windows – an end of year reflection

I was thinking about the nature of landscape and frames and windows, partly inspired by two books I’ve just read (Kerracher Man and A Place of my Own) but also by the title and content of the exhibition at the city arts centre in Edinburgh “window to the west”. I was reflecting that the window architecturally has become a symbol of dominion over nature, in the modernist paradigm it was used to symbolically tear down the barriers between us and our environment. Ironically the trend for large double glazed picture windows does exactly the opposite and merely frames a view that is mute of all natural sound and smells. It reduces the landscape to decoration and does not as Thoreau would desire, welcome nature in. We actually need the old muntin bars to say ‘this is a window – get yourself outside if you want to experience it’.

Does this constant need to frame nature and hang it on the wall undermine a healthy relationship with our world? To understand its deeper value? I have heard it argued that because people buy loads of calenders and pictures and postcards of wild landscapes, this shows they really value it.

I am not convinced.

Maybe it doesn’t matter to people that there really is wild land as long as they can have pictures of it and we will move into a period of history where wild land doesn’t really exist anymore and photos are altered to remove man-made traces in order to satisfy this need to have the picturesque landscape in our houses.

‘Kerracher man’ by Eric Macleod was a disappointing read ( in a way that ‘A Place of my Own’ was not) in that it failed to engage me, knowing Assynt as I do, in any real sense of place, just a struggle to exist by somebody with little poetry in his soul, a seventies mentality, and little ability to explain properly his own place in the complexities of the ecology and history of his world.

The window to the west may be being metaphorically un-boarded but will there be a real landscape to look at through the window that is not colonised, industrialised and miltarised?

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