A Conversation about “Landscape in Chilean Literature and Painting: Representation, Ideology and Nation,” between Cristina Felsenhardt R. and Sebastián Schoennenbeck G. began the cycle of dialogues “Discovering the Chilean Landscape,” organized by the Landscape Culture Corporation in Chile. Each dialogue of this first version is an attempt to understand and appreciate our landscape, perceived as the result of the interaction between nature and human settlements and as an opportunity to develop tomorrow’s identity and heritage.
This Thursday, March 30, the cycle of dialogues “Discovering the Chilean Landscape,” organized by the Landscape Culture Corporation in Chile (www.culturadepaisaje.com) has the objective of building new landscape narratives in Chile capable of identifying and representing fragments of the past, revealing some of the stories our landscape tells.
In the first of the dialogues, we had Cristina Felsenhardt – architect and PhD in Theory of Architecture whose vast professional and academic career, in addition to her numerous publications, have positioned her as a key voice in the formation of generations of architects and of landscape architects − and Sebastián Schoennenbeck − PhD in Hispano-American and Chilean Literature and Director of the Literature Department of the School of Humanities, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, who has studied culture, gender and landscape and carried out postdoctoral research on the works of José Donoso and his relationships with voices of Anglo-Saxon literature. Through a discussion about possible representations of the landscape in narrative texts and in painting, Cristina and Sebastián explained their viewpoint that landscape in Chile is a result of the interrelation between physical geography and historical and sociocultural processes, between nature and man, and between nature and culture.
From the identification of the mountain range, the sea and the valleys as fundamental elements of the Chilean landscape idea present in the pictorial view, Felsenhardt described this landscape as the territory seen and linked to perception, sensitivity, emotional and personal relations to place and culture. It is a landscape that from the sixteenth century was projected from Europe, determining the construction of mythical images that attempt to show the geographical scenery of the so-called New World and that in the seventeenth century was enshrined thanks to the discovery of different geographical elements from those familiar to Europeans, like the desert, sea and the mountains of a scale until then unknown. Between the eighteenth and nineteenth century, this landscape was first shaped for us thanks to the observational capacities of the chroniclers and draughtsmen who focused on vernacular elements to contribute to the reasoned and classifying knowledge of the physical, biological and human reality of the continent. These views then turned towards the subjective and emotional aspects of the country and its inhabitants, a vision seen, for example, in the work of Alejandro Cicarelli’s View of Santiago from Peñalolén (1853, see Fig.1). In this context, the city of Santiago is represented through four paradigmatic sites − the Alameda, the Santa Lucía Hill, the Plaza de Armas, and the banks of the Mapocho River − which, in turn, demonstrated the main urban themes of the times: the tension between countryside and city, the imposition of European landscape models in the transformation of colonial urban spaces, and the arid condition of the valley frequently exposed to natural disasters that, however, are not portrayed.
Starting from the premise of the geographer and French philosopher Augustin Berque − who established that autonomy with respect to the rhetoric, a testimonial description and use of a language with visualizing effects are key so that there is a culture of landscape − Schoennenbeck suggested that if the landscape is a way of representing and imagining the nation, its description in stories like Durante la Reconquista (During the Conquest) Alberto Blest Gana, 1897; Días de Campo (Days in the Country) Federico Gana, 1916; and Zurzulita Mariano Latorre, 1920 tend to see nature ideologically. They envision the landscape mediated through an elite view in which the mountains for example “give shape to a stage of a political and cultural project led by illustrated and liberal thought”(1). On the other hand, Gana not only offers a series of reference elements that situate the reader in the landscape of the central valley (poplars, walled fences, mountains), but also as a consequence of his aristocratic background, Gana integrates his peasant subject picturesquely into the scene, something particularly visible in La Poda (The Pruning) by Celia Castro (see Fig. 2). Latorre does the same but from a mesocratic stance that directs the look of the reader to the field that “although it synthesizes a national identity, is not capable of shaping a utopia from which a promising national imaginary can be built”(2).
(1 and 2) Sebastián Schoennenbeck, ‘Paisaje, nación y representación del sujeto popular. Visiones de un Chile imaginado’ (Landscape, nation, representation of the popular subject: Visions of Chile imagined), Aiesthesis 53 (July 2013), 73–94.
From this premise, Schoennenbeck then showed examples of the narrative of the second half of the 20th century − with José Donoso (1924-1996), Mauricio Wacquez (1939-2000) and Adolfo Couve (1940-1998) as representatives − who positioned the garden as “the most radical modality of the landscape which in the gaze of the traveler finds or forges a momentary and unrepeatable order in the environment that is given to transform itself into an image; the garden proposes to endow that image with permanence, forging it as a site, as a place”(3). This reinforces the premise of the presentation: “as a semitransparent veil, the works obstructed our view of ourselves and of the nation,” determining that there is no national image, but rather mechanisms to highlight aspects and scenarios that characterize a vast and diverse territory.
The cycle of dialogues, “Discovering the Chilean Landscape” continues on Thursday April 27 with the archeologist and PhD in Natural Sciences Rubén Stehberg along with Emilio de la Cerda who holds a Master’s degree in architecture and is a practicing architect, and who will discuss Incan Santiago on Thursday June 8 with the landscape architect and Director of the landscape architecture program Anita Berrizbeitia and the architect and PhD in Theory of Art Amarí Peliowski, who will discuss postcolonial landscape in Latin America. The sessions will be held in the Auditorium of the PUC School of Architecture, El Comendador 1936, 4th floor. Free to the public, limited space available. Registration: email@example.com
Organized by the Landscape Culture Corporation of Chile in collaboration with the Master’s Program in Landscape Architecture UC/School of Architecture UC /LOFscapes /Santiago Adicto.