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Local Geography

Hughes, HA (2009) Local Geography In: Living Landscapes, 2009-06-18 - 2009-06-21, University of Aberystwyth.

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This paper presents the beach as a horizontal space that provides both a tactile surrounding blanket of sand, sea, stones and crustaceans, and a flattened, gradated platform viewable from the cliffs around as on the edge of life. This presentation will explore these contrasting perspectives and atmospheres with reference to the speaker’s own experiences of growing up on the Pembrokeshire coast, digging, exploring sand dune complexes, climbing cliffs and perfecting her tan, as well as her attempts to map onto her own experiences kindred representations in paintings, films and philosophy. For example, Agnes Varda, documentary and fiction filmmaker and installation artist introduced her most recent and reportedly her last film The Beaches of Agnes (2008) by saying: ‘If you opened people up, you would find landscapes; if you opened me up, you would find beaches.’ In her film Varda uses the beach as an adaptable performance space to structure a wide-ranging account of her life and her life’s work in film: the playful, the inventive, the surreal, and the melancholy. In using the beach in the film, as well as in photographs and installations, Varda, taps into the playful space of generations that have holidayed there. In The Production of Space Henri Lefebvre claimed: ‘The beach is the only place of enjoyment that the human species has discovered in nature.’ He also famously declared ‘beneath the pavement, the beach’. At the same time, however, Lefebvre laments the tendency for the ‘true appropriation’ of this natural space to ‘turn into its opposite – total passivity on the beach, mere contemplation of the spectacle of sea and sun.’ The northern European beach has provided a locus for the expression of deep melancholy, particularly in Expressionist paintings such as Edvard Munch’s ‘Evening. (Melancholia: On the Beach)’ or ‘Young Woman on the Beach. (The Lonely One)’. Margaret Tate’s films, particularly her Blue Black Permanent (1992), which expresses the memories of a daughter, whose mother kills herself by swimming out to sea, capture the overwhelming power of the Scottish coast, the dominance of the environment and the submergence of the self within it.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Literature and Languages
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Authors :
Hughes, HA
Date : 2009
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 28 Mar 2017 15:27
Last Modified : 07 Mar 2019 11:18

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