Des Gunning 

"The outer landscape was mapped and charted between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries - even into the furthest regions of the heavens.  The inner landscape has opened up in this century to the un-ordained through secular enquiry into the realm of consciousness"  



Our attention may be our most valuable personal resource.  We deploy our attention as an instrument of our consciousness and in so doing we create what we experience as ‘identity’.  Our experience of identity is the gateway to our experience of reality.  Substantially, how we experience our identity creates the experience we have of reality.  Everything we believe is real.  What we do not believe is incapable of being real for us until we decide to believe it.  Of course, we may have beliefs that we are unwilling to acknowledge or beliefs that we have forgotten  -  even if we continue to act upon them.  Ach sin sceal eile.

In turning our attention, not to the detail of our surroundings, but to the generality of the landscape, we subtly re-define our sense of reality, by adjusting our perspective and disciplining our attention.  Ultimately our identity is modified by our appreciation of what we perceive.  This allows us to glimpse the constancy of consciousness within which context, identity can shift without detrimental consequences.  The landscape throws it back to us:  are we merely its consumers or are we its ultimate creators?

I propose to explore these questions through a sequence of reflective exercises.

The new science is good as long as it helps to bring in gold.  It is good as long as it doesn't contradict conventional 'truths'.  Just as the Sun no longer spins its path around

the earth - something which obviously didn't stop happening from one moment to the next - when Galileo changed our perception on that subject.

In the age of the Renaissance, in the age when the verb of the era was 'To Discover', geometry began to chafe against the confines of its own paper landscape and set off to colonise three dimensional space.

What is the greatest achievement of Renaissance painting? (from whence the title of this paper derives): if nature is written in mathematical characters ( as Galileo tells us), and if mathematical characters are themselves instruments of human intelligence then painting must be the source of the new vision, the new experience of nature"

See: Federico Andahazi   "The Anatomist".  Doubleday. 1998.

I would also refer you to the current issue (1997) of the Landscape Forum proceedings and its title.

I would like your attention please for a moment.  Look at me. Observe me.   Observe my outline, my form, my dimensions and to observe the space that I occupy.  Notice the space, feel how it feels. Is everybody  comfortable? 

OK, have you got an impression of me?  This is important because I want to talk for a moment about that impression – your impression.  Your impression is what I will be discussing.  So its important that you can be confident that you have an impression of me so that we will all know what we're talking about.  OK? Is everybody comfortable with that?

Now the impression that you have of me - where did it come from?



Your impression.

Now, I admit that this is much easier to do this with an object. Try it during the rest of the forum, do however respect the other speakers. It is much easier to do it with a stone or a leaf or a building - with something that doesn't move or speak and I encourage you to try it if you have an available moment.  It has to do with directing our attention and then working out, by feeling essentially who creates the impression we experience of whatever it is that our attention rests upon.

I had great trepidation about bringing this paper to the forum, but I believe that I am just following on from a theme introduced earlier today by Eric van Lennep Hyland.

So who creates the impression that you are experiencing of this space, of this room, of the National Landscape Forum?

Now let's take the exercise outdoors.  Please, don't move.  But summon to your own mind, if you would, an image that you have, your impression of a favourite landscape, of a particularly striking or impressive landscape. Summon to mind your impression of the landscape – notice its dimensions, its form, its outlines in whatever dimensions it exists. Feel how it feels and notice who creates  the impression that you are experiencing.

Thank you for your patience.

In the introduction to his book 'Architect or Bee' professor Mike Cooley quotes from Karl Marx thus:

"The architect will construct in his imagination that which he will ultimately erect in reality.  At the end of every labour process, we get that which existed in consciousness at the commencement of the process".

So moving on from there -

If the Renaissance can be called, as Andahazi and other writers call it  'The Age of Discovery', and if we have had since, the 'Age of Industrialisation', and 'The Age of Conflict' and whatever other 'Ages' we want to use so as to divide history up into manageable packages  -  then you come to a point where it is appropriate to ascribe a label or description to our own age.  We can wait a century or two and let the historians do it, or we can choose to do it now.

This is where I believe the Forum intersects with what I am creating.

The outer landscape was mapped and charted principally from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century - even into the furthest reaches of the space – we have cartographers descriptions.  The inner landscape too, to which Eric referred earlier, has opened up in this century to the un-ordained through secular enquiry into the realm of consciousness. There is a book title that says:  "We've had 100 years of psychoanalysis, and things getting worse?"

So, if we were to decide now to define our era and the impression that our era makes upon ourselves. We could chose to labal it as an ' Age of Creativity'

(shades of 'The Age of Aquarius' I know, but let that pass).  And we could decide that, if it is we who create in our consciousness, the impressions of what we experience, then we create in our consciousness our experience of the material landscape; we create in our consciousness individually the universes that we inhabit, which become visible in the landscapes we experience. And if we follow that through to its social, economic and political consequences, we are left to wonder why would we choose to create for ourselves an universe that is less than what we would most positively appreciate?

So, if we were to develop a premise that it is we ourselves that create every impression we experience, and that ( in Galileo's words), nature, which is 'external' to those impressions, external to our consciousness, is written in mathematical characters, which in turn have been created, within consciousness, by human intelligence, and that, in Marx's words, it is our processes of consciousness which "previously create" the realities that we go on to experience............

Do we then have a fresh perspective on landscape?

Do we see landscape through the eye of its definitive artist?

Do we see landscape through the eye of its creator?

And what are the implications of that?

Thank You.


Q & A Session

Pippa Pemberton:  One of the things that seems to be emerging this afternoon is a slight change in perspective from the external to the internal.  Having studied landscapes area through the lens of archaeology now, one of the things that appears to be emerging is that we are our landscape and our landscape is us.  What we see outside, what we react against, what we don't like  - whether we like a tree, whether we hate a house  -  that is a reflection of ourselves.  Why does one person want a particular house and another person not?  Why have we developed into a state where we use landscape which is the cumulative experience of humanity and the earth, (the environment in which we live, the environment we create and we are created by in turn), why do we use this as a soap box to criticise each other without actually reaching out and taking each other's hand and saying why?  Why do you want this, why do you like this, why don't I like it?  Why do I want what I want, why are we different and what can we learn from each other?

John Haughton:  I think the conference is taking a very interesting turn. Agenda 21 if you like, we started off by using the word 'sustainability'.  We have to reconcile the economic, the environmental and the third expression we need to use is 'social equity'.  Social equity includes things like parity of esteem, parity of opportunity and a greater, more equitable distribution of wealth.  So really the whole discussion should take place in that context. 

And the point that Gaye Moynihan made this morning is that we have to develop indicators to cover these three areas, indicators which will measure sustainability, for example if we have the highest rates of asthma in the world, that is not sustainable.  So under the headings 'social equity, economic and environment' we have to develop the indicators, we have to do what Gaye Moynihan said.  The inner landscape, the spiritual side is all part of that because man is a spiritual animal too.

Paul Byrne, Ballyfermot Partnership:  I am a landscaper and stone mason and Erik van Lennep Hyland was talking about the landscape.  In Ballyfermot we have a scheme going in the schools.  We haven't got a landscape in Ballyfermot now, nothing is left of it, and we are bringing the landscape to the school and we are building gardens there, myself and John.    When we did our first school, it was designed by the two of us and what we did was bring the parents in, they gave us the bit of land and I just laid down the foundations for the garden and said 'Right, dig in, that's what you are doing' and they built it.  But in the process we found a hedgehog in the garden and out of four or five hundred pupils in the school in Ballyfermot, not one had ever seen a real live hedghog, which I thought was sad.  They were coming out class after class looking at this hedgehog.

This lack is caused by bad development.  When I was a kid in Ballyfermot I could walk up to Kildare just going through the fields, now I can't even walk up the road.  We have to try and do something about this. Try and hang on to something.

Angela Binchy:  I would like to say how extremely interesting I found Des Gunning's dissertation.  I have often found myself with a client going to see a particular site, when you go there first you just see a site perhaps in a field, and you have a certain perception of that landscape.  You are then presented with the plans for a house and immediately your perception of that landscape plus the house changes.  Again you talk to the client, the person who is going to live there and you discover that they have a totally different outlook on that same area and again your perception of the entire thing has to change again.

I find it very interesting that there is a special sort of development or process going on in that situation.■

“Suppose you are spending your next free summer afternoon taking a leisurely walk through an ingratiating but quite undramatic landscape. What you will be at once aware of, and aware of far more intensely than any particular colours or forms or sounds, will be what I describe as the smell of the day. In the next place, and before you concentrate on any particular objects, you will be vividly conscious of the touch of the day. By this I mean the warmth or chill of the atmosphere, the exhalations of cold or heat from the actual soil under your feet, and, above all, the feel of the wind on your bare skin. But now in the third place we come to the crucial point of all: namely the taste of the day.”

What [John Cowpers] Powys means by “taste” is the combined appeal of the senses, or, in his down-to-earth words, “chewing the cud of sensuous satisfaction.”

Yi-Fu Tuan writing in ‘Passing Strange and Wonderful’(New York: Island Press, 1993) on an extract from John Cowpers Powys ‘The Art of Growing Old’(London: Jonathan Cape, 1944)