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Carleton University
Canadian Studies
CDNS 1000
Peter Thompson

 Anxiety inherent in the national project. Especially apparent in settler societies (ones that arrived late), it emerges clearly. What emerges in Canada is that Canadian society is very much concerned with developing a distinct culture because Canadian society is so heavily influenced by British institutions. It also has to find out if it belongs on the land. The landscape (environment) is one of the ways that Canada satisfies both of these ideas. The land provides Canada with a touchstone that we can use to say that we have a distinctive culture and provides us with a set of images that we can point to and say that we are distinctive from other countries (we are different because of the land). The other thing that images of the land do in Canada is that they prove to us that we own the land and we belong in this space. Whatever problematic things happen throughout history Canadian culture is here and it owns the land. Many people who talk about nationalism mention a concept called cultural objectification, which tells us that in order to prove that we have a culture, we need to back that culture up with a set of objects. The reason for this is that culture is a very intangible idea (we aren’t really sure what it is) so in order to prove that we have a culture what we need is a set of objects (that’s why museums are so important) we display objects and it shows that we are different from other people. The land is probably the best example of something that we objectify to prove that we have a culture. The nation is a social construct and the nation doesn’t exist in this concrete form but it exists between us. The land represents a very concrete tangible thing that we literally stand on that says the nation exists. The other thing that images of the land do is they provide ways of justifying many of the historical events that led to the displacement of aboriginal people, they serve to justify these actions. In Canada what we do is that all of the images of the landscape in Canada it is always of empty landscapes, so if we think of all of the gallery and look at the group of seven it is all pictures of unpeopled landscapes. The messages they send is that look at how vast Canada is, look at how big it is and how few people exist in this space, look at all of the resources that potentially exist in this space, so it is totally justified to move into this space and take it over, mine it for resources and extended the project of colonialism as far west as possible. The land serves all of these purposes in Canada, it allows us to have a concrete thing that we can stand on and knock on, and the particular styles of images of the landscape that we can see justifies the project of moving west, and as much as these images are rooted in older things like the group of seven, we still see these today such as beer ads and so on.  Landscape: In old English the word landscape refers to a land that is under identifiable ownership by a group of people. It also refers to the idea that you gave political rights through owning the land. The other thing that it infers is the idea of a region, it is a group of people that live on a small patch of land (a river valley) and we have this idea that the culture of this is different from a culture that lives on a mountain or something like that. We have this idea that landscape gives rise to a culture. We can think that in some ways culture emerges out of your relationship with the land. In Canada we might think about the idea that hockey emerges out of the idea from the cold and the ice. Beginning in the 17 century, the word landscape starts to change a little bit, we start to use it in a way that we are more familiar with where we are talking about something with a highly visual quality, we talk about scenery, where we are talking about image of the natural environment. What we see during this time is that the word landscape starts to be a representation of that place (in a visual way) instead of referring to a place. But what I want us to think about here is even when we see this turn towards a visual landscape still carries with it the connotation of ownership because what we do when we take a picture of something or when we paint something or when we buy a painting of something what we are doing is we are taking a piece of land and turning it into an object (the painting) and all of a sudden that painting can be bought or sold or traded and we can own that representation. What we see during this time is that we start to have this sense of distance that is inherit in our relationship of landscape. If you’re taking a picture of the landscape you are separated from it by distance, and when you take that representation and put it in your house or wherever, you are creating another set of distance between you and the landscape. Our relationship with the landscape is about the distance between us and the image of the landscape that we are representing. Landscape and pictures of the land is very much expressive of cultural values, when we look at landscape and when we take pictures of the landscape, when we appreciate the landscape, we are always framing the land through our own cultural values and through our own background therefore we are looking for certain things when we are looking at the landscape. Say you go on vacation to Banff and you have seen pictures of it you’re whole life, when you get there you start to think that you cant see as much as you thought you would, the mountains are not as you thought they were. You see them through a lens of your expectations and you are disappointed because the landscape did not live up to your expectations, the pictures therefore mean more to you because they are framed in a way to make the landscape look amazing. We take something that is physical and put cultural values to it, such as in the East Coast we say that the Sea represents uncertainty and hard work.  WJT Mitchell: wrote a book called Landscape in Power, in this he argues that we think of landscape as a genre or art, as a specific kind of art, it is pictures of the trees of pictures of the ocean or whatever. He argues that we shouldn’t think of it as a genre, but we should think of it as a verb. He argues that when we turn something into a landscape we change that thing to make it different, when we invest something with cultural values we are expressing a very particular relationship between humans and the environment. What we are often doing is we are placing humans in a position where they are above the landscape (in a cultural hierarchy they are above the landscape) and we are expressing the idea that everything that exists in the landscape exists for the benefit of humans. When we create a landscape we are changing it, and we also assert ownership to the landscape. He argues that landscape (such as pictures) isn’t just a representation of the trees behind our house; it is a claim of ownership over those trees. He also argues that landscape is a western European and modern form of seeing the world. What he argues is that landscape art is often designed to conceal violence or bad things that happen on that land, in this sense landscape has a particular relationship with colonialism where the military and settler and companies would come in and establish military forts etc and behind them artists would come in and paint the new world, they would send those imagines back to France and say look at how beautiful the new world is, these prestige paintings would move our gaze away from what was actually happening say behind the painter (he is painting and we don’t know what’s going on behind him, there could be violence etc). Landscapes make us look at these specific scenes. The other thing the landscape does is it naturalizes the push to take resources out of the land because again what landscape does is that it tells us that we own that land, it tells us that we can do whatever we want with that land. It tells us that the land exists for nothing but for what we want to exploit from it. It often represents the land as something that teeming with resources that are waiting to be exploited. In this sense, when we mine things out of the land all of those things are naturaliz
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