Landscape as affective image
(and the instruments of experience)

Landscape as affective image (and the instruments of experience) is the third seminar of the ALICE series Surrounded by a fog of virtual images. Organized in 2020-2021 by ALICE (Atelier de la Conception de l’Espace) at the ENAC / EPFL this online series seeks to explore and operationalize architectural research questions through a series of talks with international guest speakers led by its grad and post-grad researchers around key topics of their work.

In his Ethics, the philosopher Spinoza defined the image as “those affections of the human body, the ideas of which represent to us external bodies as if they were present, although they do not actually reproduce the forms of the things”. In this third seminar, we want to explore how this image allows us to overcome landscape’s enclosure within the pictorial or figurative and point to new practical and conceptual tools for landscape, architecture and urban planning. Spinoza’s “affective image” sends us from the 17th century paintings at the beginning of so many landscape histories to the older definition of landschaft as a form of commons emerging out of shared practices, customary law and the inherent dynamism of the land. By thinking of landscape as the common entanglement of nature, material practices and meanings, a form of commons organizing and supporting the spatiality of more-than-human communities, we seek to find new instruments to make this affective image operative within our architectural practice.

Landscape and architectural representation have been substituted by objectifiable and/or quantifiable description. Locations are reduced to coordinates while the botanical richness of our world becomes photoshopped greenery. Meanwhile, in magazines and Instagram feeds architectural and landscape images become asignifying snapshots thrown at a passive user. Against this situation, the affective image operates in the realm of fuzziness and ambiguity, always requiring an active engagement from its embodied beholder. Do the idea of an affective image and the expanded sensorium it brings about offer an opportunity to open up the architectural toolbox once more to the entanglements between the affective, the symbolic and the political? Drawings and traces, narrations and performances, atlases and figurations… are they capable of unlocking the noticeable dead-end of current architectural representation? What imaginal, perceptual and experimental instruments do the affective atmospheres of our living environments demand?

Imagination is a form of collective unconscious, an immanent repertoire of virtual images feeding agency and engaging us politically with(in) the world. Landscape understood and operationalized as the common affect threading and giving ground to dynamic nature cultures, can help us unfold material practices capable of working with the ambiguous and the indeterminate while acknowledging the socioecological challenges of our time.

In this third SBAFOVI session, Lucía Jalón Oyarzun from ALICE will welcome our guest speakers, Matthew Gandy, cultural, urban, and environmental geographer and Professor and Fellow of King’s College at the University of Cambridge, and Elise Misao Hunchuck, researcher and designer with degrees in landscape architecture, philosophy, and geography, we will dive further into these questions.

To join the lectures and conversation: Zoom