wanderlust: A history of walking, Verso