The Art of Place
Place has the power to be simple or extreme. It can mean nothing or everything. From the beginning of time, place dictated so much — down to the point of survival. For animals in the wild, similarly to our primate selves, it requires food and water, and maybe shelter. These places filled with life tend to be the origins of greater more complex ways of life, and often become the center of cities or nations. Place effects mood, culture, music, stories, love, and art. Because of how important place is, the way we interact with it matters all the more.
Being such a complex topic to analyze, many artists have worked to express the way place can look or feel rather than describe the aspects of it. Artists such as Amelia Bauer and Wijnanda Deroo focus on depicting the essence of place, each through their own ideas of place and what it means. Amelia Bauer’s work is a series of investigations into our cultural conceptions of the natural world. As reported by Glimmerglass Film Days, Bauer examines her surroundings through a lens of history and mythology. Her work, both photographic and sculptural, are representative of a concept not unfamiliar to the American story, involving our exploits to bend nature to our will, while also addressing the psychological and historical motivation behind these efforts. Whether through applying decorative themes and gestures to materials found outdoors, or interfacing directly with the environment itself, the result is a combination of acknowledgment for the untamable world around us clashing with the age-old human desire for control. Another artist, Wijnanda Deroo, analyzes place through visiting the interiors of public buildings, homes, factories, hotels, seeming to search for the heart of a more intimate sense of place. Deroo treats her exploits as though she were a detective. At the same time, Deroo does not include people in her photographs, clearly respectful of the people to whom these interiors belong. Insisting on looking beyond or even through the people themselves, she seems to be seeking an answer within the spaces these people have created, decorated, and inhabited.
I believe place can affect mood, which affects our actions and emotions which can then have a domino effect on the way we live our lives and the way we contribute to society. This is why it is so important to surround ourselves with places that affect us in a positive way — our control over our attitude can only get us so far. Fortunately, in the world we live in today, we have many opportunities to travel to other “places” if we need an escape from our physical location. Technology offers many “places” to go, from video games to other virtual reality experiences, we have so many options to turn to when our present surroundings cannot offer what we want. Especially in a time of quarantine during a pandemic, these places become a safe haven transporting us and offering an escape from our current reality.
Diving into the topic of place requires analyzing so many levels, with many layers, even when it comes to looking at concepts as simple as what place is. Everyone has their own story to tell when it comes to their sense of place, each derived from experience and personal investigation. At the rate our country is going, I think most of us will find our sense of place online. The way technology races towards new levels every day, I think the majority will be fully submerged in the digital world and the endless varieties of place it offers. Personally, I tend to gravitate towards finding my sense of place in the physical world — or rather the people I surround myself with — than any online place.