Spatial Humanities and the Embodied World: Connecting Matter and Meaning
David J. Bodenhamer (Polis Center, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis)
The use of spatial theories and technologies within the humanities—the spatial humanities—has led to creative scholarship that has reinvigorated our understanding of space and place in history, literature, archaeology, and allied disciplines. This new field promises a unique postmodern scholarship that accommodates the contingent, fluid, and ambiguous nature of human memories, beliefs, and actions. The goal is not to sacrifice the rational, logical, and empirical approach to knowledge that has been the hallmark of scholarship since the Enlightenment, but rather to complement it with different ways of discovery. Here, how we experience the sensory world enriches our effort to understand it logically. Spatial humanities, in sum, seeks to reconcile the tension between matter and meaning.
This presentation explores what we have learned from our application of geospatial technologies to the problems of interest to humanists, including imagined geographies and soundscapes. It also suggests an agenda for the future of this work, which increasingly will witness the convergence of technologies within new formats, such as virtual reality. One result is deep mapping, an innovative form of mapping with an emphasis on experiential knowledge that will open scholarship to non-expert audiences. What does this development mean for the spatial humanities as we continue to seek ways to connect matter and meaning on the subjects that interest us?
Emotional Landscapes and Dimensional Music
Kevin J. Donnelly (University of Southampton)
Sergei Eisenstein’s notion of ‘nonindifferent nature’ (1987: 389) posits an equivalence between landscape shots and music, seeing as in film the former are able to move beyond simple communication and narrative function to elicit a sense of atmosphere and emotion. Landscape shots matched with non-diegetic music would potentially redouble this effect. Rather than simply a representation of location, film landscapes with music regularly become transformed into something extraordinary and with their own integrity. This is well beyond the powerful but straightforward sound-image weld of synchresis as discussed by Michel Chion (1994: 5) as being at the heart of audiovisual culture. Music is ‘landscaped’ and landscape is ‘musicalized’, in a reciprocal relationship that embodies and homologises the perceptual-cognitive process taking place in our heads. The distinctive formation makes a particularly potent combination of the indexical realism of the image with the emotional immediacy of music.
These ‘musicalized screen landscapes’ potentially can become an ‘emotional representation’, which might appear less of a representation of a place than a representation of an emotion. Yet rather than simply a case of music furnishing the emotion of the image, the image reciprocally provides something important for the music. As a part of this, the image provides an (imaginary) visual spatialization of musical structure – one that will not correspond with actual musical structure – but adumbrates an ‘emotional sense of structure’, or what might better be thought of as a seemingly logical sense of emotional structure.
This paper will address a series of highly distinct audiovisual landscapes, embracing a range of films and video games where musicalized landscape is significant. In my exploration I will suggest that this startling synergy effect, mixing the potency of music’s emotion with the phenomenological ‘realism’ at the heart of film (Bazin, 1967) is not a straightforward process, however. The mixture of the two channels and corresponding senses can produce something approaching an ‘artefacting’ or ‘aliasing’ effect, yielding certain half-developed ideas, emotions and implications as half-hidden ‘spectres’. Perhaps this is why so often rather than being related directly to real-world landscapes, in many (and perhaps all) cases they manifest a reversion, an entry into an interior world, into the inner workings of the human mind.
André Bazin, “The Ontology of the Photographic Image” in What is Cinema? (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967).
Michel Chion, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996).
Eisenstein, Sergei M., Nonindifferent Nature: Film and the Structure of Things, translated by Herbert Marshall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).