Orders of Experience: The Evolution of the Landscape Art-Object

Orders of Experience: The Evolution of the Landscape Art-Object

Aaron Rambhajan (University of Toronto, Canada)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5622-0.ch012
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Does art tend towards immersion? Positing James Turrell's Roden Crater (2015) as the modern epitome of the landscape art-object, the evolution of the medium is traced through prominent examples its transformations: Titian's Venus and the Organist with Dog (1550), De Loutherbourg's Eidophusikon (1781), and Barker's Panorama (1792). Discussion regarding Roden Crater's predecessors serve to illustrate distinct innovations that greatly influenced its construction of sensory experience, spanning the use of dialogue to the integration of physicality. This chronology is used to demonstrate an overarching tendency of media towards immersion, and to reflect how the development of contemporary culture evolves towards progressively psychological experiences.
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When a medium can evolve and adapt to capture more attention, it will. This is an inclination pervasive in all realms of media—from smartphones to augmented reality, when we consider how the mediating layers between people and technology have diminished over time, this notion becomes obvious. Throughout the course of history, we have continually bridged the gap between the physical and technological, as we now cross the final layers between the asceticism of pre-Industrial society and the hyper-connectivity of the future. In this paper, I argue this phenomenon is symptomatic of an overarching tendency of media towards immersion. I seek to understand how and why the notion of ‘experiential’ has become so salient in modernity, and will discuss these phenomena through the evolution of landscape art-objects. I have chosen to examine the landscape genre because, unlike any other, it embodies a visual rhetoric that necessitates the physical, where meaning is created, not observed—unlike the didactic practices of traditional art that solely encompass the act of seeing (Jelić, 2015). I will posit James Turrell as the culmination of this tendency, because of his synthesis of the viewing and sensing spaces: viewing space, wherein one merely ‘sees’ something (as with most exhibited art), and sensing space, wherein one ‘feels’ something and engages it on a sensory level (“The Wolfsburg Project,” 2009). The bridging of these spaces is necessary to sensory experience, and is the boundary wherein art is either observed, or is felt. To understand Turrell’s work, I will reconcile Roden Crater (2015) with what I propose are three historical antecedents: the dialogue of Titian’s Venus and The Organist with Dog (1550), the phenomenology of Philip James De Loutherbourg’s Eidophusikon (1781), and the physicality of Robert Barker’s 19th century Panorama (1792). I will examine these innovations in the landscape art-object to demonstrate how the amalgamation of the viewing and sensing space have come to define landscape art as the visual rhetoric of ‘experience’—demonstrating art’s overarching tendency towards immersion.

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