The articles before you on the theme of ‘Regional Landscapes’ present discussions of a fairly wide range of landscapes – with some notable absences. The articles range from a discussion of landscape painting and photography of ‘natural’ or ‘wilderness’ landscapes outside the city to discussions of urban and suburban landscapes inside the city and to photography of the city. They also range from discussions of representations of landscapes in painting, film and photography to objects found in the landscape such as rocks. Cutting across these discussions is a concern in several articles with the gendered construction of landscapes, especially as found in, and produced by, the masculinist European landscape aesthetic which feminises the land.
Naturally, or predictably, in a journal published in Australia there is a predominance of discussions about Australian landscapes, with the notable exception of one article about China. This article draws attention to the fact that the construction of a national landscape is essential to the formation and maintenance of national identity and an integral part of nationalism. Perhaps unpredictably or unnaturally for a journal published in Australia there is a notable absence of discussion about Aboriginal Country. All Australian landscapes – urban, suburban, extra-urban – are Aboriginal Country.
Curiously for a journal published in Australia all the articles are by either current or former residents of Western Australia. This points to an alarming lack of concern with landscapes, especially regional landscapes, in and by the rest of the country. Politically this is alarming as regional Australia is the heartland of the nation and the primary support base of the federal Liberal/National Party Coalition government. Environmentally this is also alarming, as Cultural Studies academics in eastern Australia don’t seem to be sufficiently interested in their own bioregion to want to write about it or its significance.
Cultural Studies is both the product and victim of the ‘two cultures’ divide that assigns nature and the environment to the hard and life sciences, and relegates culture and the arts to the humanities and social sciences. Science has colonised nature epistemologically and institutionally – and it does not want its empire to be decolonised. It is up to Cultural Studies to do it. The articles assembled here go some way to doing just that and I commend them to you for that.
Selling the Suburbs: Nature, Landscape, Adverts, Community
This essay discusses how the real-and-imagined spaces of ‘nature’ are used to promote the burgeoning master planned communities or enclave estates. On one hand it focuses on the actual sites of the estates and discusses how nature, as a construct, plays a prominent role in presenting the estate as a place of ‘wholesome community values’. It then goes on to discuss how ‘nature’ as a concept is used in various advertisements to promote these community values as a sales tool.
Key terms: Community, enclave estates, firstspace and secondspace, imagineering, nature.
“Wildflowers and Other Landscapes” explores, issues of difference, gender, the field of vision, the body, the landscape in Australia, and the way we write, mark and imagine the land. The piece begins from my own bodily experience of living in this country. Along with other non-Indigenous Australians I carry with me many questions about belonging: where do I belong?; where are my people?; what is my place? As a white woman where do I have the right to go? I am an urban dweller: what is my relationship with country? The paper is presented as a meditation on these questions, attempting to link and move between associated experiences and ideas. The challenging painting on found tarpaulin, entitled “Wildflower”, by Western Australian artist Jo Darbyshire, provides a touchstone for this discussion.
Key terms: gender, landscape, place, belonging.
The paper examines the relationship between earlier nineteenth century aesthetic representations of nature through a romantic subjectivity and its tropes of the sublime and freedom, and contemporary ecological values. The focus of the discussion is the work of three very different artists: Peter Dombrovskis, John Wolseley and Andy Goldsworthy. While each emerged in the 1970s in three very different places with three very different aesthetic agendas, they shared two deeply held convictions: a highly developed ecological consciousness that sought to aesthetically subvert the anthropocentric values of Western civilisation, and a commitment to working far from metropolitan centres. The paper diagnoses in their work a desire for renewal and redemption on the edges of civilisation that has preoccupied modern art since the late eighteenth century. It argues that a wild nature was the locus for thinking about the great themes of Enlightenment: domination, freedom and subjectivity. The ecological turn might seem to turn against the anthropocentric conventions of Enlightenment&Mac226;s progeny, capitalism and modernity, but in fact it reinforces (through a repetition) the overall project. Wilderness always was and still is a site from which modernity imagines the origins of its discourses of freedom and redemption.
Key terms: redemption, Goldsworthy, Wolsley, Dombrovskis, sublime, subjectivity, nature.
Unlike the traditional notion of the sublime, which is a masculine aesthetic, my photographic work explores the uncanny, a feminist counter aesthetic, and the urban environment. I describe my work as a photographie feminine, writing the traces of the feminine body. Importantly I address the contradictions and dichotomies of the feminine that exist within the periphery of the city.
Key terms: uncanny, photography, sexuality, feminine, night.
Rocks in Their Heads: The “Landscape and You” Experience
Humanity has had a long relationship with rocks including collecting them. This article argues that humans collect and use rocks for many for many purposes: utilitarian, economic, scientific, sacred, decorative and mnemonic. The collected rock acquires meaning different from the rock in situ. This meaning can be communal or personal, connected to events, real or mythic, or to place. The rock can act as a sign or tell a story. It can be seen as a metonym of the landscape. Or it can be viewed as a synecdoche, the part standing in for the whole, for a landscape or an experience. The meaning of the collected rock or the rock collection varies from person to person and can change over time.
Key terms: rocks, collections, stories, histories, landscapes, Australian culture, iconography, fossickers, souvenirs, clubs, pastimes.
China’s Mother River Scolds Her Young: Modernization and the National Landscape
The search for modernity has been central to Chinese cultural debates in the twentieth century. One argument that has commonly been expressed is the fear that the price of modernity will be traditional values. Tradition is strongly linked to the countryside, and as a way of clearing a space for the modern in urban centres, this link has led to the rejection of the countryside has that which is holding the nation back in its quest. But recently nature has been breaking out of these representations and bringing the consequences of the degradation it has suffered back into the arena of urban attention. This is discussed through an examination of the countryside in two cultural texts, and then in light of the case of the deforestation along the Yellow River, which has contributed to erosion, desertification and other consequences that enter the urban centres.
Key terms: China, national identity, cultural politics, environmental protection, modernization, Yellow River.