In the Timaeus Plato refers to the Chora as ‘that which gives space’, as the site of the event in which things take their shape. This sense of the shape of things, a sense of their taking, losing, solidifying, exhibiting and hiding certain forms and shapes, will be our main concern this year. We will ask whether there is such a thing as a coherent style in this day and age, or whether there is, to paraphrase the art historian Sedlmayer, ‘a loss of the middle’: is this age characterised by the striking absence of a coherent guiding principle present in our buildings and objects? A historian of the middle ages could relatively easily read of such a guiding style from the churches of the time – what are the objects and buildings that carry such centrality today?
We will ask about the landscapes that we have created to surround ourselves with, or the landscapes that we have been allowed to inhabit. A landscape is also always a mindscape: it is a reworking of the natural world as a picture of our fears and longings. The study of landscape emancipated the art of painting from the human figure and turned our eyes both outward to the world in the art of Corot and Turner, and inward to consciousness in the art of Van Gogh and Cézanne. This fusion of the world and its observer can occur in poetry, in painting, in music, in abstract argument. It forms the background to the philosophy of the later Heidegger, who referred to Plato’s Chora with the German term Lichtung, as much as it is the foreground to the music of Sibelius.
But our landscapes today are no longer visions of nature. Through video games and special effects the masters of digital imagery have created new worlds, which transcend our comprehension. What does it mean to create landscapes and objects which we can travel to, and increasingly inhabit, virtually? What makes a landscape real?